Wednesday, March 15, 2017

February/March XP-82 Twin Mustang Restoration Update

Another Great Month for Our XP-82
Lower Cowlings
The final spot-welding on all of the lower cowls is now completed, and the interiors are now painted to color.

Filtered Air Boxes
The filtered air boxes are now also completed and permanently riveted to each forward induction trunk. These filter boxes hold carburetor air inlet filters in event the aircraft is operated off of sandy or unimproved runways.  The filtered air position is selectable by either pilot. The chance of this XP-82 ever being operated off one of these strips is probably less than zero, but for authenticity they had to be installed. The camera makes the colors look different.

Both the MN-26C Radio Compass ADF Loop  and the AN/ARC-3 Radio Antenna Mast are now installed. Thank you to Larry Kelley and Bill Saunders for the contribution of these rare items.

Wing Tips
The four wing tip panels, two top and two bottom, are now finally fit awaiting the welding of the center seams and mounting screw holes and, installation of the tip lights and strobes.

Both the pilot and co-pilot oxygen regulator/blinker panels, along with the gun sight rheostat are also installed.  All of the oxygen bottles are now stenciled with the original markings and reinstalled in both fuselages.

(Temporary breaker panel awaiting silk screened panel)

Oxygen bottle stenciling intentionally inverted to match the original installation.

The K14 gun sight and gun strike camera are now permanently installed. The strike camera presented a problem because the 90-degree top periscope interfered with the center armor glass since the glass had more sweep back than the P-51 windscreen. The periscope had to be shortened ¼ of an inch for clearance as the later camera version had.

Gun strike camera

K-14 gun sight

Main Gear Doors
The frameworks for the main inboard gear doors are now being formed to fit the curvature of the press dies for the inboard door panel. These two inboard doors are one of the last two complex hurdles we must complete on our XP-82 restoration project. 

The last complex items are the two brake calipers. These two brake calipers are now being machined and are expected to be delivered in about two months. 

Walter & Margaret (Peggy) Soplata
With much sadness we must announce the passing of Margaret (Peggy) Soplata. Walter (who passed six years ago) and Margaret Soplata from Newbury, OH, were the husband and wife team along with their five children who saved countless extremely rare warbirds and priceless artifacts from the smelter.

All of the warbird community owe them a debt of gratitude for saving these precious collectables for us and future generations to enjoy.  God Speed Walter and Margaret. Now they are together again in heaven. 

A small list of some of the aircraft and parts the Soplata Family saved:
• 2 F4U Corsairs, one 4360-powered FG1
• 2 North American B-25s
• 1 B-36 Peacemaker
• C-97 and C-82 Fuselages
• 1 A-26 Invader
• 2 TBM Avengers
• 1 P-63 King Cobra
• 1 AD4 Skyraider Prototype
• 2 F86  Sabres
• 1F7U Cutlass
• 2 T-28s
• 1 Victor Cockpit
• 1 SNJ – 7
• 1 XP-82 Twin Mustang Prototype/1 F-82E Twin Mustang
• 1 BT-13
• A rare snow-ski configured P2V Neptune that is the lone survivor of an epic
 Navy expedition to explore Antarctica in the 1950s
• 1 partial F4U fuselage
• T-33 and F100 cockpits
• A number of V12 Merlins, Allisons and radial engines
• Numerous cutaway display engines
• Countless propellers, starters, generators, magnetos, and antique WWII radios
• Countless other aviation-related artifacts

The Kat

An Oldie but Goody worth repeating.

“Would someone please hand me a pair of Cleco pliers?”
----- Allison


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Margaret (Peggy) Soplata

With much sadness we must announce the passing of Margaret (Peggy) Soplata. Walter (who passed away six years ago) and Margaret Soplata, from Newbury, OH, were the husband and wife team, along with their five children, that saved countless extremely rare warbirds and artifacts from the smelter. The warbird community owes them a debt of gratitude for saving these priceless collectables for us and future generations to enjoy. God Speed Walter and Margaret, now together again in heaven.

