In the 1940s, the United States Army Air Forces needed to operate from
unprepared airfields with unpredictable weather conditions. To accomplish this
they tested and developed a lightweight ski undercarriage for use with a number
of their combat aircraft, including the P-51 Mustang. The skis could be easily
installed on the main and tail landing gear struts in place of the wheels. The
main gear strut fairings were retained but the main gear and tail wheel doors
were removed, allowing the skis to retract flush with the bottom of the
aircraft. When installed, the skis added 390 lbs to the aircraft weight.
In January 1944, the Luscombe Engineering Company produced the first set of
skis fitted to a P-51A. Flight testing took place at Ladd Field, Alaska and showed
that the aircraft could take off and land in a distance of 1000 feet. Ground
handling proved extremely easy despite the absence of brakes using only
throttle and rudder control. The absence of the main gear door caused the
aircraft to lose its top speed by 18 mph. Even though tests proved successful
and several sets were procured, there is no record that the Army Air Forces
actually used them operationally.
The skis on exhibit were donated to the Museum of Aviation Flight & Technology
Center by Mr. Robert Fratangelo of Sodus, New York. He purchased them from a
used furniture dealer who was selling them as skis for showmobiles.