Lope’s Hope 3rd was a P-51C flown by Lt. Donald Lopez. Donald and Lope’s Hope 3rd served in the China-Burma-India theater with the 14th Air Force, 23rd Fighter Group, 75th Squadron. The 23rd Fighter Group was the descendent of the famous American Volunteer Group or Flying Tigers after the US entered the war. Lt. Lopez had 5 victories in China and went on to become a test pilot in the early years of the jet age. Later he was the deputy director of the Smithsonian National Air and Space museum until his death in 2008. Donald Lopez was instrumental in the construction and opening of the National Air and Space Museum.
The original wartime Lope’s Hope 3rd was a P51C-5-NT, Army Air Force Serial Number: 42-103585. The serial number information was just acquired this week through the generous contribution of pages fromLt. Lopez’s war time log book by his granddaughter Laura Lopez. Normally a WWII fighter’s serial number is easily determined by just looking at the tail number. Squadrons in almost every theater of operations number planes this way, but not in China. In China the 23rd Fighter Group’s squadrons were assigned a block of numbers for differentiating their aircraft. The 75th squadron’s block was 150- 199 (or to 200 depending on source). Lt. Lopez used 194 on both his P-40N s and on his P-51C , Lope’s Hope 3rd. Without his log book it might have been impossible to figure out his Mustang’s AAF serial number.
Our restoration airframe is a P-51C-10NT Army Air Force Serial Number: 43-24907 , that remained in the continental US during WWII and was used for training purposes during and immediately after the war. The decision to paint her in Lt. Lopez’s color scheme is intended to honor himand his service to his country in WWII and to aviation all his life.