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FORMULA ONE—whether on the ground or in the air—is replete with high technology and innovation. One of my favorites of Formula One air racers is Jim Miller’s Texas Gem N74M.
Jim Miller built the first of three pusher race aircraft, his Texas Gem N74M, in 1973 and continued racing it through the Reno 1986 Formula One event. Two offspring, Pushy Cat N414M and Pushy Galore N189BB evolved from this original design. The Texas Gem gave up its propeller ducting in 1975; its two offspring never had this feature.
The Formula One class originated in 1947 in response to the high cost of Unlimited Class air racing, the latter using highly modified World War II fighters. By contrast, Formula One had an initial displacement limit of 190 cu. in. (chosen to encourage use of the ubiquitous Continental 90). This rose to 200 cu. in. in 1968 with introduction of the Continental O-200.
Wing area for a Formula One aircraft is no smaller than 66 sq. ft. Empty weight has to exceed 500 lb. Both landing gear and propeller pitch are fixed. These regulations combine to promote “midget air racers” approaching speeds of 300 mph—on only 100 hp. They are invariably sleek—and tiny to the point that ads contain comments such as “pilot no taller than 5 ft. 8 in.”
The Texas Gem and its offspring have had strings of successes in varied Formula One competitions. Traditional air races held in Reno, Nevada, are on a 3.19-mile oval defined by pylons.
Pushy Galore also set three records recognized by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, all involving time to altitude. It and Pushy Cat also competed in AeroShell 3D Speed Dashes, straightline competitions akin to aerial Bonneville runs. Check out http://goo.gl/Dd4oyn for a retrospective look at the 1993 AeroShell event, including a brief chat with Jim Miller.
In Jim Miller’s chosen category of aerial Formula One, he was a blend of driver Ayrton Senna and designer Adrian Newey—quite an achievement. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013