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Lightning Strike in Texas

EAAer designs, builds his own two-thirds scale P-38


November 19, 2009 — When a new homebuilt appears on the scene, it usually creates a buzz in the aviation community. And then along comes someone like Jim O’Hara, 81, EAA 464767, of San Angelo, Texas. Over the past 15 years, O’Hara, who was a professor in aeronautical engineering at Tulane University, has been hard at work in his hangar at San Angelo Regional Airport/Mathis Field designing, building, and now, flying a two-thirds scale replica of one of history’s most popular airplanes, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning.

He first flew the shiny, all-metal airplane last July and in October, after completing the required flight test hours, made his first cross country flight from San Angelo to an EAA event in Fredericksburg.

After retiring from Tulane in 1994, O’Hara gathered all the information about the P-38 and set about building a scaled-down replica. He created his own blueprints with a computer aided design (CAD) program. He fashioned all the parts of the airframe and, since the original P-38 only had one seat, O’Hara designed a small jump seat behind the pilot’s seat so his wife, Mitzi, could ride along.

According to a story in the San Angelo Standard-Times, his engine selection was described as particularly tricky. “He tried pre-war inverted inline engines, but parts were scarce. He settled on horizontally opposed engines (220 hp Continental 360s) from a scrapped Seneca that landed with its wheels up.”

O’Hara, who learned to fly at age 62, was tight-lipped about the project when contacted at his home in San Angelo. Admittedly a bit of a recluse, the former college professor might be on the receiving end of some considerable attention now that word is out on his unique aircraft project. He has agreed to provide EAA with more information on the project in due time. Until then, visit Oshkosh365 for several more views of the spectacular scale replica Lightning.

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