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Reno 2010: Phantom Does It Again!

The Elippse propeller proves a winner once more

Story and photos by Paul Lipps, elippse@sbcglobal.net


Monday, September 13 – An excited voice on the other end of the phone said, “Paul, it’s Tom. I qualified at over 260 mph.” That’s when I, too, started jumping up and down! Here’s this man, this pilot, Tom Aberle, telling me that his biplane Phantom, which back in 2003 qualified at 220 mph, had now bettered that by 40 mph. Unbelievable! If you understand the cubic relationship between power and speed, you know this means that the sum effect of engine power increases, drag decreases, and prop efficiency increases are giving 65 percent more oomph!


Unfortunately for the race competition, the only one who could have had a chance in giving this team a run for its money, Jeff Lo, had some unresolved issues with his plane Miss Gianna and wasn’t able to compete. But next year, Jeff should be there, as well as at least one new plane design by Matt Burrows. And who knows, maybe there’s another one or more super bipes out there in the wings. Maybe if enough of these highly streamlined two-wingers show up, a new class could appear, just as we now have the Super Sport – those in the Sport class that either supercharge or inject fluids such as methanol or nitrous oxide.

Heat 1A had Tom pulling back the power to 234.61, then in 2A, a bit more push at 249.33. In Sunday’s Gold Race, with the winds picking up, Tom cruised around the course at an average 250.808. Second place was taken by Norman Way in his Pitts Magic at 209.682.

Pitts Magic
Sunday’s Gold Race second place was taken by Norman Way in his Pitts Magic at 209.682.

Pitts Magic

Norm has often been clocked at 215 to 220 in these races, so it shows how a little wind can keep all the speeds down. But Tom passed the last six entrants and almost caught Norm as they were passing the finish pylon, maybe with just a couple of hundred feet separating them.

Places seven and eight were just under 180 mph, five and six were 188.6 and 185.6, and three and four were 199.1 and 197.5. Imagine what it must be like to be passed, when you’re going almost 180 mph, by a plane that’s 70 mph faster than you! It’s an incredible sight to look at the planes on the straightaway and see Tom going by these Pitts as if they were standing still! 

An entrant in biplanes last year, Leah Sommer, told me that she can usually hear a plane that is overtaking and passing, but with the Elippse propeller on Phantom making almost no noise, her first clue that she was being overtaken was when she saw the shadow of another plane on the ground about to pass her.

Lots of noise equals lots of power being thrown away, but no noise is lots of horsepower being converted to thrust.

Keep in mind that Phantom is a homebuilt, highly modified Mong Sport that bears absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to its Mong lineage. Here in biplanes, as well as in IF1and Sport, we have the epitome of the experimental homebuilt movement and what individual initiative, skill, and ingenuity can accomplish!

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