Murdo Cameron's P-51
By Howard Levy
Murdo Cameron puts a new spin on a classic design
When the(Cameron) 51 made its debut at the AirVentur-Oshkosh gatheringin 1998, it was marketed as a factory built, exhibition category airplane. Although this is still the plan, the airplane is also available in kit from the homebuilders
The(Cameron) 51 is a full-size P-51 Mustang, one of the best fighter aircraft of WW-II. The Mustang remains popular with war bird owners and other enthusiasts, but these days completely restored P-51s cost big bucks -- on the order of more than $1 million, and $1.3 million for a scratch build. The upkeep and operation of these planes is also expensive. As a result, a number of 1/2 - to 7/8 - scale kit replicas have reached the marketplace, along with a couple of models developed by individuals for their own flying enjoyment.
TheCameron Mustang climb rate is 4500 fpm,
and cruise is 360 mph.
| A Little History
More than 15,000 P-51 Mustangs were built in the United States and by European licensees over a 15year period during and after the war. An estimated 130 original Mustangs are still flying, although many have undergone extensive airframe and engine reworking.
The P-51 was originally developed by North American Aviation as a private venture for the British government prior to America's entry into the war. North American produced a prototype, designated NA 73, that met specified requirements of a single seat fighter and was powered by an inline piston engine. Carrying eight machine guns, it was to be rolled out within 120 days. Initially called Apache. It was renamed Mustang by the Royal Air Force.
Two of the RAF production airplanes were obtained by the U.S. Army Air Corps, and they were flight tested with XP-51 designations. Air Corps orders soon followed. Initial production aircraft for the RAF and USAAC were powered by American-designed 1100-hp Allison engines, but they subsequently received British-designed 1300hp Rolls Royce Merlin engines. Before production ended, 12 variant Mustangs had been produced.
| Improving the Concept
In 1988, Murdo Cameron, (now 61), of Gardena, California, started developing his version of a Mustang. As a Boeing 767 airline captain, Cameron had visited the Boeing factory numerous times, which resulted in his incorporating the company's production technology into the Grand 51.
Unlike the original metal Mustang, this P-51 is fabricated with the most advanced carbon fiber epoxy materials available. A 1450-shp Lycoming T53-Ir701 A turbine engine has replaced the P-51's piston engine. More than 19,000 of these turboprop engines have been produced, and they have powered Huey helicopters and twin-engine Grumman Mohawk observation planes. TBO is 2500 hours, and the direct operating cost is said to be $100 - $150 per hour.
A 1450-shp Lycoming T53-L-701A turbine
engine powers the Grand 51 prototype.
Allied Signal, which has absorbed Lycoming, is reportedly planning to continue T53 production through 2000, but Cameron also has 100 mid-time T53s and props on hand for builders. However, some builders may prefer other engines, such as a Merlin, Allison, or Pratt & Whitney PT-6 turboprop. The propeller is a 10-foot, full feathering, full reversible, three-blade Hamilton Standard with the turboprop installation.
Blade reversible-pitch prop makes short rollout distances possible.
The prototype was fabricated in production graphite and steel tooling. Cameron claims to have spent $4.5 million to date for the tooling that produces the airframe's structural components. His method of replicating the Mustang was unique. Besides measuring a P-51D, Cameron used a dried polyurethane foam shell lifted from a P-51 fuselage to fabricate the graphite fuselage mold. Cameron believes his Mustang is a better performing airplane than the original because it incorporates the best design features of various model P-51 s. The airplane has 12 major components, fabricated in right/left and top/bottom parts, vacuum bagged and autoclaved at 2500F. The interior wing, fuselage parts and tail control surfaces are made of IM7 graphite material, and they're autoclaved at 3500F and 100 psi. "Our autoclave work is similar to that done at Boeing, including being fully documented," Cameron said.