by Chuck Cravens
The Red Tail runs after 10 months of repairs
As November comes to a close, more and more signs point to a return of the Red Tail to the skies and its educational mission. Last month we saw wing mounting, landing gear work, air induction system, and cockpit progress. The wing and gear work was finished this month and a very important milestone occurred when the prop was mounted.
“The machined aluminum part visible near the center of the image is a Hinz Filter. Named after Don Hinz, who tragically lost his life in the Red Tail P-51C in 2004, the filter is a bypass oil filter that detects if the Merlin is starting to “make metal”. The bypass oil filter’s sensors will alert the pilot to an engine problem.”
The left side inner landing gear door shows up well here.
This image is a tighter view of the same inner gear door.
The supporting jacks hold the Red Tail’s main gear tires just a few inches off the floor. This will help make swinging the gear possible when the time comes.
This closer view from the left side lets us see the flap clearly.
Paint and Protective Coatings
The last few parts that needed paint have been sprayed and dried, ready for installation.
The intake elbow and part of the duct get their protective coating.
These are reinforcement plates for the cowl former.
A cowl former and other small parts dry on the rack.
The lower timing door gets a protective coating. This door allows access to a plug that is removed to make the timing marks on the crankshaft visible.
Here the inside of the lower forward cowl has had its protective paint applied and is drying.
Tye is working on the pitot system.
This shot shows a front view of the Red Tail in the hangar.
The lower tube is the oil drain line running back to the lower firewall. The quick drain and the temperature sending unit are visible in this shot.
The Red Tail is off the jacks because the gear have been successfully swung. Things will begin happening rapidly as the repair gets close to the finish line.
This is a view of the main gear and doors from the left side
Here is a closeup of one of the inner gear doors, sometimes called the clamshell door.
Mark is checking the fit of the clamshell door.
Mark is working inside the gear well, making sure everything is correct.
The Red Tail is looking more and more like it is ready to run.
The Red Tail is a P-51C-10NT and would have had a fuselage tank installed. The tank was a new feature of the dash 10s and installed on the production line. Tanks were also retrofitted to some earlier models.
The added back seat is placed where the fuselage tank and radio racks would have been during the military service of this Mustang
The cockpit interior is complete.
Here is a view of the back seat, just behind the gray backrest of the pilot’s seat.
This is what the finished instrument panel looks like.
Mounting the Propellor
When a repair or restoration gets to the point of mounting the prop, the engine test can’t be far behind.
Mark and Aaron align the heavy prop. The propellor on a P-51 weighs approximately 452 pounds according to the erection and maintainence manual.
Mark works on assembling the prop to the shaft.
Tye and Aaron looking the prop over.
Here is a view from the rear.
Mark Tisler finishing the prop mounting.
The spinner awaits the next step in the assembly of the Red Tail.
Prop on, spinner mounted, the Red Tail is about ready for an engine test in this photo.
The side view shows the prop and spinner installed as Mark works on the landing gear.
Here we have a quartering view from the rear.
This large skin section is the lower rear cowl. It is one of the less noticeable differences between an P-51C and a P-51D. On the D models the lower cowl is covered in three skin sections rather than one large one like the C skin shown in the image.
A front view of the propellor and spinner shows how large the prop is compared to the wing span.
The original Hamilton Standard prop was 11’ 2”. It is 30 percent, or almost one-third, of the 37 foot wingspan.
As those who have been following the progress of the restoration know, the engine test was successfully completed on November 16th. A very brief video of the first post-repair start is posted on the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s Facebook page. The address is : https://www.facebook.com/cafredtailsquadron/
The AirCorps Aviation Facebook page has it as well: https://www.facebook.com/aircorpsaviation
If you haven’t checked them out, I know you will enjoy them.