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Thread: Serious Question

  1. #1
    Unregistered Guest

    Question Serious Question

    Now I know this is going to ripple a few tail surfaces, so before I begin let me just make clear I fully appreciate that Air Racing has probably done more for the preservation of warbirds than any other factor. I don't doubt for one minute that the aircraft aren't maintained to the highest standard, just look at them!. They are lovingly cared for without a doubt.

    Now for the contentious question/s -
    Following the unfortunate accidents that happened to Miss America and Critical Mass, has the time come to review the use of what are 60 yr old pieces of living history in a sport that is so severe on engines, aircraft and pilots?.
    Should these warbirds be retired (and restored back to stock condition) and flown in a less spirited manner, more befitting their heritage?.
    With the ability to build a new aircraft from nothing, the sight of a highly tuned P-51 would not vanish, it would just not be a 60 yr old P-51.
    The RR, P&W, engines are becoming scarcer and scarcer as each year goes by. So using these few survivors for a race engine is reducing the numbers even more.

    I love warbirds. I attend every Flying Legends Airshow at Duxford in the UK (where I live), and the sight of 7 or 8 P-51's or Spitfires tailchasing around the sky is the closest to Reno that I'll probably get. I would love to get to Reno before there are no more warbirds doing the same around pylons in the desert.
    I just feel that replacements for these 'birds should be found before there are none left .

    I'm now just going to find a cloud to hide in until you've all calmed down!!!!


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Galt, CA

    Default to Mr. Unregistered

    Well, this subject comes up now and then. There are those who believe that racing destroys the resources for the rest of the warbird community, driving costs up.

    I understand this thought process, but the flip-side would be the ingenuity some of the racing community will come up with to keep their equipment running, and running fast too, while keeping the costs as minimum as possible.

    As for heritage, I believe air racing and air racing ingenuity was the first to set the stage before warbird aircraft. It was only expediency that brought the two together in the late '40s and again in the mid '60s. These racing pioneers have taken, for the most part, derelict aircraft and have given them new life and new meaning. Otherwise, if it were up to our government, these heritage fighters would be in a heap out there in the desert graveyards...I could go on for hours - like some announcers we know...

    Anyway, back to your dilemma.

    One thing you will have to decide for yourself: How strong is your conviction about the warbird racing community 'gobbling up' the resources for the flying museum folks? If you believe this is how you truly feel, then you should not go to the National Championship Air Races any more. Once you buy the ticket, you are supporting the very cause you are questioning.

    Robert Stanley -Strega fan since '86

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Reno, Nevada


    you are always welcome to attend the air Races, to help your descission alaong. But fair warnning. one you attend, you will be hooked. And a fan forever.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Kellogg, Idaho

    Default Unlimited Warbirds

    Here we go again, but that is okay because some folks have not been involved in the races long, or at all. Until you have been there and can reflect on many years it is a vain argument. I personally feel the Unlimited racing that we have had since 1964 has had miniscule effect on destroying our warbird population vs. the aircraft that have been saved from the scrap heap and MOST IMPORTANTLY given opportunity to be displayed in their peak performance for the younger generations.
    These fighters were built to be the fastest, most agile, best turning, and many other descriptions... machines of their day. Most warbird airshows don't afford the fighters a chance to fly at their maximum speed down low, or perform tight turns in easy sight of the crowd. The air races have provided this legal medium and has screened the pilots and provided the technical inspections that most any warbird show would not, so that the maximum performance flying is done also with maximum safety. If we consider the loss of two of the world's very rare P-63s and one P-38 in recent years (this would just be a start) at airshows how can we compare this to Reno in 39 years? The Unlimiteds at Reno have only lost Bill Speer's P-51D in those 39 years at the Reno site in activity directly related to racing. Miss Ashley II doesn't count as she was not a true warbird but a custom built aircraft. All other Reno accidents of warbirds resulted in very rebuildable airframes. Indeed modern racing has lost two Bearcats (Bud Fountain and Mike Geren) in the early 70s in California, and a Mustang in Las Vegas, and a FG-1D Corsair near Fox Field in 1965. That is still not a bad track record at all! Other would-be racers were detroyed in test flights but in each case the cause could have been prevelant just as easy if they were flying as a restored warbird.
    The Pratt & Whitney R-4360s, R-2800s, R-2000s, and R-1830s are certainly not in any threat with the few racers that use them. Still fewer use the Allison V-1710s today and most that have are running at power settings that are not too threatening. I do see that there may be an argument for the Merlin attrition but I'm guessing even this is weak in closer inspection. The Wright R-3350s are not too much of a warbird issue really aside from some transport restorations, a few B-29s, and the Skyraiders. Am I forgetting any major types?
    I'd rather my Sons or Grandsons remember seeing a Merlin, Allison, or R-2800 in full bore low level maximum performance use than someday saying, Yes I've seen a few fly, but never got to see what they could really do!"

    Lowell Thompson
    Warbird AND Unlimited racer fanatic

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    The Beautifull Santa Clara Valley in Calif.

    Default will I go if...

