Today in History – August 14, 1979 – Steve Hinton’s “Red Baron” sets speed record

14 August 1979 – 14 August 1979: Air racer Steve Hinton set a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) speed record for piston engine, propeller-driven airplanes when he flew his highly-modified North American Aviation P-51 Mustang, Red Baron, to an average 803.138 kilometers per hour (499.047 miles per hour) over a 3-kilometer course at Tonapah, Nevada.¹

Red Baron, an Unlimited Class RB51. (Octane 130)

Steve Hinton’s Mustang was a Dallas, Texas-built North American Aviation P-51D-25-NT, serial number 44-84961. His company, Fighter Rebuilders, modified the airplane for racing. The most noticeable change is the substitution of the standard Packard V-1650-7 Merlin V-12 engine and its four-bladed propeller with a larger, more powerful, 2,239.33-cubic-inch-displacement (36.695 liter) liquid-cooled, supercharged Rolls-Royce Griffon 57 single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine and dual, three-bladed, counter-rotating propellers from an Avro Shackleton bomber. A revised engine cowling gave Red Baron an appearance similar to the Allison-powered XP-51.

Steve Hinton

Red Baron crashed 16 September 1979 when an oil pump failure caused the propeller blades to move to flat pitch, dramatically increasing aerodynamic drag. Hinton suffered serious injuries but survived. (10

¹ FAI Record File Number 8438

For a video of “The Red Baron” on its world record flight, click here. Great video of some old planes!

Source: (1) thisdayinaviation by Bryan Swope. c. 8/14/220

For more about Steve Hinton go to his website: Steve Hinton Bio (

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