About Tom Reilly

Tom Reilly has been in the warbird restoration business now for 41+ years  after a chance first flight in a P-51 Mustang in Kissimmee in 1971. He got his start when a friend wanted to sell some North American Yale Training aircraft in Canada.  He ended up buying 13 of them and restored five to flying condition.  The next big project was a derelict B-25 in Caldwell, NJ.  This aircraft was used as the camera ship for the film “Battle of Britain”, and then was abandoned for years.  He bought the aircraft from all of the lien holders at the airport and, against all odds and nay sayers, got it to flyable condition.  The B-25 started a love affair that Tom developed for bomber-type aircraft.

His big break came when he met Harry Doan from Daytona Beach, who graciously allowed Tom to fly his B-25 (after Tom restored it) to obtain his type rating.  His next big break came when he got a call from Bob Collings to do a pre-buy and purchase on a B-25 in Washington state.  This developed into a wonderful relationship where Tom restored not only the B-25, but the B-17 909 and the B-24 now named Witchcraft.  

Tom’s specialty is taking on jobs that most other restorers say ‘can’t be done’.  This was surely the case with the B-24 and the most recent rebuild, the B-17 for Don Brooks named Liberty Belle.  

In the 41+ years of being in the business, Tom has performed 34 major restorations which included ten B-25s, three B-17s, one B-24, one F4U Corsair, a P-40 and nine T-6 (SNJ) aircraft.  For 30+ years, Tom was located in the Orlando/Kissimmee area.  Kissimmee was a P-61 and P-70 (A-20 night fighter) training base during WWII.  In 2004, after Hurricane Charlie destroyed his restoration shop and museum, he moved to Douglas, GA, to work part-time for Don Brooks restoring his P-40E.  In August of 2009, the P-40E was airborne and, in October 2010, a complete restoration of Mr. Brooks’ incredibly stock condition PT-17 Stearman was completed.  It had sat idle in a hangar in Atlanta and had not flown for almost 40 years.  The plane was restored and has the same markings of the 1940s flight training base aircraft here in Douglas.

The latest project that Tom has found is the North American Aviation XP-82 Twin Mustang prototype.  This aircraft is only one of two that still exist in civilian hands and is being restored in Douglas.  

Tom has provided many artifacts from his Flying Tigers Museum to the WWII Flight Training Museum in Douglas, GA.  

Tom always remembers and thanks the many people that have contributed to his phenomenal success and international reputation as a restorationist.


  1. Dear Tom,

    I'm from Brazil and I will be on vacation at Orlando in early January. Is it possible to visit you to see the restoration of your Twin-Mustang?

    My current e-mail: junhaomunhoz@terra.com.br

    Best regards,

    Dorival Munhoz Jr.
    Curitiba - Brazil

  2. Hi Tom, nice project, I'd like to be there...
    Best Regards from Germany and Poland

    My current e-mail: FockeWulf190D8@gmail.com

  3. Hey Tom, don't know if you remember me but my name is Alan Carter and my father use to work for you back in the 80's. I use to go to work with him on the weekends and summers and got to help with the restorations of the Collings aircraft. I just wanted to let you know that you were one of the most influential people in my life (next to my grandfather). After years of putting off my dream, I finally received my A&P Certificate! Now I am working on getting my pilots license and would like to one day follow in your footsteps and start restoring aircraft for myself.
    My family and I are looking forward to moving to Georgia (Savannah) and would come out to Douglas and visit with one of my childhood "heros and maybe volunteering some time.
    Anyways if you read this, I would like to hear from ya! My email address is; katavoot529@yahoo.com
    Thanks Tom!

