D-FPSI - Lucky Lady VII
P-51D-25-NA 44-72773 Lucky Lady VII
Serial number
Construction n°
Paint Scheme

Based at
Lucky Lady VII
Captain Ernest E. Bankey, Jr.
364th Fighter Group
385th Fighter Squadron
Christoph Nöthinger
Meier Motors
Bremgarten airfield
Eschbach, Freiburg
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Airframe history

P-51D 44-72773 was built by NAA at Inglewood, California in 1944 and accepted by the USAAF on February 13th,1945. On March 12th , 1945, she departed the US to Southern Italy by ship from Newark.

There is no immediate information available whether she actually participated in combat missions over the ETO.

She returned to the US on August 28th , 1945, after being declared surplus.

On September 9th , 1951, she was assigned to the USAF Tactical Air Command and served with the 131st FS at George AFB, California. From 1954 she was transferred to the 182nd FS, Texas ANG at Brooks AFB in San Antonio.

From May 31st , 1958, she saw service with the Fuerza Aérea de la Guardia Nacional de Nicaragua (Nicaraguan ANG) until July of 1963. The Nicaraguan NG purchased 26 p-51D Mustangs from Sweden in 1954 and acquired a further 30 Mustangs from the US (ex-USAF and ex-ANG Mustangs) and two TF-51s at a later stage.

Civilian ownership of 44-72773 started on July 8th , 1963, when she was acquired by Will Martin of MACO Sales Finance Corporation, Chicago. She got her first civilian registration N12066 at that time.

On June 15th , 1965 she arrived at the hands of J.N. Burchinal Jr.. An interesting fact of her stay there is that Junior Burchinal allowed any pilot with a thousand dollars to spare, to solo in his P-51. This was offcourse preceded with training in a Stearman and Harvard. Once the training was over, the Mustang was yours to fly! During 1970, Junior started to participate in airshows a lot more and he repainted the P-51 in the colors of 375th FS, 361st FG “Lou IV” .

On April 23rd , 1983 she again changed hands, this time to Robert L. Ferguson. During her 4-year stay with her new owner she was repainted as “SUSY”.

It wasn't until July 22nd , 1987, that she made the trip back across the Atlantic towards the UK when she was acquired by Charles Church the year before. She was one of six P-51s which participated in the movie “Memphis Belle” in 1989. She was repainted for the occasion, but kept the name “Susy” during the movie.

In 1998, new owner Paul J. Morgan repainted her in the colours of 334th FS, 4th FG with the name “Susy”. That was a fictional paintscheme as the code QP-M actually belonged to Lt. Frank E. Speer's P-51 “Turnip Termite”. Unfortunately, Paul Morgan was tragically killed in a landing accident in a Hawker Sea Fury. Following this incident, Mr. Morgan's widow had the Mustang put in a museum in England.

She took to the skies once more, as she was acquired by the The Real Aeroplane Company, England, as of March 2005. Under their ownership, registration changed to G-CDHI. In September 2007 she was sold to Meier Motors in Germany and registered D-FPSI (as German registrations are letters only, this registration PSI actually stands for P-51). She became the second P-51 under German ownership at that time, next to P-51 “Huntress III” (D-FBUN). With the MeierMotors group, she underwent some paintscheme modifications over a 3 year period.

At first, the colour scheme remained the same, but her name was changed to "Darlin' Ann" (after the new owner's daughter). In December of 2008, the aircraft got rid of her colours and she appeared in a polished bare metal skin.

In the beginning of 2009, the aircraft was sold to Christop Nöthinger, a swiss pilot. In March 2009, she got her current paint scheme in the form of Major Ernest E Bankey Jr.'s “Lucky Lady VII” of the 385th FS, 364th FG.

Lucky Lady VII
Date Registry Owner










GN 120





Built at NAA Inglewood, California
Accepted by USAAF on February 13th
Departed to Southern Italy on March 12th
Returned to the US after being declared surplus on August 28th , placed in storage with No. 4108 th BASUT
Returned to Kelly Field for storage with 4121 BASUT
Assigned to the 131st Fighter Bomber Wing, George AFB, Victorville, California on September 9th
Air Material Center at Norton AFB, California on June 7th
Assigned to the 182nd Fighter Bomber Squadron, ANG, Brooks AFB, San Antonio on February 14th
Sold as surplus on May 1st
Acquired by the Fuerza Aerea De La Guardia Naciaonal De Nicaraqua on May 31st
Will Martin of Palos Park, Chicago, Illinois (total airframe hours at that time was 805,25, of the engine 293,35) on July 8th
Aero Enterprises Inc on July 15th
To Appliance Byess Credit Corporation on December 3rd
To D.C. Barratt on April 13th
Sold by Variety Motors Aircraft Sales on December 15th to Alvin B. Celcer
To J.N. Burchinal Jr., Honey Grove/Paris, Texas
Repainted in the colours of 375th FS, 361st FG “Lou IV”
Sold to Robert L. Ferguson on April 23rd
Repainted SUSY
To Charles Church, Spitfires Ltd, Winchester, UK on June 18th
Flown to the UK by Jack Shaver on July 22nd . Arrived in UK on July 26th
Participated in the movie “Memphis Belle”, painted as 472773/AJ-C/”Susy”
To Paul J. Morgan, Sywell, UK on May 1st
Repainted in the colours of 334th FS, 4th FG, 472773/M-QP/”Susy”
The Real Aeroplane Company
Colour scheme remained the same, but name changed to “Darlin Ann”
Sold to MeierMotors, Bremgarten, Germany
Stripped to bear metal and polished
Sold to Christop Nöthinger, Switzerland. Aircraft remains based at Bremgarten. Repainted as Major Ernest E Bankey Jr.'s “Lucky Lady VII” of the 385th FS, 364th FG

