Aviation History - Page 4 Aviation Articles

Why the P-51 is Still the Most Beloved Airplane at the Air Show

Perhaps the most influential warplane of all time, the P-51 Mustang is still one of the most beloved aircraft in the air show circuit today. Seventy years past its prime, the Mustang remains a steadfast and prominent part of air shows, only occasionally and temporarily overshadowed by the appearance of a modern fighter jet. Reliable and distinguished, people who know the P-51 recognize it and greet it the way they do an old friend - with respect and admiration. Why do people love the Mustang so much? After decades of innovation and an abundance of new sleek, capable aircraft, why do people still marvel at the sound of the Merlin engine?

A war hero…
The Mustang is an airplane with a story. It's a war hero - a sigh of relief in a dark time, a ray of sunshine that helped end an uncertain era in our nation's history. It's quick, easy on the eyes and music to our ears. The P-51 Mustang is so well loved and so respected because it tells the story of innovation, speed, valor and beauty during a time of difficulty.

As the first aircraft designed around a laminar flow wing, the Mustang was ahead of its time. And it wasn't just the 425+ mile per hour airspeed that made it impressive. The aircraft was rolled out in record time -about 100 days - making it one of the fastest aircraft to be produced, even during wartime. In a 1943 Popular Science article, author Andrew Boone predicted, "When the history of this war is written, there may be a hundred days underlined in red pencil - a period in which a young engineer and a veteran designer took a theory on airflow and turned it into the deadliest change-of-pace fighter airplane this stage of the war has yet produced." He was right.

The production of the P-51 was a demonstration of our nation's ability not only to innovate, but to innovate rapidly and on demand. The P-51 was designed by request of the British Purchasing Commission, and around 100 days after signing the first contract with the British Purchasing Commission, North American rolled out the first P-51, initially dubbed the NA-73X.

The British ordered 320 more aircraft from North American in March 1940, and soon after, America jumped on board, too. The U.S. Army Air Force took possession of its first Mustangs in March 1942. The airplane flew in every theater during World War II and continued to serve throughout the Korean War. By the end of World War II, it had destroyed 4,950 enemy aircraft - more enemy aircraft than any other fighter aircraft in Europe.

That engine...
There's no doubt that the P-51 Mustang, with its numerous capabilities, had a tremendous effect on the outcome of the war. But we should give credit where credit is due, and the Merlin V-1650 engine, originally designed by Rolls Royce, was a game-changer.

Early on, the P-51 was fitted with an Allison V-1710 engine and used as a dive-bomber and for reconnaissance missions. But the Allison engine, as good as it was, lacked performance at high altitudes, and in 1942, Mustangs were fitted with more powerful 1,430-hp Packard-built Merlin V-1650 engines. The aircraft's capabilities expanded greatly, marking a turning point in the war.

With the Merlin engine, the P-51 could fly up to 441 miles per hour at almost 30,000 feet. Flying at altitudes without losing power made the Mustang capable of both long-range, high altitude escort missions as well as its low-altitude reconnaissance missions that it was known for.

The sound of the Merlin engine is one that's not easily forgotten. It's a slow, rumbling sound that sneaks up on you, maybe startles you, only to put you at ease, knowing that behind the whir of the engine is the sound of victory that many people know and remember. In a 1943 article in Popular Mechanics, the author describes the airplane as fast and quiet. "There is no distant engine drone, growing louder as the plane approaches, but a sudden screaming roar overheard and the wild horse is upon you."

Pure elegance…
Today, we marvel at the history and the airplane and the sound of the Merlin, but we also stand in awe of an airplane that is not only fast and practical, but absolutely stunning to look at. With its bubble canopy, its sleek lines and silver wings... the P-51 Mustang is simply one of the most beautiful airplanes in the word.

Never has an airplane surpassed the P-51 when it comes to utility and beauty in one. It's strong and powerful, yet quiet and elegant. It's a natural performer, and it demands respect without the dog and pony show. For those who witnessed its prowess during the war, it's evocative. For the others who marvel at it during air shows today, those who can only look into its past and wonder, it's an airplane with a strange pull, an often unexplained attraction.

You may wonder why you're so drawn to an airplane that is before your time, why this particular airplane is such a showstopper. Because whether you know the history of the airplane or not, the Mustang is an airplane that stops you in your tracks. Its beauty captivates you, lures you in, and makes you want to hear its story. And it's a story worth repeating, air show after air show.

