It would be easy to think that tough economic times lead to a downturn for air racing, but the races in 1929 and thru the 30’s tell a different story. Huge crowds came out in those days to see a bunch of wild men and their speedy racers fly around the pylons. And my firsthand experience at the Reno Air Races in 2009, my first since the 1970 races, showed me there’s a ton of interest out there both in the number of racers and the people who come to watch ’em tear up the sky.
So I’ve got reason to think the 2010 races will be a pretty big honkin’ deal for sure. One team hoping to add some serious excitement to the Unlimited Class is the Leeward Air Racing team with their modified P-51, Galloping Ghost #177. At first glance, it pretty much looks like your standard run-of-the-mill clipped, chopped and streamlined P-51 racer. But maybe you missed the fact that the trademark Mustang ’belly scoop’ is missing. That’s a pretty big deal.
De-scooping a P-51 has been done before, but this one has an interesting twist that might make it unique… maybe I can get an air racer historian to clarify this, but it looks like the mods done in the past removed the scoop only to relocate the radiators somewhere else on the airplane. That means that air is still being directed into the radiators, and some drag is being created as a result.
On the Galloping Ghost, they’ve traded the radiators for a heat exchanger mounted inside a tank containing a mixture of water and methanol. The hot coolant and oil are pumped thru the heat exchanger where the heat is transferred to the water/methanol which then boils and vents overboard. The tank is inside the aircraft, and no air is being diverted, so all this is done without any additional drag being produced.
It’s all pretty sweet stuff, and exactly the kind of thing that makes air racing so interesting to begin with... ok, that plus the fact that these guys are going 500mph about 50 feet of the ground! The team had really hoped to have the airplane ready to race for Reno 2009, and actually came about as close as you can get without making it. The story of trying to get the airplane done in time is chronicled in a fascinating Galloping Ghost post at the Leeward website. I highly recommend you check it out. It’s mentioned there that the first flight of the airplane back in September 09 seemed to indicate that the scoopless mod was doing the job. Let’s hope we find out just how well it works with some great unlimited racing at Reno 2010!
Beautiful illustration of the scoopless Leeward Air Racing Galloping Ghost