Home :: Aircraft Status    


The team continues to make upgrades and improvements to Wildfire in preparation for racing.  There are some major changes in the works which will improve both engine and overall performance.  We are removing the engine cowling, originally from a Lockheed Hudson bomber, and replacing it with the engine cowling from an A-26 Invader. Additionally the three bladed prop is being replaced with the original four bladed prop. 

We continue to benefit from a long standing and stable crew of dedicated volunteers but we are also happy to report the addition of our new and valuable team members Matt, Mark, Karl and our youngest member Danny Jackson.  Matt Jackson brings extensive aviation and race experience to the team.  For those of you who are not familiar with Matt, he is currently the Vice President of the Unlimited Division, head of the safety program, has a very successful aircraft modification business at Van Nuys airport and during his racing career has raced 16 different Unlimited Class race planes.  We are grateful and excited to have Matt and the rest of the new crew members on the team.



  To all of our fans, friends and supporters.   It is with a great deal of disappointment and regret that my brother Richard and I must announce that Wildfire will not be at the Reno Air Races again this year.  I can assure you it is not due to the lack of effort by the crew.

  As you know, the Wildfire crew consists of all volunteers who contribute what time they can, when they can.  Our engine mechanic, Tom Johnson (T.J.) lives in Castro Valley, CA. which is near Oakland; our sheet metal expert, Greg Benson, lives in Santa Maria, CA.; our avionics/electrical engineer/mechanic, Paul Novacek,  lives in Albuquerque, N.M.; and our pilot Dave Morss lives in Redwood City, CA..  Inspite of the distances from the project, they continue with their support whenever possible.  We have one volunteer who lives close enough to the Wildfire project at the Mojave airport to help my brother and me on a regular basis and another volunteer who lives close enough to gives us a hand on every other Saturday.  When my brother comes up to Mojave from Laguna Niguel to work on the racer, it is a three hour drive for him each way.  All crew members have full time, 40 hours/week,  jobs.  We do not have the resources to hire outside help to work on the project to help us out.

  Special thanks goes out to our good friend Pete Law, designer of the fuel, oil, ADI and oil cooling systems, who is always available to help us when we need him.

  Since, at the most, there are only three of us, sometimes four, working on Saturdays only, it takes a long time for us to get things done.  We've come a long way and we're real close to completing the Wildfire project.  We completed our taxi tests a couple of weeks ago with only minor glitches; a canopy that won't seal properly and a faulty mag switch.  The high winds at Mojave have often slowed us down as well.  Once these minor problems are taken care of we are ready to fly and start our Flight Test Program.

  Our big hurdle to conquer is the landing gear doors.  We are still working on getting them designed and built.  Unfortunately, dad passed away before he completed the design of the gear doors.  We can start the flight test program without them, but we need them to complete the test program.  We will get them done.   My brother and I vowed to complete the Wildfire Home Built Unlimited Class Race Plane Project in memory of our father and we will do it thanks to the support we have been getting from all of you.   Thanks again to all of you.  We look forward to your continued friendship and support and to having Wildfire at Reno next year.  

Bill Statler
Wildfire Air Racing Team
Unlimited Division



Aircraft Status

Problem with carburetor running too rich has been solved.  Turns out
when carburetor was overhauled in Florida and was mistakingly included
in a batch of carburetors being overhauled for cargo carrying aircraft.
As a result, it was set up to run rich.  Problem is being corrected by
setting carburetor back to the proper mixture.

Problem with excessive oil accumulating in lower exhaust stacks
resulting in huge amounts of smoke and oil down sides of aircraft during
engine run-up has been solved by incorporating a drain system for lower
exhaust stacks.

A young engineer at the Lockheed Skunk Works is working on a design for
the gear doors for us.  We expect to start bending metal at the first of
the year.  The gear doors will not be required for the first portion of
the Flight Test Program.

Looking forward to resuming test flights in November.


Crew Status

We are pleased to announce that the wife of a crew member who was hospitalized last month with two separate life threatening conditions is now home and on her way to complete recovery. 

Also, we are extremely relieved that crew member Greg Austin, who was fighting the big battle with cancer has become a "survivor".  His absence was definitely felt by the entire team.  We are eagerly looking forward to his return and his invaluable contributions to the Wildfire project.  We thank you all who kept Greg in your prayers.