Friday, March 3, 2017

February Project Update

Our XP-82 Twin Mustang Restoration Project update will be delayed until 15 March. Stay tuned. Thanks!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

January XP-82 Twin Mustang Restoration Project Update

We have been very busy this month starting to complete hundreds of small to-do tasks that had to be finished, i.e., gun sight, completing the 90 degree periscope on the gun strike camera, making heat and defrost, repairing or remaking electrical switch panels, bomb arming panels, fairings that surround the throttle quadrants, a second mounting panel for the oxygen quantity gauge, blinker and diluter valve mechanism, two induction trunk carburetor filtered air boxes, one last 28-volt power supply harness going to the breaker panel, preliminary locating and shielded wiring of the microphone and headset jacks, modifying the shelf underneath the oxygen diluter mechanism to fit the new Garmin radio package, along with the avionic electrical harnesses, etc., etc., etc.

All of these panels, which we had to repair or make new, have been shipped off to our screen printer for him to silk screen all the correct verbage on each panel.

Pilot's radio control panel now being silk-screened

90 degree periscope on gun strike camera now installed

Curved co-pilot breaker panel now being silk-screened

Repaired throttle quadrant fairings

Gun sight pending mounting bracket

Second mounting panel for the oxygen quantity gauge, 
blinker and diluter valve mechanism

Garmin Radio Package
Our avionics specialist came to Douglas with the Garmin radio mounting tray and fit it into the pilot’s righthand cockpit underneath the oxygen diluter panel. With a small modification of one rib, it fit in perfectly. The microphone and headset jacks will mount in the original locations in the adjoining switch panel to the left of the Bendix Radio panel. And, in the co-pilot’s cockpit, they will mount in the original radio switch panel with the addition of drilling one hole for the headphone jack. 

Bendix Remote Control Unit
With much searching Weezie was finally able to find this Bendix Remote Control Unit from a collector in California. An extremely rare unit, the last time we saw one change hands was back in 2006.  We were able to purchase this unit only if it was going to be installed in our XP-82.  Thank you.

Filtered Air Boxes
The last major thing being done on the firewall forwards is the manufacturing of these two filtered air boxes. The rotating carb air valves located under the spinners have four selectable positions:  ram air, hot air, half-hot air and filtered air. These are two complicated boxes with many angles and shapes that hold the filters for filtered air.  It will still take two team members about two weeks to complete and fit both.

Internal Press Dies for the Main Gear Door Skins
Our machinist from Michigan has completed these two huge (350 lbs. each) mirror image press dies and personally delivered them to us on his trip to Florida. I did not want to trust these to UPS or FED EX. These were very expensive to 3D design and machine, not counting the cost of the two 40” square x 3”thick aluminum plates. These press dies will be taken to Atlanta to press-form the skins as our rubber press is not large enough on exterior dimensions. 

The torch is there to give a reference to the size of each door press die

The Kat
Allison is not a happy kat when it is cold. Stays in the sack all day.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

December XP-82 Twin Mustang Restoration Update

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!  
Another month has gone by so fast.

Much time has been spent on the final fitting of the rotating carburetor air temperature mechanisms, along with the air intake lips and the four side panels.

Carburetor air control housing assembly and rotating internal barrel

Lower carburetor air intake chin cowl

As mentioned last month, all of the lower and side engine cowling panels are now completed. The final shrinking/stretching, English wheeling and Yoder hammer forming of the top two right-hand engine cowlings will be completed in the month of January. The left-hand top panel for the right-hand engine is now final formed and fit. The right-hand top panel still needs a little more stretching and wheeling. 

The six oxygen bottles are now fit in each fuselage along with all of the fill feed tubing and one-way check valves. The fitting of the two O2 Blinker gauges, along with the Oxygen Diluters is being accomplished. Below this O2 Diluter shelf is where we are planning to hide the complex Garmin avionics package to maintain originality.

