Author Don Berliner claims that,
"[The Owl Racer] is the easiest racer to model for RC pylon." Curiously, given that
claim, no plans were published for it, but there are 3-views. Designer George Owl
(I kid you not) applied knowledge gained from the School of Hard Knocks in the field
of airplane racing on top of his ample experience with "brains-and-slide-rule" design
to create this winning craft. Did you catch that? "Brains-and-slide-rule."
Don BerlinerUnique because of new ideas, the Pogo proved
it has winning potential in its first two races. Smooth lines make it suitable for
any model project.
The owl is a pussycat. And a tiger. And a 'possum.
A pussycat, because
Bud Pedigo, first pilot to race this new Formula One, says he'd turn a student loose
A tiger, because it blasted around the three-mile oval at St. Louis
at 209 mph its first time out.
A 'possum, because it's now named Pogo, who
is one of the better-known 'possums of the Okeefenokee Swamp.
And the Owl Racer because it was designed by George Owl, who has been involved in
the brains-and-slide-rule part of airplanes ranging all the way from Midget Monocoupe
Only engine performance information really matters in any racer. Pogo is not flown
cross-country to the meets, so minimum instruments are used.
Designer theorized that less wetted
area and fewer cowl intersections offer less drag than the typical tight-fitting
cheek cowl. This is the easiest racer to model for RC pylon.
Pogo's color scheme is metallic olive
green striping and numerals on solid white, with a black antiglare panel in front
of the cockpit. The tail wheel is tiny.
Engineers, as a general rule, don't make very good raceplane designers,
for they tend to build airplanes that are too big and too heavy. But an engineer
with racing experience is another matter, and that is the exclusive category into
which George Owl fits quite snugly.
He got into the raceplane racket in
1947, when the Goodyear Racers flashed onto the scene and it seemed as though just
about everybody was starting to build one - or at least was talking about building
one. George was no exception, but his airplane was. It was the one and only high-wing
ever proposed for the 190 cu. in. class. He built it for Woody Edmundson, then a
rather successful pilot of racing-P-51's and aerobatic Monocoupes, and now a very
successful charter flying operator.
The racer was called the Midget Monocoupe,
and looked like one, with a Monocoupe's classic tapered wing atop a very small fuselage.
It was ready in 1948, but Woody found it entirely too hot to handle, so it never
got to Cleveland, although Woody and his other airplanes did. The Midget Monocoupe
drifted around for years, finally becoming the property of an EAA type in Miami,
name of Henry Watts, who improved its flying characteristics and entered it in the
1969 Florida National Air Races. Everyone was impressed by its sporty looks, but
the officials frowned on its wobbly flight path and ordered it to stay on the ground,
where it will probably remain, at least when other planes are racing.
had long since moved on to bigger and better things, changing jobs from Aeronca
to McDonnell and then developing possibly the most radical racer in history-the
P.A.R. Special. This slick little craft boasted an engine buried behind the pilot
and driving, by means of a six-foot extension shaft, a Fairey pusher prop "mounted
aft of the Y-tail. As if that weren't enough, it also had a variable-incidence wing.
But no amount of fine engineering, workmanship and piloting could overcome the drawbacks
of the long shaft, which distorted during high-g turns, and so it was retired after
achieving a best performance of 181 mph at Chattanooga in 1952.
ideas having brought no success, George Owl vanished from the racing scene and busied
himself at North American Aviation, designing such run-of-the-mill flying machines
as the B-70 and X15, neither of which made so much as a ripple in the air racing
pond, although they reportedly were fairly fast.
Shortly after air racing
returned in 1964, so did George Owl, this time well armed with ideas, vastly more
experience, and an expert builder named John Alford. Together, they developed the
Owl Racer. Hardly anyone knew of its existence until, as if by magic, it appeared
on the ramp in front of the race hanger at St. Louis in August, 1969.
The machine was beautiful, no doubt about it. Its lines were smooth and artistic.
Its construction and finish were the equal of any racer in the country. But it looked
a bit on the large size, especially in the front end. Polite questions about the
reasons for the bulky cowl brought a painstaking explanation from its designer.
