[Headline: Jon Sharp: Aircraft designer and retired air racing pilot]
JS: How did you get involved with model aviation?
Jon: I started when I was 8 or 9 years old. For Christmas I got a Cox PT-22 “explode” Control Line airplane. I called it “explode” because every time it would touch the ground, all the rubber-banded parts—the wing etc.—would explode off the plane.
After many Control Line models, I wanted to go into RC. I bought an Echo single-channel transmitter and receiver and dove in. I began to learn about aerodynamics. The engine had to be put in so the plane would climb under power, and yet fly straight ahead. Climbs were controlled by pulsing the rudder to keep it sorta level.
There was a lot to learn, but the learning was priceless. From there I went through reed control then finally got a three-channel proportional unit. That made everything a lot easier to fly.
I began to modify the RC planes. I had started to design and build my own planes, with mixed results. Everything I did looked like a racer, so along came RC racing.
JS: How has model aviation impacted your life and/or career?
Jon: From Control Line to RC flying, modeling is the pathmaker that led to designing and building racing planes. Modeling also led to my career with Lockheed.
JS: What disciplines of modeling do you currently participate in?
Jon: I fly electric and gas RC from micro up to 85-inch wingspan gassers. We are working on a large-scale F1 Nemesis that should be a lot of fun! It’s just like designing and building a Reno race plane—a little smaller, but not much.
My wife, Patricia, also flies electric and gas airplanes, and she has five or six quadcopters. I am beginning to wander back into RC Pylon Racing and I’m hoping for a birthday present or two to get into the warbird racing. Sounds familiar, moving on to bigger, better, and faster!
JS: What are your other hobbies?
Jon: In addition to RC, Patricia and I live on a golf course in Oro Valley, Arizona, so we play a lot of golf and are avid target shooters.
JS: Who (or what) has influenced you most?
Jon: There are several most influential people. Foremost is my wife, Patricia. Without her, I would not be alive today. She gave me a kidney in 2007. We do everything together. We built and flew the Nemesis and NemesisNXT together.
Also, George Applebay, who designed and created the Zuni 15-meter racing sailplane, hired me at his sailplane shop to build fiberglass sailplanes because I was a modeler. I was the third employee. That was my first exposure to composites, and it has carried me a long way.
There’s Larry Longmire, who was my flight instructor and aviation mentor throughout my air racing endeavors.
Steve Hill has been our race team crew chief since day one. Steve and I met building sailplanes at George’s shop. Although we no longer build full-scale planes, Steve, Patricia, and I still build stuff together.
Jack Wells was our engine guy on the F1 Nemesis. Jack was a mad scientist. His house and shop were always full of race plane engine parts. He worked thousands of hours making our little race motor be the best ever built.
My dad and mom supported me and encouraged me all along the way—even through the years of smelling Ambroid in my bedroom—and bought me that first PT-22.
Last, but not least, is Kevin Luttge. Kevin is a designer at Lockheed Skunk Works, and was key in the entire NemesisNXT program.
Without these people, Nemesis, NemesisNXT, and my aviation adventures would have never happened. To these people I am eternally grateful.
JS: Looking back at your air racing career, what are you most proud of?
Jon: There are many, including our team’s first championship win at the Reno Air Races in 1982 with the Cassutt racer, the first win in Reno with the F1 Nemesis in 1991, and nine consecutive years of Reno Gold Championships that followed. It was the first time [that] a newly designed-and-built racer won a championship in its first time out. The total number of wins is 47 out of 50 races.
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum called to have the little world beater become a part of its museum. It is hard to explain the magnitude of that honor.
The entire NXT project is important to me. The championship wins began in 2006 with the NXT. It was the first kit-built sport plane to break the 400 mph barrier in qualifying and in races. That was cool! Holding the record for the most Reno Gold Championship wins of 15 is the best![dingbat]