The Ultimate Barn Find? Bid On a P-51 Mustang for $150,000!

In a dusty hangar in southern California, at an unassuming airfield, there sits a forgotten treasure: A P-51D Mustang, a legendary World War II warplane that could become the find of a lifetime for one lucky buyer. One of the few remaining 425-knot piston-powered airplanes - the fastest piston-powered airplane of its era and perhaps of all time - lies in a hangar at Torrance Airport in southern California, waiting to be auctioned to its new owner.

As the inheritor of the fabled Merlin engine, the most admired sound ever produced by twelve cylinders marching two-by-two in the classic V-12 configuration, the P-51 Mustang was the best fighter aircraft of its time, shooting down 4,950 enemy aircraft by the end of the war in 1945.

According to photographer and historian Dick Phillips of Warbird Images, who researches the history of P-51 Mustangs, this airplane, serial number 44-84896, was manufactured for the war effort in 1944 and ended its military career in 1956 as part of the 169th Fighter Squadron in the Illinois National Guard. According to Phillips, the airplane was stored in California until it was sold on the civilian market for $867 dollars to P.J. Murray of Oxnard, California and was registered with the tail number N5416V.

According to Phillip's records, N5416V would be sold 10 additional times in the next five years before being sold to James Keichline for $8,950 dollars. Keichline owned the aircraft for ten years before selling it to its most recent owner, Ken Scholz in Playa Del Rey, California in 1973. Scholz originally kept the aircraft tied down on the ramp at Torrance Airport, but vandalism caused him to move it to a hangar in 1978. Scholz, a retired aircraft mechanic, apparently never flew the plane, but intended to restore it during his retirement. It seems he would never get the chance.

Starting June 2nd, this old 1958 P-51 Mustang will be auctioned by Scholz's estate, and the starting bid is only $150,000. It's a little rough around the edges and needs an extensive restoration, but it's complete - or at least advertised as "appearing complete," which we know is hardly a guarantee. The Packard Rolls Model V-1650 engine is being auctioned separately, starting at $8,000. And there are no logbooks or any other documentation for the aircraft. Add to this that the aircraft is being auctioned "as is," and, according to the listing, there is a host of problems that will require extensive efforts on behalf of the owner, including crazing and discoloration on the canopy, oxidized paint, corrosion, and a total overhaul of all instruments and gauges.

We know that the aircraft will need to be almost completely rebuilt, but what about the logbooks? How much do the missing logbooks decrease the value of an aircraft? We know that with a typical aircraft purchase, the logbooks are vital for determining airworthiness, and can reduce the value of an aircraft significantly, sometimes by up to a third, but for an aircraft restoration project this may not be accurate. Without logbooks, an active airplane may not be airworthy until an A&P mechanic or IA recreates each AD or service bulletin and attests to its performance and compliance, an expensive prospect that may end up repeating service that was previously performed but not evidenced without proper documentation. But a project as extensive as this P-51 Mustang is likely to be documented over the course of its restoration, providing proper documentation in the form of logbooks by the end of the project.

Rumors are swirling that the bid price will come in around $400,000-800,000 (minus the engine) but the cost of this restoration project will far exceed that dollar amount. According to a few of our Facebook followers, a restoration like this will likely cost at least $1.5 million. The airworthy P-51 aircraft on the market right now seem to be going at a market rate of $2.0-$4.5 million. This 1945 Mustang is listed for $2.14 million.

How much would you guess this P-51D Mustang will bring at auction? How much do you think it will cost to restore it? How much would you pay for the privilege of owning it?

Pilots Bill of Rights 2: Medical Exemptions, Due Process & NOTAMs

Photo © Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr

In a move that is being applauded by the general aviation community, Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) last week introduced two new GA-friendly bills. The new laws– the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act and the Pilots Bill of Rights 2 (PBOR-2) - could have a significant impact on general aviation operations if they move through congress.

Sen. Inhofe successfully led the first Pilot’s Bill of Rights through Congress in 2012. PBOR-2 expands upon the pilot protections offered by the initial PBOR.

"The first Pilot’s Bill of Rights was a victory for the aviation community and made possible by the support of pilots and industry leaders across the nation," Inhofe said. "Since being signed into law, more issues facing the general aviation (GA) community have surfaced. The Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 addresses these concerns and builds on the success of my previous legislation."

