The "REAL COMPOSITE" P-51
Up until last year, if the words composite and P-51 were used in the same sentence one would naturally assume that the speaker/author was referring to the fact that said aircraft had been rebuilt utilizing components from several airframes. While this description is true of many if not most P-51's now flying, there is now the Grand-51, albeit a look alike high performance sport plane, that is not made of a collection of Mustang parts, but rather of composite material.
The entire Airplane is as smooth as glass.
Enter Murdo Cameron , a(retired) airline captain whose long time desire to own a P-51 over time collided with the reality of their scarcity and soaring cost. To Murdo the most logical option was to build his own look-a-like Mustang. Composite material construction would be more expensive than metal, but it offers significant weight savings and superior strength. Unlike previous non-metal homebuilt Mustangs including the "Thunder Mustang" this replica is full scale. As the old saying goes, timing is everything, Murdo had a set of master molds and several defense contractors had a large supply of carbon fabric on hand after the Navy's A-12 stealth attack plane was cancelled. Eventually the $3.5 million supply of material was donated, enough Murdo calculates to build 58 airframes. Cameron and Sons Aircraft has completed eight sets of autoclaved cured parts and is capable of producing 10 to 12 sets per year. The airframe consists of 12 major components: two fuselage halves, wing top and bottom, horizontal stabilizer halves, elevators and rudder. These can be purchased in several different packages including completed airplane. The wing contains front and rear spars as well as two corrugated carbon-graphite planks. Fuselage integrity is supplied by four full-length U-shaped longerons. All this strength contributes to the airframes ability to handle G loads of 10-12 positive.
Unless you're a purist and want the D-style canopy option you get a 8 foot teardrop canopy that is hinged on the left side, not only affording the rear seat passenger easy entrance/egress, but offering something the real P-51's canopy can not provide, an air tight seal, i.e. no duct tape needed. A long time involvement with Unlimited Hydroplane Racing spanning the Merlin/Griffon to turbine powerplant transition led him to contemplate the feasibility of a similar engine swap for his replica P-51.
Initially powered by a Lycoming T-53 delivering 1,450 slip and speeds in the 450 mph range, the engine has full feathering and reversing capability. Current Unlimited rules do not allow turboprops, and just as it did in boat racing Murdo admits that any change will not (happen) easily. To get around this burner to possible sales to race minded prospects, there is an option to install a Merlin (or Allison) in place of the Lycoming. Equipped with the 6251bs. turbine theCameron 51's dry weight is only 4,000lbs(4500 with the Merlin or Allison, which should bring it into the current Unlimited rules for minimum weight requirements), vs. a standard D-model at 7,125, a difference that is all the more impressive when you realize the turbine is only rated at 60shp less than a stock Merlin. (Current plans at this time are to install an Allison). While this remarkable aircraft has been designed primarily as a high-performance, 'dual control sport plane, Murdo makes no secret of his desire to see his creation with either of its power plants on the race course and we're not just talking Reno. Along with several of his prominent Unlimited boating friends Murdo is actively investigating the possibility of setting up unlimited air race courses near current hydroplane competition sites so that dual air/sea races could be held. This is certainly an original idea, and given Mr. Cameron's drive and determination we may yet need to bring the NAG navy out of mothballs.