Lockheed-Martin Helps TSM Land
"The World's Smallest Jet"
By Ivor Dawson

Van Nuys, CA

James Bond has one and so does Coors Beer. Coors call theirs “The Silver Bullet.” Its been called ‘the microjet,' ‘the mini-jet’ and even the “James Bond Jet.” With a fuselage that's only thirteen feet long, the Guinness Book of World Records calls the BD-5J “The World's Smallest Jet.” Now, thanks to an initial grant from the Lockheed-Martin Foundation, the Traveling Space Museum has one to demonstrate to kids across America.

Last year, TSM began bringing real and full-scale replica aircraft to neighborhood schools. In June 2005, we brought a real F-5B jet trainer to Longfellow Elementary School in Riverside Ca. In February 2006, we brought the AV-8 replica from the movie “True Lies ” to the NEW Academy Elementary School in Canoga Park Ca. (See February story) Large aircraft are great for kids but they can be expensive and even dangerous to transport -- especially over long distances. Now TSM will have the right size plane to demonstrate to kids starting as soon as October 2006.

Though kids are drawn to BD-5Js at air shows and museums across the country, only a handful have ever had the chance sit inside the sleek little jet. We are looking to increase that number substantially. We expect more than 10,000 school children to have the chance to ‘touch and discover’ our jet by the end of our first year. Some kids will even get to fly it as a simulator

A ton of work still needs to be done for us to reach our target date of October.TSM did not get a completed plane. It came in a kit with hundreds of parts and pages of blueprints. Putting it together will not be easy or cheap. To cover labor costs, we are looking for additional corporate sponsors to plaster their logos all over the jet –just like a NASCAR racer. If you or your company would like to be a sponsor, please contact: ivor@travelingspacemuseum.org. The long hours spent assembling the jet brings back memories of my childhood racing heroes: Jimmy Clark, Dan Gurney and A. J. Foyt. These guys basically lived in their garages with their creations. While most owners have built their planes to fly, our mini jet will never get off the ground.

With about 300 hours into the project, Gary Velligan, TSM Road Manager and project leader will need about 300 more hours to complete the job of putting everything together. Lucky for us, Gary is an accomplished fabricator in his own right and loves the project. Watching him work is like watching a kid in a candy store. Serving as Lead Consultant is a renowned BD-5J owner and enthusiast, Tom Smalley. Tom’s experience and his generosity with his specialty tools and materials are invaluable and makes Gary's job of final assembly a smooth operation. Also consulting is John Lewis, a former Air Force pilot, BD-5 owner and a former Avjet corporate pilot.

TSM’s jet will not be built to fly. The jets propulsion system will be replaced with a turbine engine simulation that will demonstrate to students how jet engines work. The jet will eventually be our newest full-motion flight simulator in which kids will be able to slide the canopy back, climb in and work a variety of real controls. The joystick will control the hydraulic or pneumatic motion as well as operate the ailerons and flight control surfaces. Kids will also interact with a real instrument panel gauges and position lights and even the landing gear! A rotating engine and sound effects will be added to give a loud and vibrating sensation in the cockpit. The completed project will be the ultimate thrill ride ever!

Not to be confused with the BD-5, which is a propeller driven plane, the BD-5J is a true jet aircraft capable of reaching speeds of 350 mph. The BD-5J’s bullet shape owes much of its design to the first supersonic jet – the X-1.  Jim Bede, who designed the BD-5, created several versions of BD aircraft including the BD-10 - a two-seat jet that was flown by TSM protégé Katrina Mumaw back in 1993 when she was only 10. (See May 2006 story on Katrina Mumaw).

Much of the BD-5J’s mystic comes from the fact that the jet was featured in the 1983 James Bond thriller “Octopussy.” When the storyline called for Bond to fly a mini jet through an empty airplane hangar, the stunt pilot performed the feat in one take. Adding to the difficulty of the stunt, the BD-5J had to escape the hangar just as the rear doors were closing –in effect threading the eye of a giant needle, as it were.  The producers were so enamored with the BD-5J that they pictured one right in the center of the official movie poster. Its’ place in history assured! 

TSM hopes to create a whole new set of adventures for the famous little jet that will add to its’ prestige. We are thinking of calling our jet “Traveler.” If you can think of a better name then please let me know!

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Thousands of hours have already been spent completing many sub assemblies.
This is how the project looked like after Gary's first 50 hours. ‘Bondo’, fairings and paint will smooth over rivets once everything is assembled.