Northeast Ohio Shop Produces Kit Models of Historic World War II Aircraft
Titan Aircraft, an aircraft kit manufacturer in Austinburg, Ohio, offers a scaled version of the legendary airplane that customers can purchase and help build.
More than seventy years after its maiden flight, the appeal of the P-51 Mustang fighter airplane continues to hold strong. A key fighter-bomber airplane for American forces in World War II, the P-51 Mustang was originally designed and manufactured by North American Aviation (NAA) in 1940. P-51 models served in WWII in both the Royal Air Force and the U.S. Air Force and later as a United Nations war plane during the Korean War. Following those two wars, these planes became a popular model for air race conversion.
The P-51 is often praised for its historical value and sleek visual appeal, meaning many of today’s aircraft enthusiasts wish to add one to their personal fleet. Titan Aircraft, an aircraft kit manufacturer in Austinburg, Ohio, offers a scaled version of the legendary airplane that customers can purchase and help build.
What makes the Mustang so special?
John Williams, president and owner of Titan Aircraft, explains, “The Mustang is a very docile, sweet-flying airplane. It was such a successful model in World War II because you could put 19-year-old kids in there, and the plane would do exactly what they told it to do.”
And, it doesn’t hurt that the Mustang is capable of flying at speeds of up to 200 mph and has a short takeoff – getting off the ground at about 300 feet.
Williams became enticed by the Mustang after flying one himself.
“I was manufacturing these planes, but I never had actually flown in one. Customers asked me all the time what the Mustang was like, so I decided I had to experience it for myself. And once I got inside, I could not believe what a sweet-flying airplane it was. It’s very easy to fly, easier than some general aviation airplanes. If you ask pilots for a wish list of their favorite airplanes, the Mustang would be right at the top of that list.”
Williams designed the T-51 Mustang, a three-quarter scale replica, to appeal to the everyday airplane enthusiast. He wanted to create something with the appeal of the original Mustang – but without the $1 million-plus price tag of the now rare and desirable full-sized originals.
“Our airplane is very similar in handling qualities and characteristics to the original. It’s a Mustang for the average guy rather than having to be a multi-millionaire to own one,” Williams says.
Customers who buy a Titan T-51 Mustang kit typically assemble it through the fast-build method. In fast-build, the wings, cabin, and other essential components are crafted by the shop, leaving the customer to assemble them into a full airplane in order to comply with the regulations for amateur-built planes.
“We have to comply with the 51 percent rule, which means the customer needs to do at least 51 percent of the work in building the kit,” Williams says.
Other customers opt for the builder-assist method, where the buyer visits the shop periodically to build the airplane, while the experts at Titan provide technical assistance and oversight.
In either method, Titan handles the critical parts of assembling the aircraft. They make sure that the most important airplane elements are addressed in the design process and offer these parts already assembled in their kits, ensuring that the finished products are safe, including paying careful attention to weld quality.
“The integrity of the weld is number one when it comes to airplane parts,” says Bill Koleno, machinist, designer, and test pilot at Titan. “We had a guy hit a ditch with the landing gear and he twisted it off, but the welds were intact.”
In total, Titan’s six welders spend about 46 hours welding each aircraft, relying on a variety of Lincoln Electric welders, including the Precision TIG® 225 TIG Welder, to uphold their standards of weld quality.
According to Koleno, the shop relies on Lincoln Electric due to the company’s outstanding customer support and cost-effective, high quality equipment. “Our staff is welding six days a week, and the Lincoln Electric machines run flawlessly. We don’t have any problems with them.”
Williams echoes that sentiment.
“It makes it easier to employ the right techniques if you have the right equipment,” he says.
When welding the Mustangs, high quality welds for the chromoly frame are especially important, as the chromoly frame is a trademark of the Titan-style Mustangs. Building the Mustangs with the half-sections around the chromoly makes it a completely strong, solid airplane.
“We’ve had several crashes where people should have been injured, but the construction of the fuselage and the welding in the chromoly cage offered a lot of protection,” Williams says.
So what’s next for Titan? First up is a full-size Mustang. The larger Mustang will be powered by the same engine found in the original Mustangs – the 1200 horsepower Allison 1710 V12 – but will also incorporate modern technology, making it lighter and offering better performance.
The company is working on a Super Cub bush-type airplane, as well as what they refer to as a “bull pup,” which is a trainer for the light sport market. The company is also hoping to add some additional welders to its staff, as they try to meet the growing demand for their planes.
No matter what they’re working on, it’s clear that Titan will continue to provide safe, innovative airplanes for their customers and continue their dedication to customer satisfaction.
“We have a ‘get it done’ attitude,” Koleno says. “There have been times where John and I would work on an airplane for three days straight just to get it finished. When deadlines are coming up and you’ve got customers to please, you’ve got to be a go-getter.”
“We don’t do high-pressure sales because I don’t think you want to talk someone into something, like an airplane, that they don’t really want,” Williams says. “You don’t want buyer’s remorse at the end of the day. We let the airplane sell itself.”
Visit the Titan Aircraft site for more information