Twelve sponsors, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), House General Aviation Caucus co-chair Sam Graves (R-Mo.), and a variety of industry stakeholders, such as AOPA, EAA, and GAMA, supported Sen. Inhofe’s Pilot Bill of Rights.

Mark Barker, President of AOPA, released this statement: "The introduction of the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 is great news for the general aviation community and we are grateful to Sen. Inhofe for putting forward this legislation that would do so much to help grow and support general aviation activity. Pilots have already waited too long for medical reform, so we’re particularly pleased to see it included in this important measure. We will actively work with Congress to build support for this legislation that is so vital to the future of GA and the 1.1 million jobs that depend on it."

The General Aviation Pilot Protection Act was first introduced in 2013. The 2015 version intends to expand the medical exemption requirement for pilots, and the PBOR-2 addresses the same medical exemption requirements, along with a handful of other issues.

According to Sen. Inhofe’s website, highlights of the new bill will include the following:

  • Medical Certificate Exemption:
    Allows more pilots to operate without obtaining an aviation medical certificate. Under the new law, private pilots would be able to fly VFR or IFR in aircraft under 6,000 pounds, below 14,000 feet MSL, and under 250 knots.
  • Due Process:
    PBOR-2 will maintain the rights set forth in the first PBOR from 2012, and will extend those rights to all FAA certificate holders instead of just pilots. This means that maintainers, dispatchers and other certificate holders will also be granted due process rights along with the right to appeal an FAA decision through a merit-based trial in Federal Court.
  • Violation Transparency:
    The new bill will require the FAA to notify pilots of any pending enforcement action, as well as provide specific documentation.
  • Flight Data Accessibility:
    Under the new bill, pilots will be able to access data from contractors, including flight service stations, contract controllers and controller training programs in order to defend themselves from enforcement action.
  • Protection for Volunteer Pilots:
    PBOR-2 will establish a Good Samaritan Law to protect volunteer pilots from liability.
  • Protection for individuals performing federal tasks:
    PBOR-2 will establish liability protections for individuals performing federal tasks, such as designated examiners, medical examiners and airworthiness inspectors.
  • NOTAMs:
    PBOR-2 will require the FAA to develop a better NOTAM (Notice to Airman) system, and maintains that the FAA will not be allowed to bring about enforcement action on pilots until they complete the NOTAM Improvement Program

The FAA has 180 days to weigh in on the regulations. If the organization doesn’t respond, the bills will automatically become laws.

A Beginners Guide to General Aviation Aircraft Identification

If you are the type of person who can visit an airport on any given day and accurately identify the make, model, year, and flight characteristics of any aircraft that you happen to see, this article is not for you. This article is for the good-hearted airplane enthusiast who is just starting out, or the student pilot who feels inadequate when their pilot friends rattle off airplane facts like nobody’s business.

I took a poll of my friends at school, asking them how confident they are in their airplane identification skills. The majority of sophomores and juniors said they were extremely confident, and could identify most military or civilian aircraft with ease. Some freshmen had grown up around aircraft, and felt mildly confident. However, I found a surprising amount of new student pilots who felt they would not know the difference between a Diamond and Cirrus, and referred to the majority of single-engine aircraft as simply "Cessna."

This article is designed to give an overview of the most common single-engine aircraft, and to give a new airplane enthusiast a good starting point for their upcoming years of impressing friends with their aviation knowledge. After all, even the most experienced plane-spotter had to start somewhere.

Stepping out onto a busy tarmac, one has a very high chance of seeing any combination of the following aircraft. The hope is that by the end of this list you will be able to easily pick out the subtle differences of each and take your first steps at being an airplane guru.

Cessna - The most popular single-engine general aviation aircraft has to be the Cessna 172. The four-seater aircraft has high wings, and the imaginary line from the bottom of the fuselage to the tail is almost perfectly straight. They are very angular and boxy, but have a classic look that is easily recognized. Cessna also has the 150, 152, 180, 182, and several other models, all of which have the same basic shape. Overall a very recognizable aircraft, and 80% of the time if there is a high winged aircraft on the ramp at the airport or flying around, it is a Cessna.

Diamond -The Diamond DA20 is a low-wing, curvy aircraft with a very large wingspan that could be mistaken for a powerful motor-glider. The fuselage is oval shaped, which flows into a skinny tail section and T-tail (position of vertical and horizontal stabilizers resemble an uppercase T) that makes me think of this aircraft as having a dolphin tail. The canopy opens upward, encasing the pilot and passenger in a bubble with great visibility. This aircraft also has four-seat model, the DA40.

