03 April, 2012

Profile 65 - "Billings Belle" as flown by Earl Depner

It's "The Story" that draws me to a particular airplane.  Some stories are obvious - like that of Leo Thorsness' F-105 or the B-24, "Flak Shack."  They represent the heroic clashes of aerial sabers.   Some are historic - Hank Snow's "Snowballs" and Dick Cole's "Doolittle Raider"  B-25 come to mind.

And some are the result of a subtle but continual tap to the consciousness over years and years...until one day, it seems like the entire span of time was a set up for one purpose - draw the airplane.

Behold, "Billings Belle."  Right now, it's a crude pencil sketch.  But shortly, she will become immortalized.  As long as there is electrical power fueling the data pool, the Belle's face, body and story will live as a testimony to her master.

When I was a kid, my dad made model airplanes. 1/72 scale, in fact.  Though it obviously inspired my work today, his hobby was also torturous at times.  See, the glass shelves that held the finished works were located in my bedroom.  And out of my reach.  And cloaked in a veil of dread should I ever, "bust one."  All I could do was stare until those rare occasions when he'd take one down and I would get to look.  But not touch.

Well, one particular airplane that always had my eye was a dark brown one with a white nose, white stripes on the wings and tail and the strange word, "OLE" on the cowl.  It was this little model that introduced me to the glorious cult of the P-51 Mustang and also imprinted how the machine should look.

Well, forty years later, I'm finally getting around to doing a properly attired P-51.

Get ready to meet Major Earl Depner, CO of the 356th Fighter Squadron of the 354th Fighter Group - the very first American fighter group to receive the P-51 for combat.

The timing is perfect.

*This is the box that contained the P-51 that tempted my little fingers.  What I'd give to have it today...