After selling #31 Long Gone Mong (formerly #3 #25 & later #40), about 1991, I still felt the itch to race. I conferred with friend Bob Bush and we bantered airfoils, plan form, general configuration etc. We arrived at some definition of what would be later named Phantom.
I met Andrew Buehler about that time also. Andrew was from Seattle, had earned first his fixed wing and then his helicopter credentials from our mutual friend Fred Fager after Fred migrated from Fallbrook to Seattle. Andrew had purchased #26 Mong after owner Don Perri was killed in a Pacer accident. Fred told Andrew that since he had a Mong he should meet Tom Aberle.
Andrew & I discussed his #26 Mong as well as the prospect of an all out sport biplane racer over the next few years. A bit later Andrew purchased the remains of a wrecked Mong and transported it to Fallbrook. We vacillated over the next few years as to just how far we might alter the airplane for racing.
In 2002 I was racing #21 Class Action for owners John Adler among others. I felt the airplane needed extensive alterations in order for it to remain competitive in the Gold race. The owners seemed reluctant to expend the necessary capital. After the '02 race I was approached by my friend Steve Valentine who introduced me to Chris Piedmonte of Eagle Creek Systems of Fallbrook, CA. Chris was interested in a sponsorship for the Reno competition 2003. I presented a proposal to Class Action owners on 10-1-02. The owners would not/did not respond to my proposal, including sponsorship to carry over 1/2 the needed expenditure. When they did finally respond in January of 2003 it was with a negative. I approached Chris with plan "B", a rusted steel tube truss with rudimentary pylon for the upper wing mount and an anhedral lower wing/landing gear structure. Chris' response was two fold 1. Will it win? 2. Can you make to Reno this year? My considered response was 1-YES and 2-It is possible.
These pictures were taken January 28, 2003. The aft fuselage steel tubing shown above was removed in favor of our building a mock male form, followed by building a female mold from the form and then a honeycomb carbon sandwich aft fuselage from the mold.
Nearly our first move after Chris & I shook hands was for me to drive to El Cajon, CA to speak with Robbie Grove. Our schedule for the next 6+ months was far too aggressive for us to expect to 'do it all' in house. Robbie accepted our challenge for him to design & build to our specifications a set of wings for Phantom. Next I called Bob Bush in Lummi Island, WA to see if he would enjoin our project. He stated that while he was very busy with some political BS on the island that he would come help for a week or two at a time whenever we needed him. I didn't tell him that what I really needed was for him to move back to SoCal. During the next 6+ months he visited and helped three times each for over a week. His engineering background and original thinking were invaluable.
My tenants here at Fallbrook Airpark, Stewart and Andy Paterson of Paterson Motorsports were then engaged to discuss their participation in Phantom. Stewart agreed that the powerplant could use some development. I called Ken at LyCon in Visalia, CA and lined up a meeting for Stewart, myself and Ken. Stewart and I flew up with some of the engine parts and we all agreed to become involved in what we loosely termed a co-development project. Andy Paterson is an artist most especially with composites. He agreed to "give until it hurts" of his time and efforts. It did hurt. Our schedule toward the end, along about July/August/September, was brutal.
March 10, 2003- shows the eyeball technique used to develop Phantom's fuselage shape and wing planform.
That's Bob Bush pausing for this photo before going back to the plywood forms.
Bush's first visit laid out the basic shapes for fuselage and empennage as well as wing planform. The plywood mock aft fuselage was actually used. We glued foam blocks to the plywood, shaped the foam, glassed the foam and then surfaced it with bondo. Then a mold was made from the plug- or 'buck' as Andy calls it. A sandwich structure of carbon-honeycomb-carbon was laminated inside the left and right halves of the mold and later joined at the top and bottom to form the aft fuselage complete with vertical fin and horizontal stabilizer mount.
March 15, 2003 Andy Paterson adds foam between the formers to above contour with inexpensive styrofoam,
March 16, 2003 Partner Andrew Buehler cutting up and then checking the fit in the cockpit.
March 17, 2003 Above on the left is the lady who makes all this possible for me, my wife Cheri Aberle. Stewart and
Andy check it all out. Andy goes back at it with the foam shaping.
April 6 The canopy form goes through the above metamorphosis. At extreme right are Cheri's parents Hank & Marlene Wilson along with friends from Bakersfield Bob & Debbie Flint.
April 16, Stewart addresses ALL the rough internal areas of our IO-360-EXP. At right you see the fuselage 'buck' being prepared for fabrication of the mold from which the actual fuselage will be built.
Same day with Steve Wilkinson turning out some landing gear parts while Andy fine adjusts the fuselage buck.
April 22 the fuselage is on a rotisserie, the canopy form is glassed with Steve Wilkinson (center L) and Tom Harper checking it out. At extreme right is Ted Von Hirsch contemplating the next step in laminating the horizontal stabilizer.
May 4 Canopy male removed- a female made from it and then a male for the plexiglas mold. The aft fuselage mold making from the buck begins (center) and the horizontal stabilizer is prepared for lamination.
May 17 The mold is progressing. At left the first application of glass, at right the reinforcements are being placed.
The last of these pics was taken Jun24. At left the mold is taken off of the buck from which it was made. At right the first carbon cloth is fit into the mold, later to be added to and saturated with resin and vacuum bagged.
Anyone want to spend their 4th of July surfacing? The canopy frame is being fit with plexiglas and Ted checks out the fresh powder coating on the fuselage truss.
Phantom on August 27, 2003, complete with Airworthiness Certificate, Registration, weight & balance etc.
Phantom February 10, 2004 in front of the ABERLE Custom Aircraft hangar in which she was built. On the pylon mount for the upper wing are credits to- Robert T. Busch, Aberle Custom Aircraft, Paterson Motorsports, Catto Propellers and LyCon Rebuilders.
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