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High Incident

Officers Pursue a Rare Vintage Plane, but Pilot Insists He Did Nothing Wrong

July 02, 1997|MARTHA WILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VAN NUYS — Scores of Californians out for a spin must have received traffic tickets or stern warnings Saturday from police officers, but none were brought down to Earth as firmly as Matt Jackson.

Jackson openly admits he was flying, all right. Doing more than 250 mph in the Valencia area.

Not through it. Above it.

Jackson, 39, of Canyon Country was flying a World War II-era P-51 Mustang fighter plane--"Dove of Peace."

He said he was shocked when he returned to Van Nuys Airport and a Los Angeles County sheriff's helicopter set down right next to him. "I had no idea why they chased me down like that," he said, insisting, in the time-honored way of those about to get a ticket, that he had done nothing wrong.

The deputies told Jackson they had spotted him doing some wild flying but did not issue a citation, saying they would refer the matter to detectives.

Jackson said he had tested the plane for about 15 minutes with a student pilot in a special rear seat over the former Indian Dunes motocross park adjacent to California 126 west of Valencia--an area set aside by the FAA for aerobatic practice, he said.

"I did nothing to violate any federal air regulations," said Jackson, who has been flying since 1972 and restoring and testing vintage airplanes since 1978.

He theorized that the airborne traffic officers probably "were startled and impressed with my performance." Jackson said the yellow-and-black checkered fighter, one of only 100 in existence, is an eye-catcher that boasts a storied combat career from World War II.

"It's a big, fast, high-performance plane--the Ferrari of the skies" that he maintains for a client back East, he said.

Sheriff's officials said Tuesday they have not decided if Jackson will be cited.

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