  4. I was very interested to see the photos of the right and left turning merlins. I have a maybe dumb question: I think the opposite turning of the propellers is done through additional gearing on the output shaft of one of the engines, but the front housings of the two engines in the photos look very similar.
    Also I see that the firing order of the engines on the plates is identical, but wouldn't it be possible to reverse the rotation with a different firing order and ignition timing? I remember reading that the US army air force used P38s with opposite turning propellers but the British RAF thought this was an unnecessary complication, so had the planes delivered with engines of the same rotation. They suffered poorer performance as a result - was this also a final drive issue, although with a different engine? Thanks for enlightemning me. Best regards, Greg Hallewell (greg2008h@gmail.com)

    1. A very good question. The Merlin V-1650-25 left-hand turning engine reverse propeller direction mechanism is designed into the lower forward right-hand portion of the power section and nose cases. Virtually everything is different except for the heads, banks and blower section from the dash-23 right-hand turning motor. The Allison left-hand turner was just a simple change of a gear in the nose case to switch from right-hand turn to left-hand rotation. I have not researched the firing order to determine of why or why not it was different. I am sure that North American decided on the counter-rotating design to do away with the left-hand turning critical engine that all multi-engine American airplanes have with two right-hand turning engines.

  5. Looking forward to following this project closely. I was there at Harlingen and watched the only other flyable P-82 get wrecked.
    I noticed the -25 reverse rotation engine uses a .478-1 reduction while the -23 standard engine is .479-1. Why the difference?
    Thanks, Chris

    1. I think since it is such a close change, .478 - .479, it might be that they rounded it off to the nearest decimal and realized that it should have been one digit the other way. Just a guess. Thankx, Tom

    2. Is it not possible that the slight (!) difference is a way of not having the exact same rpm? To keep the vibrations from the two to oscillate and enhance through the whole aircraft?
      /Best regards, Johan Grimm, Sweden

  6. Hi Tom
    Working with Clive Edwards
    We met in Covington when you brought the ailerom for the DC3
    Clive has lost your contact details and has asked me to try to find you
    Please e mail me at
    Best regards

  7. Just wanted to say I read the newsletters with great anticipation. I have been dreaming of seeing an F-82 in the air for my entire life. I live in Ohio, and never saw the CAF one until it came to the Museum in Dayton...which is all I will say about that. Keep up the great work. I hope to visit the project at some point. I visit the two F-82's in Dayton several times a year. If there is ever anything you would like to reference from one of theirs I would happy to attempt to document it for you with help from the staff.

  8. Good morning Sir,
    i'm Alessandro Moro,from Italy,i'm asking for an help. I'm working on an F82E virtual version for the video game WAR THUNDER, but still have problem to gain the correct dimensions, like blueprints, of the Twin Mustang. I find only a pilot's manual by Aviation Publ.(Appleton Wisconsin).There isn't sufficient speed data or Graph about performance,only flight operation instruction charts.
    Can he help me to give to the F82E the right glory in-game with a correct Flight Model?
    I do that work for no money,only to see the US nation in game behaviour correc,than if it's needed money for this info sorry but i can't pay.Thank you for your time.(Sorry for my grammar).
    Alessandro Moro

  9. This is my email:

  10. Dear Tom:

    My name's Donald Nijboer. I'm an aviation author/writer here in Toronto. See all my titles on my website donaldnijboer.com. At present I'm working on a new cockpit book titled Fighting Cockpits - World War I to the Present. It will feature 50 cockpits with original photography by Dan Patterson. On of the cockpits will be the F-82. I'm trying to find someone who flew the F-82 to get their impressions of the cockpit. If you know someone who flew the F-82 I would be more than happy to interview them over the phone. I hope you can help I'm search.

    Kind regards,
    Donald Nijboer email dnijboer@rogers.com

  11. Thank you so much for this restoration project. I hope to see it fly. My grandfather flew as a Reconnaissance Photographer during Korean War. This is our fourth Christmas without him and seeing this update on facebook made me think of him this morning.

    In Memoriam of
    Philip Darbonne A1C, Korea

  12. Tom,

    I found your Blog this weekend and am enjoying all the posts and information on the restoration site. I didn't realize there was even one 82 flying much less another being restored.

    I would like to visit the first week of April if the invitation to stop at your hanger is still open. What hours are you operating there when it won't be a disruption to stop by?

