After years of missing out on Oshkosh, I finally made my return this year, and hot dang, did it feel fantastic to be back! I was lucky enough to have my wife join me for a week of adventure. It was her first time at Oshkosh, and it completely exceeded her expectations, even leaving her a bit overwhelmed at times. We had a great time, and she even mentioned considering a return someday (just not next year!).
Once I entered the show, my first priority was to locate the homebuilt area, specifically the F1 and S-51 displays. The F1 Rocket display was the first I came across, but the S-51 display wasn’t far away. When I arrived I received the warmest of welcomes, without a word said on my part, one of my fellow S-51 builders “Gunz” spoke out to be heard above every there…”Hey, That’s Damnlottafun from Canada!” (which is my online forum handle) and from then on I knew it as going to be great week.
It sure is nice to see the Beautiful Doll proudly displayed here this year. This was the only S-51 that made it to the show this year. Doll is owned by Bill Hudgens, the principal of the Stewart 51 Partner company that owns the rights to the S-51 and working really had to get the kit back into production. Bill is aiming for kits to be once again available next year (2024) at Oshkosh, so that too is super exciting.
After all the meet & greets were done, the first order of business was to get a picture in front of the Doll with Jo. This was her first time seeing an S-51 in person and getting a feel for the enormous task of building one of these.
So, while you’re here with me, let me take you quick walkaround of the Doll, starting here at the nose.
Now we can get a closer look at the engine. In this first picture, you can see the Stewart 51 propeller speed reduction unit (PSRU) gearbox. This is one of the key items designed by Jim Stewart to make this plane work. There have been other PSRU’s developed over the years but this is one of the few that have actually stood the test of time (and power).
The powerplant in the Doll is a Chevy Big Block V-8, with 540 cu. in. displacement and produces over 500 horsepower.
Here’s a bit of a shot of the firewall. Not much room to get access to anything! It’s definitely a tight fit under that cowling.
Then there’s the tent at the back of the display, what’s in there you ask. Well, not much really. A few coolers with some drinks and an opportunity for me to get some close up pictures of the cowling. Like the saying goes, a picture’s worth a thousand words.
On the front side it’s hard to see how these are assembled, but when looking form the back, it’s pretty straightforward with the splice joint down the middle.
It’s hard to tell from the pictures above, but the area around the exhaust stack cutouts is stainless steel, not aluminum, just like the big P-51. In the picture below, you can clearly see the difference in the polished stainless steel vs the polished aluminum in this area aft of the exhaust stacks.
Ok, are you ready to check out the cockpit! Here we go…
Isn’t that windscreen a thing of beauty!
Just forward of the windscreen, there are 2 access panels to get to the back side of the instrument panel. I can only imagine that working through those is no better than working between the engine and the firewall. Everything on this plane is a tight fit.
Looking toward the aft cockpit, you can see that the S-51 is a two-seater. It’s equipped with dual-controls, however only the front has a throttle. The rear seat is fully equipped with stick and rudder pedals.
Well, let’s try this thing on for size! What the pictures fail to demonstrate is how hot it actually was not only while sitting in the cockpit, but even just standing up on the wing. With the polished aluminum reflecting the Oshkosh sunshine, and the previous closed cockpit that had been baking under the canopy. It was so hot! Then while climbing into the pilot’s seat, touching the metal was scalding hot too!
But I made it! All I can say is this would be one hell of a machine to fly. I can only imagine how good it would be.
Look at that view over the nose.
Below, on the right side of the cockpit is the canopy crank for opening and closing the canopy. Below that is the circuit breaker panel.
Here another shot of the breaker panel, also note, under my right leg is the fuel selector.
On the left side is the gear selector handle, and the box is a control for adjustment of the ignition. The Hobbs meter shows 326 hours of time on the Doll.
Happy boy right here!
Before I get out of the cockpit, below are a couple other pictures to show you just how big this plane really is. As for me, the squinty eyes are from me trying to look at the camera while the sun is reflecting off the wing into my face. It was quite an experience…really!
Another note that I can explain with this picture below, is how to get on and off the wing. On the S-51, you get on and off the wing not from the rear side of the wing, while trying to step over the flaps, but rather by stepping on the tire, then stepping up over the leading edge, onto the wing walk area.
The leading edge is also a good place to rest and chill with your S-51 buddies.
Another proud moment for the Stewart 51 and for the Doll in particular was also proudly displayed for some street credibility, which as the 2015 Reno Air Races trophy that the Doll (Race # 70) won in 2015 when it won First Place in the Sport Bronze Class, while piloted by Dave Morss.
That’s all for today folks! I’m going to get out of the sun and hangout in the shade for a bit to cool off. Sitting here with my S-51 buddies to chat, and talk all things S-51 was truly one of my favorite parts of being at Oshkosh. I’ll sure miss these guys when I go back home.
Please comment. I love to hear from my readers. Thanks again for coming along for this ride, you make my work worthwhile.