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Townsend Thunderbird
Townsend Thunderbird N749T
The Townsend Thunderbird was assembled in 1955 from parts of at least four different planes. The fuselage structure (20' in length) appears to be a cut-down Fairchild PT-26 with its canopy. The cowling is from a Stearman, the landing gear from a Cessna 190 or 195. Its wings, vertical and horizontal stabs are from a Vultee BT-13 or -15. The wings are just the outer panels (wing span is 25') and the stabs have been cut down in size. Engine is a Wright R-975, which suggests BT-15.
Registered N749T, the aircraft started out fabric covered, but was later metalized.
Townsend Thunderbird N749T
In September 2002 Tony Pileggi purchased the home-built Thunderbird. With quite a history and, while it's a shame to change all that, it was not safe to fly. Actually, it was really great in the air. Take-off and landing were scary. It was too short-coupled and over-powered, and it had an aft c/g or not enough horizontal stabiliser. The tail would not come off the runway until about 65 mph with full forward stick.
During flight-testing, the clean power-off stall speed was about 80 mph. At the first flap setting, the power-off stall speed was between 85 and 90, with a very abrupt snap into a spin. Attempting to recover from the spin under 100 mph resulted in a secondary stall, again with a tight spin. This was attributed to the very small flap size as they ran from the fuselage outboard only 16". The size of the flaps created a thicker wing section at the root, and so caused the tips to stall long before the roots.
Tony Pileggi decided to disassemble the ship after the landing gear collapsed and made for a very exciting landing. When he removed the forward fuselage aluminium, he found some old cracks and some scary welding on the frame. A first impulse was to scrap the entire aircraft, but he then began thinking about redesigning it and building a replica of a WWII-era fixed-gear fighter. After extensive research, he found a plane that the Thunderbird most closely resembled, the Nakajima Ki-27.
Engine: Jacobs R-755-9, 245hp
Wingspan: 27'5"
Length: 21'3"
Empty wt: 1800 lb
Max speed: 220 mph
Cruise speed: 152 mph
Stall: 75 mph
Range: 200 mi
Seats: 1

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