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Thread: Before it was Rare Bear

  1. #131
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    Default Re: Before it was Rare Bear

    Quote Originally Posted by BellCobraIV View Post
    Connor,

    The stock canopy was used until the 1971 era, after that the first canopy modified was the "cut down shaped canopy" with the fibreglass rear section. Lyle didn't really like how much that canopy interfered with cockpit lighting and shadows, but it's what we had so no priority was set for it's replacement.

    Lyle always supported the Reno National Air Races downtown parade. For Reno 1972 the Bearcat was flown from Stead to the Reno Cannon airport to be towed in the parade through the town, if I'm recalling correctly Clay flew his Mustang down for the parade as well. Lyle stood in the cockpit during the parade and the canopy was rolled all the way back, we had noticed at that point in history that when the canopy was rolled all the way back the emergency jettisoning mechanism would strike part of the structure for the overturn brace, so a pre-flight item was added to check that the mechanism was secured. The next day after the parade when Lyle was flying back to Reno Stead, the item was missed. Lyle got back to Stead and flew around the course kind of high to look at it. Suddenly the canopy released from the airplane catching Lyle by surprise and striking his head as it went. So as a result we borrowed the stock canopy from Bud Fountain and left his Bearcat covered in plastic. When we got back home after the races Lyle, Myself, and my Mom with out dachshund Susie all piled into the F250 and returned the canopy to Reno and installed it back on Bud's Bearcat. We didn't have an extended cab truck and it was a manual transmission so after a while Lyle would say what gear he wanted, push in the clutch and I shifted. I always remember that horribly crowded ride to Reno and back from Orange County. It was fun.

    So after Reno 1972 the new all plastic canopy was made using the same windscreen as the previous one.

    The shape was made by making a plaster piece and basically removing plaster where it didn't look right. There was one of the aerodynamic guys I think from Douglas that came by the hangar to look at it and he said that everyone had done a good job, he commented that the fineness ratio was ten times better than Darryl's little bubble canopy so we were all happy and the guy that made everybody else's canopies made that one as set from the plaster mold.

    We would eventually in the 1980s replace that canopy due to age and sun damage from when the airplane sat outside after the belly landing in Mojave. That new canopy had an integral antenna on the inside rear surface which allowed us to remove the wire antenna and their resultant drag. At that point the area behind the canopy on the fuselage was built up slightly and the rear of the canopy frame modified to match, also at this point the rollers were replaced with Teflon slides that reduced the amount of rocking and play the canopy had making the whole assembly really tight. There was of course still air gaps around the canopy that allowed a slight bit of resultant drag. There were thought of taping the canopy closed for the 3Km record but ultimately the runway was too narrow to line up on Lyle tried lining up with the canopy closed but aborted the landing when transitioning from the slip to the landing. (Side note: this point of the landing when you are slipping to line up with the runway and transition to the nose up 3 point position, the tiny ailerons would momentarily loose effect and the airplane if you didn't stay on too of it would like to roll onto it's back, not a problem as long as you know it's coming and knew how to avoid it.)

    That is the canopy story.
    Another excellent story, thanks John!

    -Connor

  2. #132

    Default Re: Before it was Rare Bear

    Let's take a second to align ourselves with what this thread is trying to accomplish. In the last couple of days we as a group participating in this thread have deviated from the concept of the thread.

    The concept of the thread was the early development of what would become the fastest piston engine airplane of it's time. To the point of what Rod Lewis has brought to air racing and the warbird/classic aviation or what he has not brought, well that belongs in another thread not this one. It would be to easy as people do to criticize Rod or Lyle for that sake of the argument for what they did or did not do. I'm not try to jump on anyone who has a critique, but lets stay focused on the subject at hand.

    The Rare Bear is truly a unique experimental journey. Unfortunately for the airplane quite a few of the original people that banged their heads against the wall to overcome what would work, did work, and did not work have either passed away or flat out decided that they had enough.

