This WWII-era plane is one of the few left in the world and you can wear a piece from one like it on your wrist
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IDAHO FALLS – Ordinary men and women through the ages have accomplished great things and as we learn of their deeds, we often say that they “made history.”
Making history takes on a new meaning for John Muszala because it’s how he makes a living.
He and his team at Pacific Fighters in Idaho Falls restore World War II-era aircraft and their specialty is warbirds and fighter planes.
“We’ve done (restoration projects) from the late 1930s to the Vietnam, Korean War era,” Muszala tells EastIdahoNews.com.
His father, whose name is also John, formed the business 35 years ago. One perk of the job is interacting with high-profile clients — people who many would say have “made history” themselves.
The man inside the P-51 Mustang that flies into the sunset at the end of “Top Gun: Maverick” is just one of Muszala’s friends and acquaintances. His name is Steve Hinton, Jr. He’s a renowned pilot who currently holds the world speed record for piston-powered aircraft.
“We’ve worked with some really cool people from all over the world,” Muszala says.
Muszala has a P-51 in his shop right now dating back to 1945. It was a test plane owned by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the predecessor to NASA.
“It’s one of the airplanes that was directly responsible for the Bell X-1 breaking the sound barrier,” explains Muszala.
EastIdahoNews.com visited the shop to see the plane up close while Muszala told us the history behind it. Take a look in the video above.
The 77-year-old plane is one of about 110 P-51s from that era still flying today, Muszala says, and you can own a piece of one just like it.
Pacific Fighters recently partnered with Torgoen, a company known for its aviation-themed watches, to create a series of collectible timepieces with the plane’s original metal built into it.
Each watch is American-made and comes with a certificate of authenticity.
“The limited edition Torgoen T51 watch features a dial made of aluminum reclaimed from authentic P-51 Mustang wings. Originally designed in the U.S. for the allied forces in WWII, the P-51 Mustang quickly became one of the most popular aircraft used during the war. Only a couple hundred Mustangs survived to the present, making the T51 a true one-of-a-kind timepiece,” the watch’s certificate of authenticity reads.
The T51 comes in two different colors — brown and black — and there are only 200 available.
“The black watch simulates an 8-day clock, which is … how (the pilot) would track his time. So we (tried) to model that clock, which is cool and different and something we hadn’t seen,” says Muszala.
Muszala says Torgoen reached out to him because they were looking for an innovative approach for a new product line. They collaborated on the idea and he’s pleased with the result.
During the plane restoration process, Muszala says there are always elements that have to be scrapped because they may not meet airworthy standards, per Federal Aviation Administration requirements. He sees the partnership with Torgoen as “a unique way to continue to preserve pieces of history without having to trash it.”
“It’s not every day you look at a watch to see what time it is and are looking at a real piece of history and not just another dial,” Muszala says. “Our long-term plan is to do a lot of different subjects, a lot of different watches and all sorts of shapes, sizes (and) colors.”
To purchase a watch or learn more, click here.