Paintscheme information

Currently, 44-72773, D-FPSI is painted in the colours of Colonel Ernest Edward “Ernie” Bankey, Jr.'s 44-73045/5E-B/ "Lucky Lady VII". Bankey, a Captain at that time, flew “Lucky Lady VII” whilst assigned to the 385th Fighter Squadron, 364th Fighter Group in the 8th Air Force over the ETO.

The name

Ernest Bankey named all of his assigned aircraft “Lucky Lady”, a reference to his wife Lilian Ruth “Ginny” Kontak. They got married on May 2nd , 1942 in Bowling Green, Ohio.

The pilot

Colonel Ernest Edward “Ernie” Bankey Jr was an American World War II riple Ace and also a rare “Ace in a day”.

Ernest was born on August 28th , 1920, in Cleveland, Ohio, and raised in Toledo, Ohio.

Pending his wait to be accepted into Air Cadet School, he worked his way up to Staff Sergeant while teaching aerial gunnery techniques in Las Vegas, Nevada.

His long wait finally paid off as he was accepted into primary training, and subsequently earned his wings as a fresh Second Lieutenant at Williams AFB, Arizona, on July 28th , 1943. At the end of it all, he became assigned to the 383rd FS, 364th FG. The 383rd Fighter Squadron then moved to Santa Maria Airport, where they joined with the other two air Group Squadrons (the 384th and the 385th) and shortly hereafter, shipped for England.

During his first tour in the ETO, Ernest Bankey flew the P-38J Lightning in which he scored one aerial victory and one probable.

He returned in October for his second tour in the ETO, and was assigned to the same Fighter Group, but this time to the 385th FS instead of the 383rd . Upon his return, the Group had already converted to the P-51 Mustang.

Bankey, a Captain by now, scored another Me-109 victory and another probable on November 26th , 1944, just northeast of Dummer Lake, whilst flying P-51D-15NA 44-15019 “Lucky Lady VI”. On that particular day, he scored 5.5 kills and became an ace-in-a-day. This was also the mission during which he made his famous radio call: "This is Sunkist Two. I've got 50 Jerries cornered over Bonn. Will share same with any P-51s in the vicinity. See me at smokestack level. Over and out."
For this mission, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Distinguished Unit Citation, and also earned the unofficial title of "The Tiger of Bonn."

On a mission just north of the Nordingen airfield on April 16th , 1945, Bankey got another two Me-109s, bringing his total to 9.5 aerial kills.

He was awarded the Silver Star for his actions on June 26th , 1945, where he destroyed four enemy aircraft on the ground and damaged another four in the process.

In all, during his two tours in the ETO, Captain Ernest Bankey flew 110 combat mission and accumulated over 500 combat flying hours. He destroyed 9.5 enemy aircraft in the air and another 7 on the ground. Furthermore, he got two probables in the air and 5 enemy aircraft damaged on the ground. He also is responsible for destroying 44 locomotives.

His decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Air Medal with 9 Oak Leaf Clusters and the French Croix De Guerre with Palm.

Sadly, Ernest Bankey passed away on June 10th , 2009, and was buried at Conejo Mountain Memorial Park in Camarillo, California, on June 15th, 2009.

Below is a list of his aerial victories:

Bankey, Ernest E., Jr. Captain 385th FS 11-26-1944 2
Bankey, Ernest E., Jr. Captain 385th FS 12-27-1944 5.5
Bankey, Ernest E., Jr. Captain 385th FS 04-16-1944 2
      Total credits 9.5

You can read a full biography on Ernest Bankey here.

The paint scheme

The 364th FG were the last Fighter Group to join the 8th AF in February of 1944, and were stationed at Honington, Suffolk, UK during WWII. They started out flying P-38Js and, like the 20th FG and the 479th FG (in its early days) used geometric symbols as a means of Group recognition and Squadron markers.

These markings were up to the required specifications, in that they measured 30 inches maximum at their widest point. Other than this, the size of the shapes varied considerably. The symbols also resulted in the existing tail numbers being either “block-masked” out (leaving an unpainted horizontal strip) or reinstated in either black or yellow paint over the newly applied Squadron symbol.

