If you ask pilots what their dream machine is, many will reply “P-51 Mustang.” There’s just something about the sleek Mustang that fuels fighter-pilot fantasies galore. Alas, the Mustang is out of the price range of most pilots…unless you are willing to scale back and build one yourself.
Titan Aircraft, “where dreams take flight” as the website touts, sells kits for the two-place Titan Aircraft T-51, a ¾-scale Mustang.
The design can qualify as an Experimental or Light Sport Aircraft, depending on the options the builder choses. A handful of the silver birds were on display in Paradise City, the Ultralight area at Sun ‘n Fun in Lakeland, Florida, in April. Judging by the amount of foot traffic in the area, the T-51 is just as popular — or nearly so — as its full-scale namesake.
Titan Aircraft, based in Austinburg, Ohio, makes several kits, including the popular Tornado I, II, Stretch (S) and Super Stretch (SS), but it’s the T-51 that really gets people’s attention, says Titan’s Bill Koleno (pictured below).
“The company was started by John Williams in 1992 with the Tornados,” he said. “He always wanted to do a kit for a replica Mustang. It was sort of a 14-year project, then in 2002 an engine that would fit into the fuselage, the Rotax 912S, became available.”
With the availability of the engine, the project took off, so to speak. “When you downsize an airplane it’s hard to find an engine that fits and is reliable,” said Koleno, noting that the Mustang has a thin nose that makes it even too small for a Lycoming IO-360. “We’ve now progressed so builders have a choice of engines.”
Most builders opt for the Rotax 912 ULS, although some select the Rotax 115-hp turbocharged model. Both engines are recommended powerplants and available through Titan Aircraft. Other options include the Mini Merlin Suzuki V6 conversion, the 100-hp Rotax, a 160-hp Suzuki, or a 250-hp Honda engine.
The cockpit panel is left up to the desires of the builder. “The customer can get anything from the new Dynon Skyview to old steam gauges,” he said.
The aircraft has retractable landing gear, just like its namesake. However, the T-51 can qualify as an LSA if the builder opts for fixed gear and propeller. “Without hydraulics, it will be light enough to make LSA,” he said.
The plane, which has a steel fuselage frame and aluminum sheeting skin, has a wingspan of 24 feet. Length, from spinner to tail, is 23 feet, 6 inches. A full-size Mustang has a wingspan of 37 feet and is 32 feet, 3 inches long.
Build time varies, depending on the experience and skill level of the builder, but averages about 1,650 hours, according to Koleno, who notes it is an FAA-approved 51% kit.
“We make the vertical fin, the center section and the flaps and the ailerons and spar forward on the main wings. We want to make sure the key components match together,” said Koleno. “We build the chromoly fuselage. Everything is built in the USA except for the gear box and engine. We machine our own motor mounts and landing gear.”
Prices start at $54,900. “We also offer a faster-build kit that adds an additional $25,000 to the price, but knocks about 1,000 hours off the build time.”
Customers are required to put down a third of the cost when they place their orders. Kits are delivered in six to eight weeks, he said. “Typically we have five airplanes in stock ready to go,” he said, adding that, before the recession hit, the company was selling 30 to 50 kits a year. “The kits are still selling, but at a slower pace.”
Titan customers are fiercely loyal. One man remarked that he had invested $50,000 in his airplane because he trusts the Titan name. “They are the only company that has produced Mustang replicas in quantity and delivered complete kits and are still in business today,” he said. “They are the real deal.”
Also singing the praises of the T-51 is Ross Hesom from Winkler, Manitoba Canada, who flew his airplane to Sun ‘n Fun. “I always wanted a Mustang,” he said. “When I was a kid I became enamored with the P-51. In my mind it is the prettiest airplane that I have ever come across and I thought it would be great to own one.”
When he finally found a full-scale Mustang, it was priced out of his range, so he decided to go with the Titan design. “It took me 1,800 hours to build,” he said.
“Flying it is a hoot,” he added with a grin. “It’s sort of like flying a sports car. It is very responsive, yet forgiving. It doesn’t have the vices of the original Mustang and it is a real pussycat to land.”
The aircraft is an attention getter, he noted. “When I go flying, I have to pass over towns to land and, by the time I get ready to land, there are people waiting for me because they have mistaken me for a full-scale Mustang.”
For more information: TitanAircraft.com.