|01/14/99 AAFO.COM UPDATE
We've said things were heating up for Reno '99 and it looks like the fire just got turned up! Everyone who follows air racing has been pulling for Papa 51 since the tragic loss of the first flying Thunder Mustang last year. GOOD NEWS, the second completed kit [first customer owned airplane] has entered flight testing at the Nampa, Idaho facility.
Last year's sport class winner, Dave Morss, is the pilot for this phase of the testing process. Things are moving smoothly in the early flights, Papa 51 spokesperson, Charles Denney, tells us: "As with all first flights there is some tweaking that occurs after the flight or flights but the performance and handling are definitely Thunder Mustang".
Using the economy of words that only a true test pilot understands, Morss had this to say about the first flight "Lets just say I was smiling after getting back in a Thunder". We'd bet that smile was quite a wide one.
After the heroic effort by many dedicated employees and friends of Papa 51 to get this airplane flying for the inaugural "Sport Class" event at Reno '98, time simply ran out for the exhausted crew. The airplane was trucked to Stead Field for a static display. Though unpainted at the time, it looked VERY SLICK with the Ryan Falconer V-12 sitting under the cowl ready for action! This brings us to the question... Will this airplane race in '99? Charles Denney has an exciting answer to this query..."Yes, in the Sports Class - piloted by owner, Tommy Rose. This aircraft, N7TR - the #2 Thunder Mustang, is privately owned by Mr. Rose. He is allowing Papa 51 to use his aircraft while we construct a new factory demo. He raced his Glasair in the Sports Class last year but is looking forward to racing his Thunder Mustang in '99."
By now, most everyone knows of the horsepower gains available to the Ryan engine when turbocharged. We asked Charles, in an earlier interview, when we might see a "pumped" version of the Falconer V-12. We know from that story that the next one off the line at Papa 51 was slated to get this extra power treatment... Will we see such an airplane at Reno '99? Keeping his cards close to his chest, Denny would only tell us, "We hope to have Dave [Morss] fly our new factory demo at Reno and we hope to have a few surprises for the Unlimiteds." Hummn.... Surprises, for the "big boys" ... Looks like the "pumper" is gonna make a run for it!!
Lately we've been hearing of many more Thunders in progress at various locations around the country. With visions of a sky full of the "mini Mustangs" we asked Denny about current production and shipment of kits to builders. "Production is going very well. We have shipped twenty four Wing Kits and seven Fuselage Kits. Our lead time on wing kits are approximately 8 weeks and on fuselage kits approximately 6 months." At this rate the Sport Class is likely to become dominated by the 3/4 scale warbird, fueling speculation that a separate "spec" class will evolve at Reno consisting solely of the Thunder Mustang. Certainly the face of Reno Air Racing is changing. With more race classes then ever before and the specter of, perhaps, even more "sub classes" added to the field of competitors, the fans become the big winners at Reno!
story by: Wayne Sagar
The 1999 Reno National Championship Air Races Will Be Held September 16-19 At Stead Field, Reno Nevada. Qualifying and Practice Events Run September 13-15 And Offers Some Of The Most Exciting Action Of The Entire Week. For Ticket And Lodging Information go to http://www.airrace.org
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