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Arnold AR-5
Mike Arnold's AR-5 has inspired a generation of aerospace engineers by being the first powered aircraft with a flat plate drag of less than 1 square foot. The AR-5 had smashed the ‘impossible’ mark with a flat plate drag area equivalent to just 0.88 square feet.
The AR-5 was foam shaped, sanded, glassed, then sanded construction.
In 1992, the AR-5 set a c-1a/0 record of 213mph on 65HP.
When he was ready, Arnold shared his ‘mystery ship’ with a number of pilots from leading aviation magazines. They all agreed that the little speedster was also a sweet-handling machine, with beautifully harmonised controls and plenty of room for the pilot.
Arnold had originally planned to sell plans for the AR-5 but, while he was satisfied with the design, he decided to wait and see how the gathering storm of product liability suits would play out.
Instead, Arnold fell back on his first craft, producing a series of movies about his plane and selling video copies to homebuilders and aviation enthusiasts. The full set of films is:
Why It Goes So Fast
How It’s Made
Moldless, Low-Drag Wheel Pants
The AR-5 In Action
Making Fibreglass Molds
Making A Molded Fuselage – Shaping The AR-6
There is no CGI or even a pretty diagram in any of them. Each documentary offers an engaging story as well as plenty of information.
Arnold had an engine failure (broke something internal) and the AR5 had a forced landing. The plane came to a stop with the gear legs bent aft and the airplane was sitting nose down on the cowling. That wrecked the main gear and smacked the engine and firewall on the ground. In the case of other pilot-builders, some have decided to retire the bird rather than risk an in-flight structural failure.
According to his video a soldered connection in the throttle linkage gave way and that was the reason for the engine failure. According to the video the gear mounts were undamaged and the engine mount bent absorbing the impact (no damage to primary structure that he had found). As of the recording date of the video he was planning on returning it to flight, but hadn't finished or maybe hadn't even started yet. It was retired.
The AR-5 is currently on permanent display at the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, California.
Span: 21'
Wing area: 56.2sq.ft.
Length: 14.5'
Height: 36"
Fuselage width: 23"
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