    I would shed a huge tear if all the mustangs were hanging from ceilings and mounted to poles and even if they flew them in wide formation flights at air shows, these are birds of prey and I think if they could talk they would want to be racing despite the risk of extinction.
    I donít know how much of those unlimited class mustangs are original but I am sure there isnít a whole lot anyway.
    I say leave the models behind the glass and let them (RARA) play with the real thing, besides I canít think of a better group of people to take care of them, sometimes giving there lives with there birds new or old.
    Would I attend Reno for a NHRA airrace? I didn't go to any NHRA events this year, maybe if John Force put the door back on that mustang or even if it looked like a ford mustang.
    And Mr. Force will you stop with the fastest sport stuff and get to a real race.
    E Clampus Vitus SST #1827, #1850
    Reno Fan since around "82"

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2002

    Default The forgotten element

    The "flyem/savem" discussion has been ongoing for ages and probably will continue until way after we are all in the giant air force in the sky however there is one positive aspect of air racing that no one ever mentions or possibly even thinks about. Whether it be air racing, auto racing, boat racing or whatever, those innovators who dare take standard engineering thoughts and practices beyond the accepted norm are true pioneers. Because of their ability, daring and desire to take their craft beyond the standard they have-sometimes unwittingly-devised and developed hardware and/or procedures that often are later refined into things that make our lives easier or safer. Whether it is the seat belt in your car, the hull on your boat that rides smoother in rough water or the propeller on your plane that gives better short field performance, or any of a million other things, the concept probably was initiated by a dreamer, a back yard tinkerer, a pilot or crew member or an engineer who dared to ask "what if"?

  7. #7
    Unregistered Guest


    Well, this debate has been going on *at least* 20 years now, so you're not really venturing into new territory.

    My take, and its worth EXACTLY what you paid for it, is that there are already plenty of Mustangs, Sea Furies, and even Bearcats leading "the sheltered life" and being preserved as flying museums. The ones that are left racing are dwindling in number as some are converted *back* to stock configuration, or worse yet b*stardized into replicas of TF-51s (sorry, but I think that is a horrible thing to do, and the fact that it happened to Stiletto makes me that much more adamant.) So let the racers keep on racing- there's no threat to "history" here. Now, I couldn't say that if there were F2Gs, P-38s, and P-63s racing currently because those *are* rare as hen's teeth... but I don't see those becoming a strong factor. Its pretty much down to a Mustang and Sea Fury show. That said, I'd still give my eye teeth to see Lefty and Ladd put 'White Lightnin' back together and bring her back again... even if she were just a middle-of-the-pack Bronze runner.

    The folks who designed and originally built these things were trying to win a war. They never *dreamed* that anyone would be flying them, let alone racing them, 50 years later. The big problem looking for a solution isn't airframe related, its powerplant related. If there were enough aftermarket powerplant support- that is to say NEW production parts for the Merlin (there's almost none) and the 3350 (there is literally none), then I see nothing but good in continuing to race the highly modified warbirds and letting the stockers fly the airshows and sit in museums.

    That isn't to say I don't think it would be interesting to see more purpose-built racers, and I'm eagerly awaiting the next one to appear on the scene. But, in my unsanctioned opinion, it will be a LONG time before a purpose-built comes in and contends with the likes of Dago Red. Even if tons of Dago's detailed design is sub-optimum for ~500 mph speeds, (and we all know this to be true) the foundation of a rugged warbird is like city's infrastructure. It gives a huge head-start on building the rest of the program.

  8. #8

    Default speaking of new racers....

    I believe it was in Sundays Reno Gazette Journal that had an article on David Roses' biplane "Rags" and how the rules had been changed to basically outlaw it, anyways about halfway through the article it comes up that NEXT year he will be bringing MACH BUSTER to Reno.

    Did anybody else see the Atlas V-12 and the model of the Dart project in the Rare Bear Pit?

  9. #9
    Unregistered Guest


    Thanks for the replies.
    I did state that I would love to be able to visit Reno one day, if only to say I've been there and got the ballcap!!
    I appreciate it is probably a topic that has come up before and so thank you for taking the time to answer my Q's.

    Is it true that no more warbirds can be converted to racing, the existing ones therefore being the only ones that can be modified any further?

    If that is the case then perhaps its a good thing to see some racers being returned to stock condition.

    A subject which will no doubt continue to be hotly debated.

    Right, where's my piggy bank? Better start saving for a visit to Reno


  10. #10
    Unregistered Guest


    Is it true that no more warbirds can be converted to racing, the existing ones therefore being the only ones that can be modified any further?

    Bob [/B]
    Airplanes are private property- their owners can do with them whatever they choose! Right now, economics says that a TF-51 replica commands more money in the marketplace than Voodoo, Strega, or Dago Red would- thats the real pressure against creating new racers. But people who *want* to race are still converting.

    Perhaps you are unaware that September Fury was only converted to a full-out racer beginning about 3-4 years ago. In fact, most of the "super stock" (R-3350 conversion with minor tweaks, but otherwise stock) Sea Furies have been built up since 1990 or so. They're generally not much faster than a Centaurus Sea Fury (with notable exceptions such as 911, 'Spirit of Texas,' 'Argonaut,' 'Riff-Raff' and Howard Pardue's 'Fury'), but they sure make for some good racing in the silver and at the back of the gold pack!

    And lets not forget that the "newest" of the extremely modified Mustangs- Voodoo- has been undergoing a steady modification process for a number of years, and only this year did she step down to a more nearly stock engine.

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