I was minding my own business, very uncomfortably squashed under the instrument panel of my plane a couple of days ago when I heard in the distance the unmistakable sound of a Rolls-Royce engine coming to life.  Well, that’s not something that an airplane nut can ignore, so I carefully extricated myself from the floor of my plane and hurried outside to see what was going on.

John has a hanger in the row behind me. Martin-Baker MB-5 ReplicaHe is an ‘older’ man who spends almost all of his time building a replica of the Martin-Baker MB-5. Martin Baker is best known as a company that builds ejection seats, but the company originally started as an aircraft manufacturer. The MB-5 was one of their aircraft models that was never manufactured and the prototype was destroyed. John has taken it upon himself to educate the world about the Martin-Baker aircraft and has dedicated himself to building a replica of the MB-5.

You can see John in the cockpit during this engine run. In the first photo the camera stopped the props almost in exact alignment. The aircraft has a Rolls-Royce Griffon engine with contra-rotating props. You can see the fuselage structure aft of the cockpit with the metal panels removed.

Martin-Baker MB-5 Replica

John is in his hanger every day working on the plane or another of his projects and has a crew of volunteers who help him. Today’s project and engine run was to determine if recent work had cured a vibration problem they have with the front prop. Unfortunately the vibration was still present and restricted the engine RPM to below 2000 RPM. So, work continues.  For a little more background you can read Wikipedia’s article on the Martin-Baker MB-5.

Stead Airport is continuing it’s transition to the site of the National Champioinship Air Races.  The temporary bleachers are almost completed with only the top two rows of seats remaining to be assembled on the last section on the east end. The semi-trailers of tents, seats, carpeting, etc. are starting to appear behind the grandstands. Next week the transformation will accelerate as vendor tents start popping up all over the airport. The large Air Race Banners were installed on the back side of the grandstand recently.Reno Air Race Banners

These have beautiful graphics of some of the race aircraft. It’s too bad that they can’t stay up all the time.  I’m out on an Orient trip again and will be gone from the airport for 7-8 days. By the time I return there will be only a week until the racers start arriving. They will be on site by September 6th with practice runs beginning the 7th and qualifying runs on the 8th, 9th and morning of the 10th with the first heat races the afternoon of the 10th, the official opening day of this year’s competition.

For those of you who may be interested, as I was driving out to the airport on the airport on August 22nd, I caught another glimpse of Rare Bear sitting outside of it’s hanger.Rare Bear Aug 22, 2008 They’re making progress, but it’s slow. The hardest part of painting an aircraft, especially a quality paint job, is the prep work . Lots of sanding, priming, sanding and repriming to get the most defect-free surface possible before applying the finish colors.I’m sure that the finished product will be beautiful… and fast.


6 responses to “Airport and Airplanes”

  1. Beverly Porter Avatar

    Great reminder. I’d almost forgotten we’ve been planning to take our boys to the Reno Air Races for a couple of years now. This year we just have to make the time. Nice photos of the Martin-Baker MB-5 replica. Thanks.

  2. Tracy Avatar

    This should be a great year at the races. I’ll be there all week down on the east end of the grandstands in the display area for the National Aviation Heritage Invitational. Stop by and say Hi.

  3. Ken Avatar

    The MB5 has a Rolls-Royce Griffon engine. Not “Griffin.” 🙂


  4. Tracy Avatar


    Thank-you for the comment. You’re absolutely right. I’ve corrected the spelling.

  5. mick Avatar

    Good comment on the MB 5
    Is John still working on it – what is its status.
    I know this is a couple of years after the original post but I just read an article on the MB5

  6. Tracy Avatar


    I haven’t stopped by to see John in a while, but I know he’s still working on the MB5.
    I’ve been meaning to check up on him, so the next time I’m out at the airport I’ll
    try to get an update on his progress. I’m about to head out on a trip, so
    it might be a couple of weeks.