XP-82 Twin Mustang Restoration

XP-82TwinMustangThe original XP-82 Twin Mustang, (AF s/n 44-83887), is currently being restored to flying status by the B-25 Group at Douglas Municipal Airport in Douglas, Georgia. Headed up by aircraft restorer Tom Reilly, the project is well underway. A hat-tip to Warbirds News for the reminder that there are many dedicated people out there keeping our aircraft history flying.

This aircraft is only one of two that still exist in civilian hands.

About the F-82 from Wikipedia:

The North American F-82 Twin Mustang was the last American piston-engine fighter ordered into production by the United States Air Force. Based on the P-51 Mustang, the F-82 was originally designed as a long-range escort fighter in World War II; however, the war ended well before the first production units were operational, so its postwar role changed to that of night-fighting. Radar-equipped F-82s were used extensively by the Air Defense Command as replacements for the Northrop P-61 Black Widow night fighter. During the Korean War, Japan-based F-82s were among the first USAF aircraft to operate over Korea. The first three North Korean aircraft destroyed by U.S. forces were shot down by F-82s, the first being a North-Korean Yak-11 downed over Gimpo Airfield by the USAF 68th Fighter Squadron.

From the XP-82 Twin Mustang Website:

“…A common misconception is that the P-82 series aircraft were just two lengthened P-51H model fuselages put together on a common center section. In the two-and-a-half years of working on the aircraft, Reilly’s found only two part numbers from the P-51 Mustang line: hinge points for the rudders and elevator and a trim knob from a B-25. So the idea that one can use Mustang parts to help with the restoration of the XP-82 is definitely not the case…”

The project begins

Work on the restoration of the XP-82 project began in earnest in July 2008. Eight first-class sheet metal employees where hired, all of Odgers’ parts were purchased and recovered from Alaska, and the parts were purchased and shipped from Colorado.

Two big problems emerged: finding a left turning Merlin engine and a left turning prop. Mike Nixon of Vintage V-12s in Tehachapi, California, learned of a brand new left engine in a garage in Mexico City and bought it. (How and why was it there? One will never know, Reilly said.) Nixon was contracted to build both the left and right turning Merlins for the project, and MT Propeller in Germany agreed to build two composite props for the project, both left and right.

Another problem: Only the first 22 P-82s (two XPs and 20 “B” models) had full dual controls. The parts recovered from Alaska or Colorado were all right fuselages from later models and only held a weapons systems officer with no flight controls. Reilly contacted everyone in the warbird parts business who could possibly have any P-82 parts – and he was able to buy a number of good items, but no second cockpit controls.

Reilly called Air Classics editor Michael O’Leary, who put him in touch with a man in the San Francisco area who had an entire left side of a left fuselage.

Back in April 2008, while at the Soplata facility digging for parts, Walter produced a windshield that he said fit the right fuselage of the XP-82. But it had square side windows whereas the XP-82 had curved windows, similar to a P-51.

At that very moment, Reilly said one of his men called in his cell phone saying he had just located the second windshield, along with belly scoops, radiators, and “dog houses” (radiator enclosures). Reilly put the square-side-windowed windshield down, made a mental note of it, and proceeded to recover the rest – trailer loads – of the XP-82 parts!

In July that year, Reilly called the man with the left side of the fuselage in San Francisco. It had full controls, gear, flap, trim, throttle quadrant, etc. (Nothing is the same as a D-model Mustang), so Reilly asked if he would sell it.

The man said that he would only trade it for P-51J parts. Never having heard of a P-51J, Reilly was told that only two were ever built, and the man on the phone had the only remains of a J model and was in dire need of a windshield.

“What does it look like?” Reilly asked. “Send me a picture out of the parts book.” Coincidentally, the windshield that Reilly had seen at Soplata’s the previous April was for a J model! Reilly immediately went back to Ohio and purchased the windshield from Walter and traded it for the left fuselage.

The project also needed a second canopy, one that is completely different from any P-51 type, and a call came in from a woman in Tampa who had a canopy that didn’t fit a Mustang, but looked like one. It was, in fact, an 82 canopy, which Reilly snapped up immediately. Finally, other than missing a few minor hydraulic components and outboard gear doors, all of which can be manufactured, they had what they needed to build a complete airplane.

Status report

So here they are, two years, six months, and a few days since the project started.

 Reilly and his crew have made magnificent progress in bringing the XP-82 back to flying status. They still have a long way to go, but up to this date, they have completed the left fuselage, both engine mounts, top cowlings, horizontal, elevator, both aft fuselage extensions and verticals, center flap, and landing gear. They’re now heavy into the rebuild of the right fuselage, ailerons (four), rudders, and center section.

Nixon’s Vintage V-12s has both right and left engines almost completed, and MT Propeller is building the right and left propellers.

Reilly is projecting to have the XP-82 up on its gear with engines, props, wings, and all tail surfaces completed with no internal systems (i.e., fuel, oil, glycol, electrical, etc.) within 18-24 months.

You can read more about Tom Reilly and the XP-82 on the Warbirds News website HERE.

You can follow the build progress on the XP-82 Twin Mustang website HERE.

You can find out more about this rare warbird on Wikipedia HERE.

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