We have been following the restoration of North American XP-82 Twin Mustang 44-83887 at Tom Reilly’s workshop in Douglas, Georgia for some years now, with updates on the project coming on a near-monthly basis during this time. This past year has seen a slowdown in these reports due to the complex and unpredictable nature of every restoration as it comes close to completion. The restoration team had hoped to have the aircraft ready to fly just before EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018, but didn’t quite make the deadline. Now with more time to prepare for the first flight, Tom Reilly has decided to replace the original, magnesium alloy wheel rims on the aircraft with newly fabricated examples manufactured from aluminum. There are many practical reasons for this choice, and Tom Reilly explained them very well in a recent letter (see below) which we thought our readers would enjoy reading…
After much thought I have chosen a warbird restoration facility and specialty machine shop in Cameron Park, CA. Chuck Wahl, the owner, has been specializing in making replacement wheels for warbirds for a number of years. I ran my decision past John Eiler, our main machinist for your XP-82, and he agreed with my decision. Chuck has been making 32″ x 8.8″ wheels for F4U Corsairs and SBDs for a number of years.
Yesterday I sent him the lower spindle leg off of the crashed Alaska F-82 for fitting purposes, along with one of the original magnesium brake calipers. I had previously sent a non-airworthy wheel to John Eiler to copy and he is forwarding that wheel out to Chuck Wahl.
Chuck manufactures his wheels out of 7075-T6 aluminum and they have been tested to failure at over ten times the strength of the original magnesium wheel. He will be able to identically duplicate our wheel for authenticity.
The total price for these two wheels will be approximately $19K with a 3-4 week delivery period.
What were the chances of our wheels failing, probably less than zero percent. But, after two known failures of this style wheel, one on an F7F Tigercat at Oshkosh and more recently, one on a TBM Avenger, I had no choice but to make this decision.
We have had countless comments (now over 300) on our website and Facebook page, every one agreeing with my safety decision. If I were to have a wheel failure on our XP-82 the public backlash would be catastrophic; if we didn’t totally lose the airplane due to an uncontrollable magnesium fire.
Many thanks to Tom Reilly for providing these details. Like everyone, we look forwards with great anticipation to the first flight of the XP-82, and wish the entire team great success in the endeavor!