17th of August 1986
35 years ago on this date the Tsunami (a.ka. Tsunami Racer) made its first flight.
Tsunami was a specially built aircraft in the experimental category used for air racing. It took 6 years of design, development and building before the first flight was made on this day in aviation history by test pilot Steve Hinton. Test flights were numerous, about 50 to 60 test flights were made, this led to a new ruder design with a wider cord. during its career, the aircraft underwent countless (performance increasing) modifications. The design was aimed at breaking the world record for propellor driven aircraft over a 3 km track and to participate in the Reno Air Races as an entry in the Unlimited Class.
The initial design was a racing aircraft powered by a single-stage supercharged Rolls0royce Merlin engine. But as the Unlimited class aircraft got faster and faster Tsunami could not keep up. It received a new engine, still a Rolls Royce Merlin, but a higher-powered two-stage supercharged version.
In its racing career, the aircraft participated in air races between 1986 and 1991. The 1986 and 1987 Reno races led to a Did Not Finish due to cooling problems. But from 1988 results were better, in '88, '89, '90 and 91 the aircraft made it to the final race, the Sunday Unlimited Gold heat, each year. Never winning the top place on the podium in the Reno Air Race.
It did win the Unlimited Gold Race in Sherman, Texas (USA) in 1990. Also, an attempt to break the 3 km world speed record in 1989 failed to landing gear issues caused by a hard landing after a test flight, making extensive repairs to the aircraft necessary.
The program came to an abrupt end when the aircraft crashed on the 25th of September 1991 while on the approach to Pierre Regional Airport, South Dakota, USA. Killing the pilot. The NTSB investigation identified Airspeed Indicator issues and a mechanical failure in the flap system as the cause. Specifications of Tsunami
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)