Cirrus - Often confused with the Diamond DA40, a Cirrus SR20 is similarly shaped, but much less curvy and thin. The low-wing aircraft has a roomy interior, and features sporty doors that open upwards with a forward-pivoting hinge. The horizontal stabilizer is positioned similarly on the tail as a Cessna 172. These are not to be confused with a Cessna Columbia, which has a very similar shape but a perfectly straight nose gear.

Mooney - One of my favorite aircraft is the Mooney. These are easily identified by the vertical stabilizer, which appears to have been put on backward. It forms a sharp L-shape in the tail. This is also a low-wing aircraft, known for its speed. Another interesting feature is how the leading edge of the wing is perpendicular to the fuselage while the trailing edge is angled forward, giving it the appearance that the wings have been put on backward as well.

Piper Cherokee – Another popular training aircraft is the Piper Cherokee. They have chunky low-wings, and appear to sit closer to the ground. It seats four passengers and the majority of models have a fixed gear. This is the Cessna of low-wing aircraft. They are sometimes confused with the Beechcraft Bonanza, but are much smaller and less bulky looking.

Beechcraft Bonanza – A popular personal aircraft, this six-seat beast has been in continuous production longer than any other airplane in history. The oldest models have an easily recognizable V-shaped tail, but newer models sport a conventional tail, and all models have a trapezoidal gear leg fairing. They have a rather beefy fuselage, and occupy a lot of space.

I hope that this basic guide to identifying the most widely known and flown aircraft has been helpful. Next time you visit an airport, see how many of these legendary planes you can recognize. The more practice you have recognizing the different models, the better you will be.

Legendary Designer Burt Rutan Returns to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in 2015 for VariEze Anniversary

All Rutan designs and canard aircraft invited to Oshkosh for VariEze’s 40th

Photo courtesy Scaled Composites

EAA AVIATION CENTER, OSHKOSH, Wisconsin — (February 19, 2015) — Burt Rutan, the visionary aircraft designer whose innovations made history and changed the aviation world, will be back at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in 2015 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his iconic VariEze aircraft.

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015, the 63rd annual Experimental Aircraft Association fly-in convention, will be held July 20-26 at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh.

Rutan’s designs have been groundbreaking for more than 40 years, beginning with the VariViggen in the early 1970s through the concepts that became the SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo vehicles that are launching the era of space tourism. His use of canard wings and composite materials changed the look and efficiency of homebuilt aircraft, with more than 1,000 airplanes based on his designs now flying in the U.S. alone.

"There are few individuals in the history of aviation who can match Burt Rutan’s imagination and accomplishments," said Jack Pelton, EAA chairman of the board. "His presentations are eagerly anticipated whenever he is in Oshkosh. Although he officially ‘retired’ several years ago, his innovative mind continues to push forward with new concepts and ideas that he’ll share at EAA AirVenture in 2015."

Rutan is perhaps publicly known best for his SpaceShipOne design, which in 2004 won the $10 million Ansari XPRIZE as the first successful private spacecraft. He also designed the Voyager, which in 1986 became the first aircraft to fly around-the-world nonstop on a single tank of fuel. That accomplishment earned him, along with pilots Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, the Presidential Citizen’s Medal. Burt Rutan was also named to the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1995 and EAA Homebuilders Hall of Fame in 1998.

His VariEze aircraft first flew in May 1975, with the prototype causing a sensation at that year’s EAA fly-in. That canard design evolved into other Rutan aircraft innovations, such as the Long-EZ, that are still being built today. Rutan’s multitude of interests has also led him into successfully exploring space flight and into electric flight.

In honor of the VariEze anniversary, EAA is inviting all Rutan and canard aircraft owners to come to Oshkosh and participate in the festivities. More details on specific dates and events will be released as they are finalized.

About EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is "The World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration" and EAA’s yearly membership convention. Additional EAA AirVenture information, including advance ticket and camping purchase, is available online at www.eaa.org/airventure. EAA members receive lowest prices on admission rates. For more information on EAA and its programs, call 1-800-JOIN-EAA (1-800-564-6322) or visit www.eaa.org. Immediate news is available at www.twitter.com/EAA.

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