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Murdo Cameron's P51

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By Howard Levy
Murdo Cameron puts a new spin on a classic design

When the Cameron Mustang 51 made its debut at the AirVentur-Oshkosh gathering in 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 Mustang 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-51's 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.



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 The Cameron 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 15-year 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.



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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.



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Blade reversible-pitch prop makes short rollout distances possible.



Tooling Up

 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.



Wings and Things

The Cameron 51 has the general appearance of the P-51 D and P-51 G, the fastest of the Mustangs, but it incorporates the D's leading edge wing root extensions on an H model wing. This wing is thinner and of more chord. The use of graphite has allowed the number of ribs to be cut by half; there are only 10 in the Grand 51. They are 0.75inch thick, fabricated with graphite skins and Nomex cores, and have lightening holes. Bonding and titanium fasteners attach the skins to the inner components.


Through the use of graphite composite structures, the weight has been reduced by 4300 pounds. Wing loading is +/- 11-12 G at gross weight, but kits will have a lower loading. A builder also has a choice of the standard P-51 37-foot 4-inch wing, (10-foot root chord), or a 32-foot 2-inch clipped wing (5-foot tip chord) without any erosion in strength. In fact, the Grand 51 is claimed to be three times stronger than its metal counterpart.



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The one-piece wet wing employs upper and lower "sine wave" (corrugated) IM7 graphite planks (the same material used in the new Lockheed-Martin F-22 fighter). This arrangement is likewise used in the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey V/STOL wing. The prototype carries 450 gallons of fuel, but lotted models will carry 250 gallons. Wing spars are one-piece, 31.5-foot-long graphite C channels, the forward positioned at 25% chord, tapering from 14 inches high at the fuselage centerline to 5 inches at the tip. The rear spar, located 2 inches ahead of the aileron hinge line, tapers from 5 to 2.5 inches. Both have flinch caps. The Cameron 51's ailerons are identical to the P-5I's, with a 7inch span and 10.25-inch mean chord. Like the wing, they are graphite composite structures. "Flaps are not required because we have the Beta (reversible) prop," Cameron said. "But should a slowing device be needed, I would go the speed brake route."

Four U-shaped IM7 graphite channel longerons, two per side, run the length of the fuselage to strengthen the structure. A side hinged bubble canopy encloses the prototype's cockpit, but a P-51-type sliding canopy is optional. Dual controls are provided in the 8-foot-long cockpit, but instrumentation is primarily up front.

The crew sits on FAR Part 23 approved fully adjustable leather Impact Dynamics NRG-23 seats. The pilot has 30-inch shoulder and waist room; the passenger has 27 inches at the shoulder and 25 inches at the waist.


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The Cameron 51's distinctive belly scoop serves as part of the baggage compartment.


All P-51's have belly scoops, but on the Cameron 51, the scoop is a dummy and serves as part of the baggage compartment. It is roughly 38 inches long, 10 inches high and 24 inches deep, and has a lockable right-side access door.



The tail is that of a D model, the symmetrical horizontal surfaces spanning 15.5 feet. The elevator has a mean chord of 14.5 inches and is fitted with a leading-edge graphite C-channel spar.

The right elevator half is equipped with a 28-inch, 4.375-inch-chord electric trim tab that Cameron developed. The stabilizer mean chord is 21.25 inches, and it employs both leading and trailing edge C-channel spars, six graphite ribs (the metal P-51 has 12) and a Nomex honeycomb core. The fin has a trailing edge C-channel, and the rudder has a leading edge C-channel. Neither has ribs, but both have Syntac epoxy cores. When photos of the prototype were taken, the rudder had no trim tab, but the tooling and molds for a new rudder are complete and a trim tab will be added.

The Cameron Mustang main landing gear uses the same Cleveland wheels and brakes fitted to a Beech King Air twin, and Bridgestone 24x7.7 tires.  The tail wheel assembly came from a North American T-6 trainer and has a 12.5-inch tire.

Cameron Mustang 51 turboprop has an empty weight of 4000 pounds and an 8000-pound gross weight. It is 32 feet 9 inches long and 12 feet 9 inches high. The design max speed is more than 450 mph, with a 360-mph cruise speed at a 25,000-foot service ceiling. "We have a three-man partnership interested in purchasing an airplane once we exceed 300 mph," Cameron said. "I have no doubt that will soon be done with ease." The takeoff run is 1200 feet, half that of a standard P-51, and the climb rate is 4500 fpm. The 360-mph cruise at 90% power results in 65-gph fuel consumption. Touchdown speed is in the low 90s, stall speed is 90 mph, and rollout is 1200 feet. The short rollout distance is made possible by use of the reversible prop.

Cameron says the Turboprop Mustang gets up and goes. "The Lycoming engine was designed for high-power operation," he said, "and 90% power use is quite standard." Rosendaal claims to have flown the airplane off runways and grass fields without any problem. "The engine does not lag when power is applied and it's extremely smooth," he said.

Cameron plans to offer four different kits. The "A" kit consists of the 12 major graphite airframe components. Builders will then have to add the engine, prop, control systems, instruments and landing gear. "Builders with some mechanical aptitude and secondary composite bonding experience should be able to roll out the airplane in 1500-2000 hours," Cameron said. "The original P-51 has some 24,000 parts, including many, many rivets. Ours has at least 75% fewer parts."

The "B" kit will include all of the machined and mechanical parts (engine mount and landing gear). The "C" kit will combine the engine and propeller, midtimed, with the prior two kits. Those who are not interested in building an airplane can purchase a customized flyaway with a mid- or zero-timed Lycoming engine and prop, or any other engine package they prefer.




 37 ft. 4 in. / 32 ft. 2 in.


 32 ft. 9 in.


 12 ft. 9 in.

  Gear type

 tail wheel




  Weights and loading: 

  Maximum gross weight

 8000 lb.

  Empty weight 

 4000 lb.

  Useful load


  Wing loading (prototype) 

+/- 11-12 G

  Fuel capacity 

 250 gal.



 1450-shp Lycoming T53-L-701 A turbine.  



 10-foot, 3-blade, full-feathering, full-reversible Hamilton Standard.



  Maximum speed

 450 mph (est.)

  Cruise speed 

 360 mph (est.)



  Rate of climb 

 4500 fpm.

  Service ceiling 

 25,000 ft.

  Stall speed 

 90 mph.

Source: KitPlanes, September 1999. Reprinted with Permission (Edited to update 04-21-06 Bill Clark)



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