Now Owned By Red Bull, "White Lightnin’" Back In The
The world population of flying Lockheed P-38 Lightnings
increased by one last week, as P-38 N25Y took to the skies over
Breckenridge, TX after a three-year restoration by warbird
restorers Ezell Aviation.
The polished silver P-38 took off at 1915 local time on June 2
with well-known warbird pilot Steve Hinton at the controls. The
uneventful 20-minute flight was the first time the aircraft had
flown since a crash landing on June 25, 2001 which heavily damaged
the modified twin-engined World War II fighter.
Well-known through the warbird and air racer community as "White
Lightin'", N25Y formerly owned and flown by Lefty Gardner was a
fixture at many Reno air races and airshows around the nation from
the 70’s through the 90’s. As Gardner was one of the
founding members of the original Confederate Air Force (now
Commemorative Air Force) in Texas, the P-38 was one of the first
aircraft flown with the group. For years, Gardner was known for
putting the all-white P-38 through its paces in a spirited
aerobatic demonstration that has not been seen in a P-38 since.
On June 25, 2001, Ladd Gardner, Lefty's son, encountered an
internal compressor wheel failure in the left engine of the P-38 on
decent to landing in Greenwood, MS. The failure caused an
in-flight fire and Ladd was forced to conduct a gear-up emergency
landing in a cotton field. Though Ladd escaped uninjured, the
damage from the forced landing was extensive and the aircraft was
trucked back to Texas for rebuild.
Nearly four years later the Gardner
family, unable to fund a full restoration of the aircraft, sold the
P-38 to energy drink manufacturer Red Bull to assure it's return to
flight while preserving the Gardner family nest-egg.
The aircraft was transported to Breckenridge, TX to Ezell
Aviation in 2005 and the comprehensive restoration began.
Technicians completely rehabilitated the aircraft but kept the race
modifications that gave the P-38 engine cowlings a distinctive
Ezell Aviation hit a setback a two months ago when the airport
and their hangar was hit by a tornado on April 9. The P-38
sustained minor damage to the elevator and right side tailboom
though many of the hangars and aircraft on the field were damaged
or completely destroyed.
According to the website for the Flying Bulls, the Red Bull
flight operation based in Salzburg, Austria, the P-38 will
eventually be housed at their unique "Hangar-7" facility at the