We are also proud to announce that we have three new crew members on the Wildfire team: Shawn Teare, a design engineer for the Lockheed Skunk Works in Palmdale; Martin King, the manager of Vintage Carburetors, Inc; and Tyler Crispin, Senior Communications Controller for Indyne, Inc. at Vandenberg Air Force Base.  Shawn's design capabilities, Martin's knowledge of engine carburetors and fuel systems, and Tyler's web site maintenance will be invaluable to the team.  See (Wildfire Team) for more information on all of the new members.

Aircraft Status

Three weeks ago we conducted our taxi tests with Dave at the controls and all went well.  So well in fact, Dave was ready to get right into the flight test program.  Dave took the airplane all the way down to the east end of the runway and was ready to takeoff when two things happened.  (1)  A lot of gray smoke came out of the exhaust stacks on the right hand side of the engine and (2) the mixture control was refusing to cooperate.    End of the flight test program for the day.  Also during the debrief, Dave mentioned that the brakes were a little mushy.

During the ensuing two weeks of work, we made some revealing discoveries.  The gray smoke was a result of a large amount of oil collecting in the lower cylinders when the engine was static and then being pushed out of the hot exhaust stacks when power was applied to the engine.  Our engine mechanic Tom Johnson and Electrical/Electronics engineer Paul Novacek are working together on the fix.  Also, due to the large amount of oil in the cylinders, all spark plugs had to be pulled and cleaned which has been completed.

The second issue, the fuel mixture, was a result of FOD getting under the fuel control valve seat in the carburetor.  Martin came down to Mojave and helped us solve the fuel mixture problem  and then took the carburetor to his shop for a flow check.

The mushy brakes were corrected by bleeding the system again.  The Saber Liner brakes we're using are really difficult to bleed completely but we managed to get this done also.

 We continue putting 110% into getting the racer ready for Reno.  The only major hurdle we have left is the construction of the landing gear doors.  We are searching for someone to help us with these and all ideas and leads are welcome.




Wildfire Team Announcement

The Wildfire crew has put forth a monumental effort over the past several months to have Wildfire ready for Reno.   During this time we have accomplished a tremendous amount of work, - too much to list here - and in fact we have made great progress towards completing all required tasks.   

Unfortunately there is only so much that can be done in the short time we have left before the races and we simply can not get everything done in time without jeopardizing quality and safety.   Therefore, it is with a great deal of disappointment that we announces to our sponsors and fans that Wildfire will not be racing at Reno in 2006.

Again, we have accomplished a great deal of work on the airplane, but with only five weeks to go before Reno we have yet to complete the Flight Test program and the landing gear doors.  Additionally, we discovered only last week that one of the new oil coolers recently installed has developed a leaky oil pressure control valve.  This requires a complete removal of the oil cooler system and related components in order to replace the valve.  Needless to say this is not a quick and simple procedure.  More importantly it pushes the flight test program back several weeks, which does not leave us enough time to safely test the airplane. 

The designer of Wildfire, the late Bill Statler Sr., always stressed the importance of a well-planned and executed Flight Test program. 

“You design your flight test program so that it covers everything you need to check and test in the proper order, you take it one step at a time, you analyze each step completed, if you’re happy with the results you move on to the next step in the program.  Cutting corners or rushing a flight test program could have tragic consequences”. 

Bill Sr. was one of the best aircraft designers in the business and he received many awards for his work.   He knew what he was talking about and we agree with his philosophy.   Hence, we will not do it any other way than the right way. 

Although we are understandably disappointed, our spirits remain high and the crew is anxious to get the airplane back in the air.   The good news is that we now have the time to really perfect the already awesome performance of Wildfire.  

See you in Reno in 2007!
~The Wildfire Owners and Crew


This past Spring, we lost one of our key crew members and beloved mentors, Bill Statler Sr. He was the initial founder of the team and lead engineer. Bill was an inspiration to us all and dedicated most of his life to air racing. He was highly respected as the Director of Science and Engineering at Lockheed and known throughout the aviation industry, but we always called him “Senior.” He was an inspiration to us all we will miss him dearly.

Working for Lockheed since the early forties, Bill had plenty of stories to tell around the hangar. Here's one of his favorites.

In 1927 Bill was 10 years old when Charles A. Lindbergh made his famous flight across the Atlantic to Paris . Bill was already interested in aviation and when Lindbergh made his famous flight, he immediately became Bill's hero.

He rushed out and bought a flying model of the Spirit of St. Louis with money he had saved. Bill soon discovered that it was a terrible flying model. It was unstable in all three axis.

