Tsunami Racer

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Tsunami Racer
Tsunami Attempts To Break The 3k World Speed Record.jpg
Role Racing aircraft
National origin United States
Designer Bruce Boland
John R. Sandberg
Pete Law
Ray Poe
First flight August 17, 1986
Primary users John R. Sandberg
Steve Hinton
Skip Holm
Produced 1986
Number built 1
Unit cost
$1million +

Tsunami was an experimental purpose-built racing aircraft designed and built in the United States during the 1980s. After a short undistinguished career Tsunami crashed, killing its designer, John Sandberg, on 25 September 1991.

Design and development[edit]

After 6 long years of building the aircraft was first flown 17 August 1986 by test pilot Steve Hinton, was designed specifically to break the 3 km world speed record for propeller driven aircraft by a private pilot and to compete in the Unlimited class at the Reno Air Races.[1][2][3][4] The aircraft was designed by Bruce Boland an aerospace engineer employed by Lockheed Martin, John R. Sandberg owner of JRS Enterprises Inc, that rebuilt Allison, Rolls Royce, Merlin aircraft engines along with Lockheed engineer Pete Law and builder Ray Poe. Tsunami, powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, was designed and built by John R. Sandberg and the JRS Enterprise Inc. team, exceeded 500 mph (430 kn; 800 km/h).[1]

Originally, it was designed as a light-weight racer with a single-staged supercharged Rolls-Royce Merlin. However, as speed increased in the Unlimited Racing Class, a higher powered two-stage supercharged Rolls-Royce Merlin was installed. An attempt was made in August 1989 to break the 3 km (1.9 mi) world speed record at Wendover Utah with a private pilot at the controls. Due to a landing gear collapse the aircraft was unable to beat the existing record.[1]

Operational history[edit]

Despite being very fast, in its racing career from 1986 to 1991 it only won one Unlimited Gold Race, in Sherman Texas in 1990.


The program ended in 1991 when the owner John Sandberg lost his life while ferrying the aircraft home. The NTSB report states that the airspeed indicator was off and a mechanical failure in the flap system, causing the aircraft to roll on final approach into Pierre, SD on 25 September 1991.[5][6][7]

Specifications (Tsunami Racer)[edit]

Data from [8]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 28 ft 6 in (8.69 m)
  • Wingspan: 27 ft 6 in (8.38 m)
  • Airfoil: NACA 63-212 modified
  • Empty weight: 5,100 lb (2,313 kg)
  • Gross weight: 7,000 lb (3,175 kg)
  • Fuel capacity: 110 US gal (92 imp gal; 420 l)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin race modified V-12, 3,000 hp (2,200 kW)



  1. ^ a b c "The Tsunami Project - Home". rebuildtsunami.org. Retrieved 30 September 2017. 
  2. ^ Tegler, John (August 1980). "New Unlimited Racer Under Construction". Air Classics. 16. 
  3. ^ Wallace, Lane (December 2009). "Tsunami Rises Again?". Flying Magazine. 
  4. ^ Patton, Tom. "Rebuilding A Legacy". Aero Tv. Retrieved 5 May 2011. 
  5. ^ Cox, Jack (May 1983). "Tsunami". Sport Aviation. 
  6. ^ Cox, Jack (December 1986). "Tsunami". Sport Aviation. 
  7. ^ Hoffman, Carl (August 2004). "Wingtip TO Wingtip At 450 mph 30 Feet Above The Ground Sideways". Popular Science. 
  8. ^ "Tsunami". The Tsunami Project. Retrieved 30 September 2017. 

External links[edit]