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.
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.
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.
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 SocialFlight-T51.com. Until next time, happy flying!