A Tragic Loss May Someday Be Brought Back To Flight Status
It was one of the most aggressive efforts to energize American air racing... an one of its greatest tragedies... Tsunami, the first original homebuilt unlimited racer built since 1939, was designed for speed record attempts and air racing until its loss on September 25th, 1991. Tsunami crashed while on final approach to Pierre Municipal Airport in Pierre, South Dakota killing pilot John R. Sandberg, due to a mechanical control failure that resulted in an irrecoverable flight condition.
According to the NTSB report, "The accident airplane was being ferried back to Minneapolis, Minnesota, after participating in air races at Reno, Nevada. Pierre was to be an intermediate stop on the flight. It was one of a flight of two aircraft along with a Mitsubishi MU2 chase plane. En-route from Casper, WY, it was noted there was an approximate 25 knot difference between indicated airspeeds of the two aircraft, with the Tsunami indicator reading lower. As the airplane approached the airport, it was observed by several witnesses to suddenly roll rapidly to the left, go inverted, and then pitch toward the ground. One witness also stated the plane 'turned slightly to the right before diving into the hillside.' Another witness stated, 'it looked like he was able to roll the wings level but was unable to pull out of the dive. The wing flaps were observed by the witnesses to be in the down position during the approach.'
The loss was stunning... both in terms of an amazing pilot as well as the effort of dozens of people who were trying to breathe new life into the ultra-competitive world of unlimited air racing. Now, though, there is a movement afoot to bring back Tsunami from the scrap heap and race her once again. After many years in a trailer in Princeton, MN; Tsunami was removed and damages were assessed. A group of volunteers is staffing this amazing effort and it is hoped that Tsunami will not only fly again but someday take wing to capture the glories it was designed for, from the start.
Copyright 2010, Aero-News Network, Inc., All Rights Reserved.