Stu Eberhardt - Merlins Magic
story / photos by Curtis Fowles
Stu Eberhardt Retires from Air Racing
The Eberhardt's made this announcement many months ago, but I was holding out for a come back.
Since 1988, Stu Eberhardt has raced in 67 Unlimited Races, all with his #22 Merlins Magic. His first year was probably a bit disappointing as he did not make the field. He ran at 324 mph, but placed 33rd. Next year Eberhardt upped his qual speed to 356 and qualified 25th, good enough for the show. He ended up placing 3rd in the Bronze on Sunday.
He came back next year, and next, and next ... missing only 3 years since 1988. In two of those three missed years his son Bill piloted Merlin's Magic. Speed jumped up in 2000. Stu placed 2nd in the Unlimited Heat 2B at 421 mph, but failed to finish in the Sunday Gold Final pulling out in lap 7. In 2002 Bill qualified at 434 mph and finished 5th in the Gold Final at 412. In 2004 Bill qualified at 423 starting 10th.
Except for the above mentioned years, the speeds for Merlin's Magic have been in the upper 300s. Not stock but not full race. Those speeds usually good enough to be solidly in Silver, sometimes in the Bronze and Stu or Bill has raced #22 in the Gold Final several times.
Stu's son Bill, has been racing #22 since 1998 sharing flying duties with his father. In 2002 and 2005 Stu did not race and Bill did all the flying. Jim Eberhardt, Stu's other son flies the T-6 #30 "Archimedes" that has raced in the T-6 class since 1998 and has not missed a year.
In the first row of Unlimiteds from the west, the spot closest to the hot ramp was for #22 Merlin's Magic. You would find an umbrella or two blocking the sun off the nose of their P-51D. He, his family and crew are always friendly to visitors in the pits.
Stu could be seen at Hollister many times with Merlin's Magic and a few times in his F-86. One time I remember well when Stu came in during the afternoon at CVH when the winds blow down 24 at 18-20 kts. Stu put the F-86 down on 31 with a big crosswind and it looked like not big deal.
Stu, Marilyn, Bill and Jim Eberhardt have given us race fans many great moments to remember. Truly a class act in air racing and aviation professionalism.
So ... an end of an era in Unlimited Air Racing is playing out.