    The program at the time Lyle operated it achieved more than every goal that we set for it and then some. The original goals were to restore the Bearcat. The next goal was to make the airplane "overly competitive" and enjoy multiple year wins that would define the competition level for the sport. To set the 3Km world record, to set the time to climb to 10,000 feet. All of the goals were met and achieved.

    For those of you that missed it the era of the 7s when Reno was won by either Rare Bear or Strega was the best air racing ever. Both teams fed on each other for inspiration to go faster and faster. I'm glad that I was an integral part of the effort.

    Let's not go down the road of criticism of Rod Lewis's efforts. Nobody, freakin' nobody else was thinking about the next year of racing on the final approach to the landing as much as Lyle, he thought about the program 24 hours a day, 365 1/4 days a year.
    Last edited by BellCobraIV; 11-30-2021 at 09:57 AM.
    John Slack

  3. #133

    Default Re: Before it was Rare Bear

    Quote Originally Posted by AAFO_WSagar View Post
    John will correct me if I'm wrong It may well be possible that there was only one pilot who had the natural instinct, years of experience, knowledge of the systems and confidence in his machine and control of or complete lack of fear to extract all the airplane had to give. It can never be argued that the Rare Bear is an extraordinary machine created by amazing people but would it ever have been the racer that it is without Lyle Shelton flying it?

    The circumstances that brought Lyle to where he was, military training, years of experience with the engine. innate ability to feel what was needed. and I'm sure I mentioned complete lack of, or control of, FEAR!

    I just don't think you can discuss the accomplishments of that airplane and extraordinary crew without factoring in the extremely rare skills and determination of Lyle Shelton!
    I have nothing to disagree with there.
    John Slack

  4. #134
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    Default Re: Before it was Rare Bear

    John, do you have any recollection or know of what Lyle's comments were after the first flight in the airplane?

    I'm just imagining what a thrill the early flights must have been like, the ultimate piston fighter with even more power... -Before the clipped wings, I imagine it was less of a handful?

  5. #135

    Default Re: Before it was Rare Bear

    Quote Originally Posted by CJAM427 View Post
    John, do you have any recollection or know of what Lyle's comments were after the first flight in the airplane?

    I'm just imagining what a thrill the early flights must have been like, the ultimate piston fighter with even more power... -Before the clipped wings, I imagine it was less of a handful?
    The handful aspect is partially a frame of mind. Lyle did a couple of airshows where he did aerobatics in the airplane in the 1971 to 1974 era and enjoyed them. When Lyle was doing test flights out of Inyokern if he liked the way the airplane was running we could watch the purple stripe on the left wing swap to right to left to right to left. On more than one occasion he would lose our visual scan flying off towards the mountains and sneak back around going to a very low level and from the opposite direction than he'd been flying off inhe would "attack" us by flying over the old B-29 "A" hangar just clearing it's roof. Once when we had towed the Bear out to the runway to save the brakes, he started the engine got ready to take off, he took off retracted the gear did one half of a Cuban 8 and buzzed us as we sat out there on the end of the runway. Lyle enjoyed the airplane, Skip took the Bear to the Paso Robles airshow. I got a phone call from friends of mine that were at the show and told me how awesome the aerobatic act Skip had done. So the Jekyll and Hyde aspect was a mindset.

    I think after the first flight, there was probably a yellow sheet on things to fix. He probably talked to Cliff Putnam, Bill Hickle about the flight. We celebrated with champagne at Aero-Sport in Chino that night.
    Last edited by BellCobraIV; 11-30-2021 at 12:01 PM.
    John Slack

  6. #136
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    Default Re: Before it was Rare Bear

    Quote Originally Posted by BellCobraIV View Post
    Let's take a second to align ourselves with what this thread is trying to accomplish. In the last couple of days we as a group participating in this thread have deviated from the concept of the thread.
    You got to admit, though, that we got some good mileage out of that Pete Behenna shot of the exhaust being welded up...

