...and It's a Biplane!
ANN On-Scene Coverage of Reno 2003
Tom Aberle had a dream. A biplane racer and aficionado for
years, he carried this idea around in his head for a number of
years, about an 'optimized' biplane racer. Of course, others had
developed such 'rules-meeters' before: one of the most-popular
designs in the class is the Mong Sport; others (like recent 3-time
champ Dave Rose) had even more-radical approaches.
You've never seen anything like Tom Aberle's Phantom,
Both wings are cantilevered; the interplane 'struts' are there
just for show, and because the rules say there have to be
interplane struts. The lower wing is an inverted gull-wing design,
like a Corsair -- and for the same reason. Tom said, "The inverted
gull wing simulates having noi landing gear -- all that drag:
struts, springs, add-on pants, even wires." Phantom
sits on its mains... literally.
"Everything is aimed at complying with the rules, minimizing
drag, and going fast." Phantom has a high-aspect
wing, top and bottom. At the tips, the chord is smaller than the
span of my outstretched hand.
Started building in February. This February.
Tom said, "I've had this idea in my head for about seven years."
Last winter, though, funding finally made it possible. How long had
the idea been on paper, I asked. "It's not on paper," he
said. There's just a bunch of sketches." Though Tom has a
performance engineering background, and can produce professional
drawings, he just didn't need to, for this one-off racer. "The
'paper' is ideas," he said. "The work is done by hand."
Tom had an aeronautical engineer come see the progress, three
times. "He came out three times, and we worked 14-hour days for a
week each time."
Local help and design work, as well as countless hours, were put
in by Robert Busch, the head engineer; and by the Patterson
Brothers, Andy and Stewart, who conjured up all kinds of innovative
solutions, and did the airfoil research as well. Eagle Creek
Systems, which is a business organization software firm, provided
the major funding. They had two people at the races, to see how
their new baby was doing.
Phantom's construction was really begun in February. "I
had this truss lying around for about seven years," Tom said,
referring to the tube truss section of a Mong, from the seatback to
the firewall. "About 55% of that remains." His son said the plane
is therefore, "a modified Mong." No kidding!
There's just 50 hours on the airplane, including the 40 it
needed to fly off, just to allow it to fly out of town.
How does it work?
It's rough, trying to break into an established,
highly-competitive class at Reno; and the bipes are that, if
anything. Doing it with an airplane that has an innovation per
cubic inch -- that's a miracle.
Tom qualified his revolutionary biplane on the pole, at