Trying to find the original routing of the O2 tubing was a challenge as all of the plans that we have show extremely stylized drawings which contradict similar drawings on the following pages. We were able to locate the original drilled holes in some of the rejected side ribs, allowing us to be able to determine the location of the original line clamps. They were in dramatically different locations than the stylized drawings. We also were able to find the NOS four-way Schrader check valves to install to maintain the authenticity of the O2 systems.

Tight working around the coolant header tank

Large O2 bottle mounted in the lower rear of each fuselage

Two small O2 bottles are mounted in the top forward of each rear fuselage

The mounting of the gun sight in the left-hand cockpit and the gun strike camera in the right-hand cockpit is proceeding, I hate to say, slowly. Trying to put everything back into this XP-82 identically as it was on day of its first flight, 15 April 45, is excruciatingly time consuming. 

Gun strike camera being fit on the right-hand glare shield

Gear Doors
The preliminary forming dies for the main gear center section doors are now complete. The internal pressed skin for each door is a mirror image of the other side. Many hours of machine shop computer work went into these press die patterns.  These two center section gear doors are two of the last four major items to complete on our XP-82 restoration.

Control Surfaces
The final balancing of all the control surfaces, i.e., four ailerons, two rudders and one elevator, is now complete. (Aircraft control surfaces must be precisely balanced [in accordance with the XP-82 Erection & Maintenance Manual] equal weight forward and aft of the centerline of the hinge points.) If they are not balanced, they will flutter in flight as a flag does in a heavy wind on a flagpole. We had to add some additional leading edge weights to each surface because we replaced all of the hinges, trim tab fittings and trailing edge strips with a much stronger and heavier weight 7075 T6 aluminum in place of the original lighter weight cast magnesium fittings and strips. Trim tab fitting failures during high speed flight have been known to be fatal.

Counter weights installed on the leading edge of the ailerons

Wing Tips
Three of the four wing tip formed skins are now completed with the fourth being completed this week. When completed, each half will be TIG welded (tungsten inert gas) by our professional welder in Florida. He will match exactly the TIG welding bead pattern done on the original wing tips. 

The Kat
“You say you are going to get me another kat to keep me company. I will start to do interviews this Tuesday.”


Thursday, December 1, 2016

November XP-82 Twin Mustang Restoration Update

 Happy Thanksgiving to All.

We are all moved in to our new hangar.

Firewall Forwards
The last left-hand engine upper, lower and side cowling items have been completed. The final installation of the left-hand propeller has been completed with the exception of the spinner. We will leave the spinner off during the test runs to check for leaks.

The final mounting of the right-hand propeller should be completed by the time you are reading this newsletter.

The induction-trunk lower intakes for the right-hand and left-hand engines have now been completed and are being final fit awaiting final sanding and polishing.  These were very difficult forming tasks. The rotating carb air temperature barrel mechanisms and mounting structure are now also fit, but removed for final painting.

The mounting installation of both heat exchangers (oil/inter coolers) is now complete. They both presented a problem as they interfered with the upper cowling arch framework. We had the original exchanger mounting straps attached to the dishpans, but we did not have the original rings that mounted the exchangers to the straps. When we machined the rings as per the XP plans, the exchangers would mount about an inch higher and not nestle into the two factory-formed notches in the oil tanks. After redesigning and machining the four new mounting rings, the interference problem was solved. 

The test running of both engines, and all of the associated systems, will start in December. 

Outboard Wings
The English wheel forming of the two wing tips is progressing rapidly. Both wing tip upper panels are now completed and the two lowers are in production to be completed sometime in mid December. 

Landing Gear/Doors
The subcontract machine work for the press dies for the inboard gear doors is progressing nicely. The outboard door skins have been completed for some time now awaiting the completion of both interior frameworks. 

Tail Wheel Steering
Both tail wheel steering mechanisms are now final installed less tensioning. A number of moving parts required to move two tail wheels left and right.

The machine shop is currently 3-D computerizing both brake calipers. These brake assemblies fit only the XP-82 and following production models. They are an unique anti-skid design and, through reports from pilots, worked extremely well.