And while it was obvious that a lot of racing veterans were far from convinced by
the explanation, none of them was equipped to argue aerodynamics with a guy like
The other half of the team was John Alford, an air tanker
pilot flying Grumman F7F Tigercats. A qualified mechanic as well as pilot, John
had converted Stearman trainers to dusters, restored Beech Staggerwings, and flown
B-17s in forest fire operations. In addition to an outstanding job of construction,
John will soon make a further contribution to the story of #87. His wife, Joan,
will be its pilot for 1971, and thus the first woman to compete in Formula One.
A lot of brand new racers are exceedingly fast on the drawing board,
in the workshop and at the home field. And a lot of pretty bubbles are burst in
that first spin around a race course, when the unbiased stopwatch converts dreams
into reality. But this time there was nothing for the Owl crew to apologize for,
as pilot Bud Pedigo clocked 208.90 mph, good for sixth place in an amazingly fast
field of 13 racers. Four years of careful planning and hard work began to payoff.
The Owl Racer didn't become the Cinderella plane of the year by beating
Rivets. In fact, it didn't even make the Finals in its first try, being plagued
by poor takeoff acceleration. Still, it topped 200 mph in the Consolation Race and
put everyone on notice that more would be heard. A few weeks later, at Reno, Pedigo
earned over $1000 by flying #87 into fifth place in the Formula One Championship
Race at almost 204 mph.
Such performance for a completely new design, while
not unheard of, is certainly rare. How did Owl and Alford do it? By careful detail
work, by precise alignment of every important piece, and by knowing which tried-and-true
techniques to use and which to ignore when their own calculations pointed down an
The main deviation from conventional design in the Owl Racer
is its cowl - large, but simple. The Owl cowl, according to George, has less surface
area, no sharp intersections, more interior space and a better shape for withstanding
pressure. Moreover, it has a blunt front where the cooling intakes are located,
to accommodate a steep angle of airflow without stalling, thus producing maximum
cowl thrust, similar to wing lift.
The original exhaust and cooling systems
were worth note, with both exiting on the bottom of the airplane, just ahead of
the firewall. The stacks were located at either side of a cowl flap in a very clean
arrangement. After the 1969 season, the exhaust system was lightened and simplified
by switching to individual stacks cut off flush with, ports on either side of the
cowl. Other changes, mainly aimed at reducing weight, are to include elimination
of the oil radiator, replacement of the thick galvanized firewall with aluminum
and asbestos, and switching from copper pitot and static lines to plastic or aluminum.
Construction is straightforward. The wing has a one-piece laminated spruce
main spar, half-inch thick spruce ribs and plywood covering. Aileron control is
via a one-inch torque tube which can be disconnected for easy wing removal by pulling
a single bolt in the cockpit without affecting aileron rigging. The fuselage is
welded chrome-moly steel tubing with metal covering to the front of the cockpit
and fabric aft. The tail has a spruce frame covered with plywood. The canopy is
a single piece of molded Plexiglas with a composite wood/ foam/fiberglass frame
and rear fairing.
Power is supplied by the typical stock Continental
0-200, properly balanced and with a racing prop which enables it to turn about 3750
rpm and develop about 125 hp.
One season of racing, even when it is
as successful as the Owl's in 1969, still doesn't prove a design. At best, it can
only indicate potential. The Owl Racer unquestionably has speed and good flying
characteristics, which is about all that should be asked of a racer. Its future
is bright but completely uncharted. Plans, available from John Alford (291 Beech
Ave., Santa Rosa, Calif.) for $125 a set, consist of 56 individual drawings including
all structure, primary controls, fuel tank and canopy, as well as full-size ribs
and fairing contours. Their acceptance by builders could make the Owl Racer one
of the truly significant racer designs. In the meantime, #87 will be busy trying
to win races.
Basic airplane is white
with metallic olive green striping and numbers.
Black pilot name,
airplane name and emblem on vertical stabilizer, wing-walk and footprint on upper
surface of left wing, and cowling anti-glare panel.
Span - 16' 0"
Area - 66 sq. ft.
Airfoil - 63 A 210
Dihedral - 1 degree
Aspect ratio - 3.88:1
- 0 degrees
Twist - 0 degrees
Span - 5' 11"
Area - 8.5 sq. ft.
Area (projected to fuselage reference line) - 5.10 sq.
Owl Racer Top View
for larger version>
Owl Racer Side View
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Owl Racer Front View
for larger version>
Posted April 28, 2012