Sometimes, childhood dreams do come true. At least, for Greg and Ryan Costo they do. For many years, Greg’s father, a WW2 pilot, was a pylon judge for the National Championship Air Races in Reno, NV. Because of his father’s involvement flying aircraft for the Army Air Corp and later the Strategic Air Command it was a given that this love would be handed down from father to son. When Ryan came along, the tradition continued. Three generations all going to Reno in September and watching their favorite racers speed through sky.
We forward fast a many years to when means and opportunity collide. Dago Red, the beautiful Merlin equipped P-51 Mustang is for sale. Terry Bland has decided to sell. Good business sense has provided the means and Greg and Ryan form Dream Machines, LLC and are on their way.
For those of you who do not know Dago Red, she is a P-51D, rebuilt in 1981 by Bill “Tiger” Destefani as the modified racer #4. Since then, she has been owned by Frank Taylor, Alan Preston, David Price and just prior to the Costo Family, Terry Bland. She won her first year at Reno, 1982, with Ron Hevle in the pilot seat. After several years of maydays, she was back in the winner’s circle in 1998 with Bruce Lockwood at the helm. She then won with Alan Preston and later Skip Holm and currently owns the fastest race speed in Reno History at just over 507 mph.
In recent years, she has been commanded by Dan Martin. If you remember the races in 2005, you probably remember Dan flying his mostly stocker P-51D, Ridge Runner III to a very competitive Gold Final and sadly coming in with a mayday, much to the screaming crowds dismay. He is a fan favorite and a RACER’S RACER, a well respected stick.
Dan raced Dago last year. In the closest qualifying session in history, he came out on top. After incredibly exciting racing, he and Dago came in 2nd to Tiger and Strega, with a very respectable 474+mph race speed.
What does the future hold for Dago? The Costo Family has great plans for their racer. She is currently undergoing a facelift and will be sporting new paint, yes – the KELP IS GONE! Some minor speed mods will be done and she should be back to her winning ways in September with Dan there to guide her once again.
American Icon Tours
But, that is only part of the story. Dream Machines was not just about Greg’s and Ryan’s dreams. They want to share their dreams with as many people as possible. Not just through a fan base for Dago Red, but by actually bringing the Mustang and the people together in what they are calling the American Icon Tour.
From their website, The American Icon Tour was conceived to display, preserve, and continue the Mustang's legacy for future generations. Our mission is to share our aircraft on a nationwide tour that will allow the general public to observe and learn about the aircraft first hand, as well as provide the unique opportunity for our guests to take a flight in these magnificent machines.
To this end, they have purchased not just Dago Red, but also Bernie’s Bo, Three of Hearts, Two TF-51s and an AT-6. Bernie’s Bo has a distinguished past. Sold as surplus from McClellan AFB in February 1958, she found her way to Bob Love, Famous WWII Mustang Ace. Bob Love flew her in Air Shows for many years. After he died in early 1986 and the airplane was sold to NFL Great, Russ Francis. The airplane became famous again when a You Tube Video of a Landing Incident with last owner hit the internet. It was then purchased by the American Icon Team in early 2008 and is currently under restoration.
Three of Hearts was recovered from the Dominican Republic. Acquired in 2003, P-51D Mustang was rebuilt to flying condition as a 352nd Fighter Group Blue Noser carrying the nose art Three of Hearts.
They are very excited to talk about the upcoming two week launch of the American Icon Tour which will coincide with the Indianapolis 500 over Memorial Day Weekend. The Tour will be there, giving rides, providing fly-bys and sharing in a great American Tradition.
The final piece of the puzzle is American Icon Tours Flight Training. It wasn’t enough to enable people to see them, touch them, and ride in them. They also wanted to offer people the opportunity to learn to FLY them. To that end, they have purchased, at last count, two TF-51s which are the trainers, basically dual-control Mustangs. These two aircraft, coupled with their AT-6, will enable them to train Warbird enthusiasts to actually fly these beautiful machines.
There are not that many places in the world which allow training at this level. There is one on the East Coast; this will be the first school dedicated to Warbird Instruction on the West Coast. A great idea and a great chance to really touch the lives of their fans.
While the Airshow and Tour dates aren’t concrete at the time of print, check back on their website.
The Costa’s have surrounded themselves with some of the best people and aircraft in the world. Triple Ace, CE “Bud” Anderson is a friend and a mentor to them, Dan Martin, David Teeters, Tony Banta, Daryl Bond and many others have shared their knowledge and enthusiasm.
Special thanks to Greg and Ryan Costo for making us feel like part of the American Icon Tours Family. They have been very open to discussing their dreams and goals. I am proud to call them friends. Please check out www.americanicontours.com for more information about the tours and the locations and dates.
Thank you to WW2 Triple Ace, Bud Anderson for his heroism, his stories and his friendship. It was a pleasure making your acquaintance and I look forward to many more hours of wide-eyed listening. More information about this remarkable man is available at www.cebudanderson.com.
Also, thank you to Rick Pisio for allowing the use of his one of his photos in this column and for his long term friendship. His website is www.rwphotos.com.
Most importantly, deep appreciation goes to my friend, Curtis Fowles, for his labor of love known as www.MustangsMustangs.com. A long time fan of the Mustang, Curtis started this website many years ago and has kept track of the lineage of each Mustang Survivor. He has kindly provided photographs for my column and has always been available to answer questions about “the aircraft that changed the course of a war". Thank you!
Fly Low, Fly Fast, Turn Left
Ruby Red Racing
Caption= Bernie’s Bo, was owned and flown by Bob Love
Credit = Curtis Fowles
Caption=Dago Red has always been a competitive racer
Credit = Curtis Fowles
Caption = Yes, friends – the Kelp is GONE!
Credit = Curtis Fowles
Caption = At 507 mph, it is currently the world’s fastest Mustang
Credit = Curtis Fowles
Caption = Ryan and Greg Costo with Triple Ace, Bud Anderson
Credit = Rick Pisio, RWP Photography