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I was hiking a couple miles to the west of Centennial airport in Colorado on June 20th, 2024 around 12:15 pm when I heard a large engine that I would have thought was a radial but it sounded like a cylinder was not firing. I thought this was unusual and saw what appeared to be a WWII fighter. A couple minutes later another similar aircraft flew over although the engine did not sound like a radial. That aircraft is pictured here.enter image description here

I attempted to use Flightradar24 but I am unfamiliar with the usage and could only find a small period of departures. Is this picture good enough to identify the second aircraft type? Is there a way to track down these aircraft another way?

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  • $\begingroup$ cool photo!!!!! $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 24 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Fattie It just goes to show how good modern cameras are on our phones. This is an extreme closeup from a samsung phone. $\endgroup$
    – SDH
    Commented Jun 24 at 15:01
  • $\begingroup$ true, it's madness $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 24 at 15:35

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Looks like this was most likely P-51D "Crusader" N51JT on this flight.

It didn't sound like a radial because it has a V-12 water cooled engine with an unmistakable sound.

You may wonder how I figured this out... The photo, while not great, has some P-51 features. In particular, the outlet of the radiator on the belly and the 4-bladed prop -- as well as your description of it not sounding like a radial.

So, I went to the FAA website and did an N-number search for all North American P51's. That gives a list of registrations by state. I started with those registered in Colorado. You can punch each one into FlightAware to find the flights in the past 14 days for any N-number.

This was only the third one from Colorado on the list.

Edit:

Using FlightRadar 24's Playback function, I was able to watch the P-51 flight and click on other aircraft operating in the same time / area. Lots of Cirrus, Cessnas, and business jets... One interesting thing was:

This flight of Yak 52 N33YK. Which has a radial engine.

Edit2:

I now see that there was also a Nanchang Cj-6 N443LM operating at the same time. At one point (18:45:05 UTC), they cross paths with the Yak.

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting research. Looking further, it appears that while he was doing circles, he flew over a Federal Correctional Institution at fairly low altitude at least once. Does the USA have regulations regarding such flights, or no? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 23 at 8:16
  • $\begingroup$ @EndAntisemiticHate not specifically. How low? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 23 at 11:20
  • $\begingroup$ @300D7309EF17 Looking at his flight path, and overlaying ground elevation data for that region, I estimate that he maintained at least 365m (1200ft) above the ground (of course, somewhat less from the rooftops) when flying over that facility. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 23 at 12:54
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, I was able to figure out something that should work. You can use FlightRadar24. At the bottom of the page, there is the 'Playback' option. You can reference the P-51's flight to see that it was around the lake at 6:20 PM UTC. Put 6/20 at 6:20UTC into FlightRadar24 Playback, it will give you a map. You can scroll to the desired area and then press 'play' to see all traffic in an area. If you know more precisely where you were, you should be able to figure out what flew overhead -- you should be able to use the P-51 flying over to help narrow the time. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 23 at 18:15
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    $\begingroup$ When flying VFR (visual flight rules, good weather), registering yourself with ATC is optional. This service is called 'Flight Following' and is often not used by recreational pilots on local area flights. Systems like FlightAware and FlightRadar24 only know about IFR flights and flights with Flight Following selected. It is not very surprising that your other flight did not elect to use flight following. If they are local, maybe you'll see them again. Happy plane watching! $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 24 at 15:36

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