Plane with link to Austin is bound for the Super Bowl

Published 8:37 am Saturday, February 3, 2018

A restored World War II P-51 Mustang, the Sierra Sue II, will be leading the U.S. Air Force Heritage Flight over U.S. Bank Stadium during the national anthem at Super Bowl LII.

It is one of a few functioning P-51s that saw combat in World War II. Although the aircraft is housed at Wings of the North in Eden Prairie, she once called Mower County home.

Built at North American’s Inglewood plant in California, Sierra Sue II was accepted into the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1944. She was shipped to France in 1945 and assigned to the 402nd Fighter Squadron, 370th Fighter Group, Ninth Air Force.

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Her pilot, First Lt. Robert Bohna, named her Sierra Sue II, named after a girl with whom he went to high school, but never had the courage to speak to.

The plane of Roger Christgau, on display at Wings of the North. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Flyer Magazine

After World War II, Sierra Sue II saw service in the Swedish Air Force and the Nicaraguan Air Force. In 1971, Dave Allender of San Mateo, California, purchased her from the Nicaraguan Air Force and made numerous modifications, painting her bright red and re-naming her Race 19.

In 1978, Allender sold Race 19 to Roger Christgau.

Born in Crookston in 1931, Christgau grew up in Minneapolis. During his childhood summers, Christgau worked on a family farm, Diamond Park, about eight miles east of Austin. Christgau served as an officer in the Air Force, where he developed a reputation as a daredevil pilot. After graduating medical school, Christgau established a medical practice in Edina, where he was nicknamed “Doc.”

Christgau had Race 19 restored to a stock Mustang configuration in Hollister, California, before bringing her to Minnesota in 1983. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, “Doc” flew her in air shows throughout the Midwest, keeping her in a hangar at the Austin Municipal Airport during his trips here. During that time, aviation historians were able to verify her identity as the Sierra Sue II. Christgau had her repainted in her original World War II markings and regaled air show patrons with tales of her history.

Doc’s brother, John Christgau, wrote and published a history of the aircraft, “Sierra Sue II: The Story of a P-51 Mustang,” in the early 1990s.

The airplane belonging to Roger Christgau on display at Wings of the North. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Flyer Magazine

Christgau flew the Sierra Sue II for the last time in 2005, after retiring from medicine and moving to Diamond Park Farm. He sold the aircraft to Paul Ehlen of Hamilton, Montana, in 2011.

Christgau passed away at Diamond Park Farm in 2012.

Following the purchase of Sierra Sue II, Ehlen had the aircraft shipped to AirCorps Aviation in Bemidji. She underwent a complete restoration to the 1944 factory delivery specifications and, in 2014, flew back to Austin, where over 200 people gathered to see her return to the Austin Municipal Airport during a memorial service for Christgau. The restoration won an award in 2015 at the EAA AirVenture event in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Later that year, the Sierra Sue II joined the Wings of the North collection.

For more information about the Sierra Sue II, visit