All Aviation FlightLine OnLine RENO 98! -UPDATE-


When the Lear-Jet winged and tailed P-51 Mustang "clone", Miss Ashley II, was unveiled at Reno last year, it flew with what was, essentially, a stock Rolls Royce Griffon engine. The Miss Ashley II Reno 1997 (13k)entry was intended to be a shakedown cruise for this exotic airplane, MA2 Pilot, Gary Levitz, telling us "we're going to eat the elephant one bite at a time". Wearing the stunning Courtaulds Aerospace red and white paint job, the airplane looked fast simply sitting in the pits, and it didn't disappoint many with the results around the pylons, getting faster with each heat race . In spite of the engine and airframe being barely 50 hours old, Levitz was able to manage a very respectable 4th place finish in the gold class finals out of this "shakedown" cruise. The conservative configuration used for this first showing, meant there there was more in the bank for MA2. The team had wisely approached this as a test run for the new airframe/engine running her at fairly limited power settings, they still did very well. But everyone agreed that a run for the gold was going to take more power, probably more than what was left in the bank.... The Levitz/Rogers racer uses the Griffon-58, which does not have the two stage supercharger of the more powerful Griffon-74 (this was the engine used on the Red Baron and World Jet) Rogers used the -58World Jet Reno 1996 (13k) for several reasons, not the least of which , it is in more plentiful supply and is several inches shorter than the -74 greatly simplifying installation in the Mustang engine compartment. But that still leaves the airplane/engine combo a bit short of a gold winning configuration. This brings us to the title of this update... As this is being written, Bill Rogers and team are adding a Nitrous Injection system to the "LearStang"! Many drag race cars use this method to improve engine power, but they only need short bursts of the go-gas to complete the 1/4 mile of their race. The Courtaulds Aerospace sponsored racer will need much more to go the distance at Reno! Just where to put this speed-gas in the limited confines of the P-51 fuselage is the task currently being undertaken at the team's hanger in Washington State.

"We have to rebuild the oil tanks so we have room first..We have to make room in the airplane before we can add anything." Said Bill Rogers when we asked him the question: Where would he put it?. "We've got enough room behind the pilot's seat but we have to redesign the oil tank so it'll fit around it, the tanks that are in here are custom built anyway, we're just going to change the shape" Bill tells us this custom oil tank system will allow Miss Ashley II to run with stock, off the shelf Nitrous tanks.

We mentioned there was more in the engine, even though the Griffon -58 has a smaller Griffon -58 of Miss Ashley II (17k)blower than its bigger brother, it does have two speeds. Last year they only ran with it in the low-blower setting. By running MA2's Griffon in the high-blower setting a significant power increase can be expected; "That will probably help us about 350 horse" says Rogers. This is certainly nothing to "sneeze" at (pun intended) but just how much more will adding the Nitrous Injection bring to the table? "it will put in between 500-600 we'll be running about 3500 horses" This is significant, as we've learned that last year's winner, Strega, runs somewhere in the neighborhood of 3600 hp. We could be seeing some *VERY* impressive speeds out of this entry this year!

Hearing of the power potential of the higher blower settings and Nitrous Injection got us wondering just what the theoretical limit of the Lear wing on Miss Ashley II might be. "The wing's designed, and they run on Lear Jets at .83" [mach]" Bill tells us, "I think we're only racing [now] at about .7 That's what the wing's good for" ....... "If you could ever go that fast it would be pretty impressive." Reeling in our lower lip, we went on to the next question.....(with a great big smile on our face!)

In addition to the increases in power, the team has a few other "tricks" up their sleeves to make the already sleek airframe even slicker! "We're changing the outboard gear doors and we're changing the leading edges" Said Rogers. We asked what changes they were making. "We're making 'em faster" Laughed the sly Texan ..... Never play poker with a man from Texas who builds red and white airplanes in Seattle!!

Based on the limited space in the airframe, we wondered if enough Nitrous could be carried to run "full-on" for an entire race...."We can go half a race" Bill told us. This certainly opens up a strategy issue, we wondered what the plan might be? Playing his cards close to the vest again Bill says: "We don't know...at this time we don't even know......If you Miss Ashley II Reno 1997 (15k)need it right up front then you're going to use it right up front if you don't need it you'll stay out of it until you need it"

Well then.... there you have it!! .... We will be seeing a completely different beast this year. The Courtaulds Aerospace Levitz/Rogers Miss Ashley II had an amazing showing last year. Not as fast as some had hoped, but faster than any of us had a right to expect of such a young airplane. This team continues to see the need and find the solution. Going fast is the goal and faster is definitely better, they will definitely be faster... see you at Reno '98!

Story: Wayne Sagar
Photography and graphic processing: Mark Kallio

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