    Tom Glass

  13. Tom,

    I don't seem to have your email address anymore, but here is a link to the short (10 minute) video from our B-25 flight on March 13, 2016. I can't say thank you enough. Hope to drive through Douglas this June will see you then.


    Thank you.
    Chuck Piwowarski

  14. Tom,
    My dad worked as an electrician on the B 25, then known as Chapter 11. He sends his best to you and your family. As a child I used to hang at Fairfield airport and watch the progress. He has photos he would like to email you.
    Thank you
    Mike and Joe Turriziani

  15. Thank you. Send me your e-mail address: weezieb@gmail.com. Thanks

  16. Hello, As a modeler looking for references about the F-82G, I stumbled upon this restoration... after viewing all the pictures it's amazing to see what you and your team have already achieved. I'll hope, one day she will fly again. It's a very nice project, and the level of dedication to this one is ...

    Would it be possible to provide some photo's of the cockpits? or aren't these completely restored yet? I'm asking this because I've found it very difficult to find some pictures about these cockpits or from the P-51H from which this one is derived.

    With kind regards, and hoping for a positive answer,
    Bart Goesaert

  17. Hi. Is it possible to fly down to Douglas to see your P82? Would love to come see it

    Charlie Schobel

  18. Sir; Congratulations on this fantastic project, but: No news since August; its almost November, please tell us whats going on; thank you very much !!!

  19. We are interested in having the XP-82 at our airshow in 2020. How do we contact you?

  20. Hi Tom--Congratulations on flying that beautiful XP-82. Dale D. Myers was Chief Project Engineer (or similar title) for NAA on that project. I used to work with him and after he retired, I had lunch with him a couple of times a year. He has told me about the airplane, and how few P-51 parts applied (he said about 3). I worked with him on Apollo and the Space Shuttle program. He later went to NASA and headed up all manned space flight for the nation. After he died, his daughters asked me to find info that connected him with the XP-82. I tried, but only found a couple of XP-82 reports signed by him. Do you have anything showing his connection? I would love to send anything you have to his daughters. My dream is to bring one or both daughters to your place and let them see that beauty. But if you have anything, please let me know. Thanks. chuck lowry

  21. Tom I know you get a lot of "you might remember me" check ins. I am one of them. We met in the 80s looking over an old Lockheed 12 at MCO that a gal wanted to restore for an Amelia Earhart project. Fast forward. I at the helm of AeroClub of America, which is destined to attract thousands into the industry to own managed shares of GA aircraft. We are considering sponsoring the recovery of a Douglas TBD Devastator from the Pacific so Pensacola can finally display one as there are none in the world. In doing so, I had an idea about building a flying replica to compliment the real one that will no doubt be a fragile display. If this is of interest, I want to talk to you first before we put the project out there for bid. Contact me at fractionalassets@gmail.com.

    Rick Matthews

  22. My name is George Cross, and in 1990 I went through your shop at Kissimmee. At that time you mentioned that you might start converting C-180,s to STOL aircraft, as it was hard to find people with deep pockets to rebuild warbirds. In August 1992 I saw a C-180, N7770K, with the word STOL Robertson, and it said conversion by Reily. It also had the Iditorod symbol on the tail. I took two pictures of the airplane while it was at Cortland NY airport. I suspect that you did the rebuild and it had just come out of the shop and was on its way home to Anchorage, AK.
    Did you do that rebuild?? It was a gorgeous looking aircraft!!.
    Yours, george c.

  23. I'm wondering if you will be bringing the XP-82 to the Reno air races this September? Beautiful plane,I watched a lot of video of your plane from oshkosh this week.

  24. Tom, I have been following the restoration of the XP-82 for some time. I will be doing a Okefenokee trip for 3 days at the end of the month. I would love to see the XP-82 when we are on our way home on Sunday, November 3rd. Is this possible? No more than 3-4 people, all aviation enthusiasts.

    Paul Ray

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