Levitz fills us in
on this one-of-a-kind Reno Air Racer!
the "Mystery Plane" photos from our Seattle
contact Roger Byarlay, all here have been watching
closely for any word on just what... eggs-ackly... this
thing was! We've been fortunate enough to have a
conversation with Gary Levitz, co-owner/pilot of
"MISS ASHLEY". Gary fills in some of the
First of all to critics of air racing that sometimes dwell on the "trashing" of classic warbirds for racing purposes: This is an entirely "new" airframe and engine. Gary tells us the airframe is largely built from kit parts from a supplier in S. Dakota. But this is just the beginning of the story of this Frankenstien of the air race world!
The most obvious difference between this plane and a stock P-51 are the wings, as the title of this story indicates, they are from a LearJet, so too is the horizontal stabilizer. We'll just go down the list of "body" parts this monster of a plane carries with it....
Folding into these Lear wings, you'll find the landing gear from a Cessna 421, strengthened with Cheyenne parts, shod with tires for the Grumman Gulfstream nose gear. The horizontal stabilizer is also from the Lear. The obviously taller tail is from the P-51 H model
The engine/prop combo are brand-new...out of the box parts: Rolls Royce Griffon engine and twin three blade contra-rotating prop from the British Shackelton Bomber. This engine is some 800+ cubic inches larger than the more commonly installed Rolls Royce Merlin engine. Encasing the Griffon is one of the problems in using this larger version of the Rolls Royce V-12, it will not fit within the confines of a stock Mustang cowling. The beautifully smooth cowling you see in the photos was scratch built from drawings, this was done in England. Cooling this "hot rod" power plant is the radiator designed for, and formerly used on, "Georgia Mae". The motor mount was designed and built by Gordon Cole. The cockpit has been moved aft, helping counteract the extra weight of the engine/prop combo.
Flight testing on "Miss Ashley" is being conducted at Everett Washington's Payne Field, by test pilot Skip Holm, and a team of engineers and mechanics.(mostly volunteer, several from Boeing) We've heard rumors floating about of speeds being achieved in the 450 mph range. When asked about this Gary responds."that's probably a bit high" when asked if he's "sandbagging" he cagily repeats the original answer..... Testing continues on the entire aircraft, control issues as well as powerplant performance are being addressed. The aircraft WILL be in Reno!
We asked Gary if he felt "Miss Ashley" might be competitive this year.....answer: "the plan is to fly the plane to Reno, go around the pylons, and fly it home" ......... With this radical mount, and his 25 years of pylon experience, we're pretty sure this will be a good year for the "Miss Ashley" team. Are they "sandbagging" the competition? We HOPE so!!
However you cut it...this is going to be a fantastic year for racing at Reno! -Wayne Sagar-
We thank Gary Levitz for taking time from his busy schedule to talk to us!