Authentic Interior Cockpit Furnishings
We are heavy into completing the internal parts in each cockpit, i.e., gun site, gun camera, oxygen regulators, gauges and blinkers, original radio heads, heater and defrost controls, exterior ADF ring antennae, etc., etc.

VIP Visitor
We had the honor of a visit from Col. Robert Thacker, 98 years young. He was the pilot flying P-82 B “Betty Jo” on the 1947 14.5 hour non-stop flight from Hawaii to LaGuardia airport in New York. One cannot believe how sharp and alert he is at the age of 98. He still knows every detail that went into the preparation, the test flights, the additional fuel tanks installed inside the fuselages and the exterior drop tanks and why three of the four drop tanks could not be jettisoned. (The sway braces were wrenched down too tight by a ground crewman not allowing the release hooks to drop the tanks.) One of the tanks did drop leaving the other three under the wings creating a dramatic yaw condition requiring a substantial amount of rudder trim drag.

He described in detail the additional 150-gallon fuel tanks installed behind each pilot seat and the 60-gallon tank installed in the gun bay. He even distinctly remembered a plug being inadvertently left in the gun bay tank vent line during one of the test flights, resulting in the tank collapsing and a replacement having to be manufactured.   

The P-82 had a total of 1,860 gallons of fuel at lift off, including the 600 gallons of production center section and wing tanks, two 300 gallon and two 150 gallon wing drop tanks, and the 360 gallons of additional internal tanks added for the long flight. 

Total distance Hawaii to New York - 4,899 statute miles. 14.5 hours total flight time. Average cruise speed - 338 miles per hour. Taking tail winds into consideration, that’s 300+ mph cruise.

I hope my memory of the details he told me during his visit three weeks ago is as good as his memory at 98 years young. 

Concorde Battery
A special thanks to Mr. Don Grunke of Concorde Battery Corporation. Concorde contributed a brand new battery for our XP-82 project. 

The quality of their batteries is outstanding. As I have mentioned in the past, one of his Concorde’s lasted nine years in my B-25 Mitchell. 

Thank you Mr. Grunke and Concorde.

The Kat
With who just got elected, you are not going to be able to sleep on the job anymore.

Being Thanksgiving, it is time to thank all of the people and companies that made this project a success.  Thank you all.

