AirVenture Whatsit?

It was this head-on view that first captured our attention in Homebuilt Camping. Thinking we might be looking at a 7/8 scale Navion we had to go take a look.

You're forgiven if you thought Homebuilt Camping at AirVenture was an RV fly-in. The Van Grunsven aluminum squad so out numbers all other designs that anything different--other than a Thorp T-18--really stands out.

Designed before streamlined landing gear were the rage, the TJ's legs retract (gear doors are a future improvement). And we'll admit we'd been sleeping on an air mattress for a week, but the cowling vaguely reminds us of a round-engined Grumman iron.

So it was when late in the AirVenture week we couldn't help but notice this unusual shape while hiking back to our tent. Turns out it's an Allied TJ, another post-war boom commercial failure, but one living on with John Rau of Liberty, Kansas. He's slowly continuing to develop this example patterned off of one built by T. J. Balindine, who passed away some months ago.

If you see Culver lineage in the TJ's lines you're not far off; the principles involved were from Culver, including chief test pilot Harry Ragland.

A forward sliding canopy is another novel feature of the TJ. A 4-seat airplane, we don't think we're up to the gymnastics required to ingress and egress the rear seats.

John's example we're looking at here is one of just a handful of TJ's ever built, which he characterizes as a non-kit, no-plans airplane at this point. It's a 4-seater originally designed for a C-145 engine, but carrying an IO-360 Continental now.  It weighs about 1620 lb empty, cruises at 150 mph at 9.5 gph at 7500 ft and lands at 58 mph.

John has 133 hours on the airframe, which he says flies normally and, "doesn't do anything stupid." He compares it to a Mooney M20C, although it out-climbs the Mooney. There was a spar issue with the first TJ's, but this one has been beefed up to the tune of 150 lb additional weight, so strength shouldn't be a worry any more.

A multi-spar design, the TJ's wing looks simply designed for ease of manufacturing. John admits he's yet to land the bird with full flaps.

Currently John is, "just working through the issues." Engine cooling during the 120 mph climb is one of those, as one look at the unusual cowling and inboard air inlet might suggest. So far John has added a few exit lips, which have helped. There are no cowl flaps.

Originally designed with flush cowling exits, John found adding reverse scoops definitely helped cool the IO-360 Continental.

As John zeros in on the functional parameters he's anticipating getting the plane painted and keeping it for personal transport. There's no thought of kitting the design, and most of the original TJ effort has ended up in a Wichita, Kansas museum in case you're interested in seeing more.

Tom Wilson

Tom Wilson is a professional magazine writer and nurtures an ongoing affair with all things internal combustion. His writing is most often found in automotive magazines, but aviation is his first love. Working as a line boy, he learned to fly while in high school, but still hasn't mastered the art of keeping a paper chart in an open cockpit.

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