North American P-51C, "Excalibur III"

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    North American P-51C, "Excalibur III"

    On May 29, 1951, Capt. Charles F. Blair flew Excalibur III from Norway across the North Pole to Alaska in a record-setting 10½ hours. Using a system of carefully plotted "sun lines" he developed, Blair was able to navigate with precision where conventional magnetic compasses often failed. Four months earlier, he had flown Excalibur III from New York to London in less than 8 hours, breaking the existing mark by over an hour.

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    North American P-51C "Excalibur III"

    On May 29, 1951, Capt. Charles F. Blair flew Excalibur III from Norway across the North Pole to Alaska in a record-setting 10½ hours. Using a system of carefully plotted "sun lines" he developed, Blair was able to navigate with precision where conventional magnetic compasses often failed. Four months earlier, he had flown Excalibur III from New York to London in less than 8 hours, breaking the existing mark by over an hour. Highlighted in this image are the propellers of the North American P-51C.

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    There are restrictions for re-using this media. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

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    North American P-51C "Excalibur III"

    On May 29, 1951, Capt. Charles F. Blair flew Excalibur III from Norway across the North Pole to Alaska in a record-setting 10½ hours. Using a system of carefully plotted "sun lines" he developed, Blair was able to navigate with precision where conventional magnetic compasses often failed. Four months earlier, he had flown Excalibur III from New York to London in less than 8 hours, breaking the existing mark by over an hour.

    3 of 4

    Usage Conditions Apply

    There are restrictions for re-using this media. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

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    North American P-51C "Excalibur III" Propellers

    On May 29, 1951, Capt. Charles F. Blair flew Excalibur III from Norway across the North Pole to Alaska in a record-setting 10½ hours. Using a system of carefully plotted "sun lines" he developed, Blair was able to navigate with precision where conventional magnetic compasses often failed. Four months earlier, he had flown Excalibur III from New York to London in less than 8 hours, breaking the existing mark by over an hour. Highlighted in this image are the propellers of the North American P-51C.

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This object is on display in the Boeing Aviation Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

Boeing Aviation Hangar

On May 29, 1951, Capt. Charles F. Blair flew Excalibur III from Norway across the North Pole to Alaska in a record-setting 10½ hours. Using a system of carefully plotted "sun lines" he developed, Blair was able to navigate with precision where conventional magnetic compasses often failed. Four months earlier, he had flown Excalibur III from New York to London in less than 8 hours, breaking the existing mark by over an hour.

Excalibur III first belonged to famed aviator A. Paul Mantz, who added extra fuel tanks for long-distance racing to this standard P-51C fighter. With it Mantz won the 1946 and 1947 Bendix air race and set a transcontinental speed record in 1947 when the airplane was named Blaze of Noon. Blair purchased it from Mantz in 1949 and renamed it Excalibur III, after the Sikorsky VS-44 flying boat he flew for American Export Airlines.