All fuselage codes were applied in white paint. Unlike the 20th FG, the 364th FG did not carry an individual call letter on the fuselage. Instead, they were relocated to the inner fin areas and also on the radiator housings. The Squadron code letters were applied to the fuselage, but always aft of the National Insignia.

In March of 1944, the 364th FG also started adopting the use of white spinners as its Unit marker. The leading 12-inches of each engine cowling were similarly painted white for enhanced visibility.

When D-Day arrived, the Invasion Stripes on all of the Groups P-38s, the fuselage codes were over painted and no attempt was made to reinstate or relocate these codes.

Another notable 364th FG feature was their practice of applying the last 3 digits of their aircraft tail number on both sides of the nacelle nose. The letters were usually 8 to 10 inches high and painted in yellow with most stencil lines remaining open.

The 364th FG made the transition to the P-51 Mustang in July of 1944 and chose to continue to use geometric symbols as a means of Squadron recognition markers. There were slight modifications to these symbols after conversion to the P-51. Whereas the squadron had utilized a 30 inch maximum measure on their respective applications, the actual dimensions as applied to the Mustang were varied.

The 383rd FS (unit code “N2”) used a circle as a Squadron recognition code. The size of the circle varied between 28 and 40 inches in diameter, containing a call letter with a height anywhere from 18 to 30 inches. In these larger marker applications, the tail numbers were over-painted with no attempt being made to reinstate them.

The 384th FS (unit code “5Y”) utilized a square as a Squadron recognition code. The size of the square (24 inches) was significantly reduced as opposed to the ones on their P-38s, in order to accommodate the tail numbers. The call letter height was approximately 18 inches.

The 385th FS (unit code “5E”) used a triangle as a Squadron recognition code. The triangles were transformed to a narrower base (28 inches), whilst the height went up to about 36 inches. The call letters were 24 inches high.

As the 364th FG wanted to continue to use white as a Group colour, they stumbled upon the problem that this colour was already being used by the 355th FGs Mustangs (the 20th FG had the same problem upon conversion to the P-51). As a solution an additional feature was invented, namely the use of 6-inch tall Medium Blue colour horizontal stripes within the 12-inch white nose section encompassing the forward area of the engine cowling.

These bars fully encircled the cowling with a 6 to 8 inches separation between each bar.

Even when the 8th AF issued an order for additional Squadron identification by means of coloured rudders in October of 1944, the 364th FG opted to stay with their geometric symbols in favour of coloured rudders.

© Mikhail Bykov

The name “Lucky Lady VII” is only displayed on the port side of the cowling, beneath the exhaust stacks. The balkenkreuz kill markings are situated on the port side of the fuselage, between the canopy and the wing root.

The timeframe of D-FPSI can be situated somewhere between April 16th of 1945 and VE-day (May 8th , 1945), given the following data:

  • Lucky Lady VI (44-15019) was lost on April 10th , 1945, whilst being flown by Theodore F. Lash (MACR 13771) on a ramrod mission to Oranienberg. Lash was listed as MIA, the Mustang was never found, neither was the reason.
    On July 19th , 1945, a letter was received from Headquarters of the 9th AF (dated May 28th , 1945) that Flight Officer Theodore F. Lash was buried at the US military cemetery at Margraten, Holland, so the status was changed to KIA.

    Bankey received his new P-51 short afterwards and applied the name “Lucky Lady VII”.
  • She displays 17 kill markings on the port side, just below the canopy. Erney Banks did not achieve 17 kills until after his mission of April 16th , 1945, in which he destroyed 4 aircraft on the ground and added another 2 aerial kills.
  • The lack of Invasion Stripes: SHAEF issued the final addition of Operation Memorandum Number 23 on December 6th , 1944, ordering the cessation of all Invasion markings on all operational aircraft effective December 31st , 1944.

However, there are a number of irregularities on the paint scheme:

  • The airframe during WWII was obviously not as polished as is the case on the Mustang in its present state
  • The kill markings on the original “Lucky Lady VII” were in the form of simple black swastika symbols, while the current paint scheme sports white balkenkreuz markings.

For more information on the following general P-51 markings, please click their appropriate links:
D-Day markings
US National Insignia markings
General P-51 markings

Pictures of D-FPSI Lucky Lady VII



Walkaround pictures of D-FPSI Lucky Lady VII



Contributor pictures of D-FPSI Lucky Lady VII


Contributor image copyright (left to right, top to bottom):

1 - 13
14 - 15
16 - 17

© Matthias Dorst
© Bert Van Wijk
© Malcolm Clarke
© Gareth Horne
© Anthony Noble
© Simon Thomas
© Zane Adams
© Marc Lehman
© Jerome Zbinden
© Jochen Thoma
© Geoff Collins
© Paul Dobson
© Pier Francesco Baglivo
© Johannes Raber
© Eggert Norðdahl

Pictures of the original "Lucky Lady VII"


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