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Home sweet homebuiltHome sweet homebuilt

Aviation is the domain of dreamers. From the Wright brothers to the Rutan brothers, aviation history is populated by people driven by passion over practicality. Even the most successful aviation entrepreneurs are replete with stories of failures and missteps that would have derailed their careers were it not for the passion to see their dreams become reality; and we are all better for it.

The SocialFlight Family: Jeff and sons, Ben and Jake, along with fiancée Heidi and her daughters, Lily and Jordan. Photo courtesy of Jeff Simon.

And so I would like to share with you the recent realization of my own dream to build an aircraft, and take you along on the journey as we explore the systems and structures we are building, and the ways that the same systems apply to the certified aircraft most of us fly.

In cooperation with Titan Aircraft, and with support from SocialFlight partners including Aircraft Tool Supply, Aspen Avionics, Avidyne, L3 Aviation Products, Lightspeed Aviation, Whelen Engineering Co., ACR/Artex, EarthX Batteries, Plane & Pilot, and Approach Aviation, we are in the process of building a Titan T–51D Mustang. The T–51D is a three-quarters-scale replica of the famous P–51D Mustang World War II fighter.

The Titan T–51D is an experimental amateur-built aircraft kit designed by John Williams, founder and CEO of Titan Aircraft. Williams and Titan General Manager Bill Koleno have worked together to refine the T–51D into an easy-to-fly, reasonable-to-build aircraft that is an absolute thrill to fly. Rather than follow the complex design of the original North American P–51D Mustang, Titan designed the T–51D using the same techniques as their other aircraft, the Titan Tornado LSA. For example, the fuselage is constructed of aluminum over a steel frame that comes complete from the factory, and the leading edges of the wings and tail are aluminum bonded over a foam core, also completed by Titan before the kit ships to customers.

Jeff Simon's dining and living rooms are transformed into a workshop to build a Titan T-51D Mustang. Photo courtesy of Jeff Simon.

While the Bonanza’s home remains in the hangar at the airport, the T–51D will be built in our home. We have cleared out the living and dining rooms of our house in Massachusetts, removed the chandelier, added rubber flooring, and brought in the tools to convert it into a proper workshop. The fuselage has arrived and we've started working. And yes…we have figured out a plan for getting it back out when it’s done…sort of.

I will be building the Mustang with the help of my two boys, Jake and Ben, as well as with the assistance of a variety of guest builders from throughout general aviation. The entire build will be part of an ongoing video documentary designed to inspire pilots and aviation enthusiasts to learn more about GA and, perhaps, make some of their own dreams come true as well.

Although there are many differences in the design of the T–51D compared to your average Cessna, Piper, or Beechcraft, there are also many areas that are the same, and a lot we can learn regarding design and maintenance of certified aircraft. We will be covering those areas here on AOPA Online. For example, in our next installment, we will be discussing the design and maintenance of tailwheels, the often neglected but critical component on all those “conventional gear” aircraft.

If you would like to follow our progress on a weekly basis, check out our blog at Until next time, happy flying!

Jeff Simon

Jeff Simon

Jeff Simon is an A&P, IA, pilot, and aircraft owner. He has spent the last 17 years promoting owner-assisted aircraft maintenance and recently certified the FlexAlert Multifunction Cockpit Annunciator. Jeff is also the creator of SocialFlight, the free mobile app and website that maps over 20,000 aviation events, $100 Hamburgers, and educational aviation videos
Topics: Experimental, Maintenance
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Aircraft Spruce

Sponsor of Aircraft Maintenance
Aircraft Spruce provides virtually everything a pilot or aircraft owner might need. As a Strategic Partner since 2012, the company sponsors programs that bring hands-on knowledge and DIY spirit to AOPA members.