Aeroshell – Oil
Aerosource – Fuel pumps
Aerotape - Tapes
Aero Trader – Induction trunks
Aircraft Plastics - Windshields
Aircraft Spruce – Parts
Al Kimball – FAA Designated Airworthiness Representative
Avico – Parts
B & B Aircraft – Parts
Barbara Parisi - Sigma Aerospace – Aluminum
Barry Hutton – Special forming
Bill Parks - Propellers
Bill Saunders – Ring antennae
BMG Parts – .50 Gun parts
Brad Hayes –Inert .50 Gun barrels
Braddock – Heat treating
Brent VanDervort – Fat Man Fabrications – Original XP cable fasteners
Buck Ober - Volunteer
Carlin Thomas – Bulldog Steel – Fixture steel
Casey Hill – Special forming
Chuck Cecile – Advanced Sign Graphics – Screen printing
Chris Reilly – Sanford Aircraft – Avionics
Chuck Gilbert - Volunteer
City of Douglas, GA
Cullen Underwood – Underwood Mold – Special machine work
David Stinebaugh - Volunteer
Desser Tire – Tires, tubes
Dick Odgers – Alaska parts
Brooks Auto Parts - Supplies
Don Grunke – Concorde Battery 
Don Pataky - Floorboards
Don Whittington – Colorado F-82 parts
Donna Lanier – Payroll
Doug Huculak – Volunteer
Douglas National Bank
Dupont  - Finishes
Dwight Jones – AK recovery
Eagle River Fuel Cells - Six fuel tanks
Electro Chromium Company – Chrome plating
Eric Brouwer (Holland) – Plane Owner – PR
ET Supply – Original WWII parts
FAA Atlanta
Florida Wire & Rigging – Stainless cable swedging
Ford Bieser – Original WWII radios
Frontier Aviation- Tach cables, carb bellows
Gerald Durbin, CDR – PhD Engineering volunteer
Gerd Muehlbauer – MT Propeller – Propellers
Glenn Norris - AK Recovery
Goof Bakker (Holland) - PR
Greg Morehead – Warbird Digest - PR
Harland Avezzie – Parts
Instrument Pro – Instrument (OHC)
JT Evans – Brake discs
Jack Hooker – Seat belt harnesses
James Mackey – Original XP-82 Pilot Manual
Jay Wisler – Warbird Parts
Jesco Inc. – Carb air control motors (OHC)
John Eiler – Special machine work
John Morgan – Second fuselage section with dual controls
Jody Routh – Aero Accessories – Generators and vacuum pumps (OHC)
Jose Flores – Vintage V12s – Merlin Engines (OHC)
Joseph Welch – Aerocoatings – Chrome plating
Josh Manzer – Canopy
Keith Baker - Volunteer
Ken Friend – Screen printing/special parts
Kevin Harlinski - Volunteer
Ladd Gardner Insurance – Insurance
Lance Aircraft – Parts
Larry Cantley - Volunteer
Larry Kelley – Special parts (tons), ring antennae
Leo Duby – .50 Guns Machinest
Levi Colagross – Volunteer
Louise Kleba - Volunteer
Lowell Ford – NAA Plans
Margaret & Walter Soplata – XP-82 Project
Matt Jolley – Warbird Radio - PR
Max Hodges – Volunteer
McMaster Carr - Supplies
Michael O’Leary – Challenge Publications - PR
Mid Florida Propeller – Cad plating
Mike Hawkins - Volunteer
Mike Ryan – Aircraftstock - Parts
Martin Aircraft Supply – Radiators and heat exchangers
Marty King – Vintage Carburetors – Carburetors (OHC)
Mobile ElectronicsCannon plugs
Moreno Aguiari – Warbirdsnews – PR
Muriel Vanscoy – Soplata Volunteer
Nancy Barendse, PhD - Newsletter editor
Neal Melton – NOS Wheels
Nicholas Phillips – Attorney 
Pat & Jim Harker – Special XP-82 Parts, special tooling
Peninsular Metals – Anodizing 
Peter Lesche – Special machine work
Phil Godlewski – CPA accountant
QC Labs – NDI
Quicksilver Air Inc. – AK helicopter lift services
Rad Abernathy - .50 inert ammo
Rick Kyle - Blue Point Fabrication – TIG welding
Ricky Reeves – Special forming
Ron Farleman – Special machine work
S & T Aircraft Accessories – Fuel pumps (OHC)
Sherry Jewell – Trucking
Skycraft - Parts
Sonny Lyon – Hangar for final assembly
Spencer Martin – XP-82 ID model
State of Alaska
Sterling Paints – Primers
Steve Couches – P51H FWF information
Steve Hovenden – AK recovery
Suzzie Reilly – Accounting, payroll, IRS, insurance, etc.
Theresa Besseldorf – Canopy
3M Products
Thrush Aircraft – Special tooling
Tom Glass – Volunteer
Tom Goodman - Future Metals – Aluminum
Tom Rasch – AK/Soplata Recoveries
Tom Wilson - Special forming parts
US Air Force Museum - P-82B information
Valiant Air Command – Parts, volunteers
Vic Peres - Peres Pattern – Special machine work
Wayne Starling - Volunteer
Wire Masters – Wire

I know I have forgotten someone. My apologies.


Tom Reilly
Paul Flora
Randall Lanier
Weezie Barendse
Paiden Lanier
Ayman Tarawneh
Tim Givens
Josh Ford

Thankx to everyone.  Without all of you we could not have done it.


Merry Christmas & Happy New Year
Tom Reilly & the XP-82 Crew