Many years later, when Bill was working for Lockheed in Burbank , he had the opportunity to meet Charles Lindbergh who at the time was a consultant for a major airline that Lockheed was doing business with. They quickly became friends and enjoyed many lunches together at their favorite restaurant, the Blarney Stone, in Burbank . During one of these lunches, Bill related the story of his terrible flying model of Lindbergh's famous airplane.

Lindbergh laughed and said that it must have been a good model, because that is exactly how the Spirit of St. Louis flew.

The remainder of the team has dedicated the legacy of the Wildfire to Bill Sr. and we'll tip our glasses to him in honor of his dedication and warmth he's given us all.

In addition to Bill's passing, our efforts are also strained because we've been unsuccessful in gaining a team sponsor. As everybody knows, the sport of air racing is very expensive and a struggle for teams on a limited budget. Many sponsors have stepped up to the plate and donated services or goods, to whom we are eternally grateful, but all our efforts to acquire a major sponsor have failed to materialize. Therefore, without a major sponsor, our ability to complete a flight test program and cover team expenses for racing are severely limited. We're still progressing with system testing and completing flight test profiles, but as you all know, a major sponsor is key to a successful racing season.

If any Wildfire fans out there have ideas or sponsorship contacts, please let us know. We appreciate your continued support and kind words.

~ The Wildfire Team


The Wildfire Unlimited Air Racing Team wishes everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous 2005.
We pray that our service men and women who are serving their country around the world, thousands in harms way everyday, who have our undying gratitude and support, soon can come home safely to their loved ones.

We were saddened to have to say 'good-bye' to too many friends in 2004, among them John Herlihy, Rocky Stewart, Willis Hawkins and Gordon Cooper. All will be missed by everyone who were privileged to know them.

2004 was the year we had the great honor of adding Dave Morss and his lovely wife Karen to the Wildfire Unlimited Air Racing Team. Dave, a highly qualified all around pilot, will be doing the flight testing and racing for the team. Dave has been officially recognized as the pilot who has flown the most laps around the Reno courses having competed for several years in the Unlimited, Jet and Sports Classes. Congratulations Dave. Karen, with her marketing talents, will be trying to raise funds for the Wildfire project as well as trying to obtain a sponsor for the team.

We want to thank all of you who have joined the Wildfire Air Racing Teams' Benefactors Club and who have purchased merchandise through our website. Every penny received by the team through these means is greatly appreciated, badly needed and put directly into the project.

Although the lack of funding has slowed the project down, it has by no means stopped it. Our goal is still to make Reno in 2005.

We have a lot of companies to thank who have helped us throughout the past year;

HRD Aero Systems - Fire bottles and oxygen equipment.
Palm Beach Avionics - Comm radios
PS Engineering - Intercom
Mid-Continent Instruments - Instruments and instrument overhaul
West Coast Specialties - Fire controls
Securaplane - Aircraft battery
Castrol - Oil
Arizona Aircraft Accessories - Actuator overhaul
Skandia - Soundproofing material
ASB Avionics - Transponder and avionics supplies
MYHRECO - Website support
Goodyear - Tires
Aero Specialties
A.V. Equipment rental
Aircraft Spruce & Specialty

Without companies like these coming forward to help the competitors in all racing classes, a lot of the competitors we watch race each year would not be able to compete at Reno.

We were thrilled to be contacted, through our website, by Larry Cansler. Larry is the composer of the hit song "WILDFIRE." Larry, an admitted "airshow junkie," wished us luck on our project and when we asked if we could use his song Wildfire as our theme song, was quick to give his blessing.

As for the current status of the project, we have finished the installation of all systems and have completed the checkout of all the electrical installations. All safety systems have been installed to assure our pilots safety. Within the next week or so, we will conduct a full operational test of the fuel system. All of the fuselage skins will also be reinstalled.
The nagging drip, drip of hydraulic fluid from the main gear struts means we will probably have to pull the main gears for overhaul. Two steps forward, one step back.


When we started the Wildfire project up again after a twenty-year hiatus, we were extremely fortunate in getting back the majority of the crew that originally worked on the project. Among them was our electrical/avionics/cockpit/human factors engineer Paul Novacek (see WILDFIRE TEAM). Paul has spent long days and nights on his own in Mojave, above and beyond the normal crew work days, to insure that every system was operating perfectly and that every possible safety feature was installed to insure the pilot's safety. Paul also found the time to obtain the majority of the sponsors listed above as well as the personnel needed to maintain our website.


What small item did Howard Hughes and his mechanic, Glenn Odekirk, invent for the Howard Hughes H-1 Racer that would revolutionize the aircraft industry?

More to follow…….

. . .