  7. #137

    Default Re: Before it was Rare Bear

    Quote Originally Posted by wingman View Post
    You got to admit, though, that we got some good mileage out of that Pete Behenna shot of the exhaust being welded up...
    Absolutely! I'm trying to get deeper into the conversation about what we did, what worked, what didn't. I'm not trying to bash the new owner for what he did. Once upon a time someone was trying to get Lyle to criticize Rod for something they were doing on the Bearcat. Lyle just said, "He bought the airplane, it's his to do things with however he wants."

    To be clear Rod wanted Lyle to be there in Reno for the races. He offered to send a jet down to Bakersfield and supply Lyle with rooms. The first year Lyle was in so much pain from a back injury, the second year he just had no desire to go back to Reno.
    John Slack

  8. #138
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    Default Re: Before it was Rare Bear

    Quote Originally Posted by BellCobraIV View Post
    The handful aspect is partially a frame of mind.

    So the Jekyll and Hyde aspect was a mindset. I think after the first flight, there was probably a yellow sheet on things to fix. He probably talked to Cliff Putnam, Bill Hickle about the flight. We celebrated with champagne at Aero-Sport in Chino that night.

    First flight day, I think, by Birch Matthews.

    In flight -- a couple of years later, by Pete Behenna

    Did you partake in the libations that night after the first flight, John? You would have been what age? 11 or so?

    Neal
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    Last edited by wingman; 11-30-2021 at 02:01 PM.

  9. #139

    Default Re: Before it was Rare Bear

    Quote Originally Posted by wingman View Post
    First flight day, I think, by Birch Matthews.

    In flight -- a couple of years later, by Pete Behenna

    Did you partake in the libations that night after the first flight, John? You would have been what age? 11 or so?

    Neal
    Neal,
    I was 10 then. I still remember my Mom had bought Champagne for the celebration of the airplane's first flight. She wanted to crack one of the bottles on a propeller blade to christen the Able Cat....yeah, she was stopped, I did have a small cup. We drove out to Chino as did most of the people we knew. I remember that everyone was really upbeat as there were issues, but no major issues with the Cat.
    John
    John Slack

  10. #140
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    Default Re: Before it was Rare Bear

    Quote Originally Posted by BellCobraIV View Post
    Connor,

    The stock canopy was used until the 1971 era, after that the first canopy modified was the "cut down shaped canopy" with the fibreglass rear section. Lyle didn't really like how much that canopy interfered with cockpit lighting and shadows, but it's what we had so no priority was set for it's replacement.


    So after Reno 1972 the new all plastic canopy was made using the same windscreen as the previous one.

    The shape was made by making a plaster piece and basically removing plaster where it didn't look right. There was one of the aerodynamic guys I think from Douglas that came by the hangar to look at it and he said that everyone had done a good job, he commented that the fineness ratio was ten times better than Darryl's little bubble canopy so we were all happy and the guy that made everybody else's canopies made that one as set from the plaster mold.

    We would eventually in the 1980s replace that canopy due to age and sun damage from when the airplane sat outside after the belly landing in Mojave. That new canopy had an integral antenna on the inside rear surface which allowed us to remove the wire antenna and their resultant drag. At that point the area behind the canopy on the fuselage was built up slightly and the rear of the canopy frame modified to match, also at this point the rollers were replaced with Teflon slides that reduced the amount of rocking and play the canopy had making the whole assembly really tight.

    That is the canopy story.
    You know, John, that this is a pretty disappointing story. I've always really admired this canopy -- it is just so "right" -- it's a work of art. It has also gone 550 mph without complaint. I've always envisioned some genius in the Bear Brain Trust secretly planning out a magical shape just to show the Bolands and Greenamyers and Zeuschels of the world what a "touring canopy" could be.

    So it turns out that the guys just crank out a low shape (why the solid rear portion anyway?) and fly it til it breaks. So then they use the old windscreen and mock up a new shape til it just "looks right". They then win multiiple Renos in various racing eras and set records and all sorts of stuff.

    So it just looked right?

    Neal
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