The world of warbird maintenance, restoration, parts supply, and overhaul is, without a doubt, a small one. In an industry where the loss of a relatively small-scale supplier is mourned by warbird operators around the world, the addition of a new contributor to our shared efforts to keep these historic birds flying is welcome news indeed. Even better for the long-term viability of preservation efforts is when a new business comes from the next generation. Enter Cory Miller and Strix Aero of New Richmond, Wisconsin. Vintage Aviation News Publisher Moreno Aguiari interviewed Cory Miller, founder, President, and Powertrain Engineer at Strix Aero to get all of the details.
Miller says that he and his team have taken seven years to prepare their new business: a fully licensed overhaul shop for Allison V-1710 engines, with a deep parts stock to match. Though often superseded by Rolls-Royce and Packard Merlin installations, the Allison, a liquid-cooled V-12 producing up to 1,500 horsepower, forms a critical part of many of the historic aircraft we cherish; most famously, it powers the Bell P-39 Airacobra, Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, Lockheed P-38 Lightning, variants of the North American P-51 Mustang, and the North American F-82 Twin Mustang. “It’s a more difficult engine [to overhaul] for many reasons, with many parts being hard to get or need optimizing,” Cory says.
Miller started Strix Aero in 2017 to consult on aviation engine design. He grew up in Bemidji, Minnesota, earning a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Minnesota, and subsequently spent seven years at Harley-Davidson and three years at EPS, a startup developing a type-certificated aviation diesel engine. Back in Bemidji, he had gotten involved with AirCorps Aviation, known for its award-winning warbird restorations, consulting on engine integration issues. Through AirCorps, Miller met Pat Harker of C&P Aviation, who were restoring a North American P-82E Twin Mustang, powered by two of the highest-powered Allison V-1710s ever made. “I started doing consulting work for AirCorps and Pat, and then one thing led to another and I took over Pat’s engine program to deliver the [Allison V-1710-G6] engines for the P-82,” Miller says. He continued: “We agreed on this plan for the engine overhaul business, starting with Allisons … we agreed that there’s great and increasing demand for engine component redesign and another engine overhaul company in this space. So, we have been working full-time to build the base for that business … we officially launched last year, a soft launch at Oshkosh. We’re nearing our FAA certification to deliver approved Limited category aircraft with our 8110-3 approvals.”
Strix Aero’s goals for their Allison engine business extend beyond overhauls; “in our belief, [the Allison] is superior [to the Merlin] in many ways,” Miller says. They hope to use their extensive cache of Allison publications and drawings to expand the serviceability of the Allison engine and eventually restore its reputation, to some extent. Last spring, Strix Aero, in collaboration with C&P Aviation, bought out Ace Allisons, whose expertise and parts catalog will assist the new Strix Aero overhauls business. Miller says that their goals for 2024 include the delivery of their first contracts for Allison overhauls. “Our mission is to initially demonstrate the forgotten or unrealized potential of the Allison V-1710 engine,” Miller says. With his new overhaul operation backed by C&P Aviation, Cory Miller and Strix Aero may get their chance to do just that.