Full Scale Tsunami History

Pictured above is Tsunami as it appeared in 1991 - only a few days before its demise.

As believed to be correct, this history is in no way documented or stated to be 100% correct. It is merely an interpretation from my information obtained through aviation books, magazines, and passed on information. Credits must go to those who have pulished articles on this magnificent aircraft, for they are the ones who put the hard work and effort into writing about Tsunami. I could name a few, but I think that it would be unfair to those whom I cannot recall the names of.

If you have more information on this unique aircraft or you may believe there is some misguided information in this text, please, don't hesitate to contact me. Email at: mike@luvaraairracing.com

Please note that this text is not completeand may contain inaccurate information.

Tsunami was a small idea in Bruce Boland's mind in the early 70's. Bruce, an aeronautical engineer who once worked for Lockheed, was the "brain behind the design. At first glance, it looks everything like a modified P-51 Mustang. Other than the crackling Merlin, spinner, tailwheel assembly, and motor mount, Tsunami is a homebuilt thoroughbred.
John Sandberg, a Minnesota businessman, had a dream to beat the world speed record in a piston powered aircraft. Once he learned of Boland's idea, he met with him in 1979' and decided to build the racer. In 1979-80' construction was started. A shop was rented in Southern California where construction of wing ribs began. After a few years, Tsunami stared to take shape. In 1986, with a reported $800,000 in capital (not including the $250,000 motor) the airframe was shipped to Steve Hinton's Fighter Rebuilder's shop in Chino, Ca. where final construction was completed.

Tsunami was about 68% homebuilt and designed all for speed. Reportedly, it was also stabler than a P-51 Mustang owing partly to a 63212 airfoil modified with a cambered leading edge and lifted trailing edge. It uses slpit flaps from a Yak 11, four T-28A paddle blades in a Mustang prop hub, and shaved down Learjet tires. The tailwheel was from as P-51H because it is lightwieght and the tire was a Grumman S2f tailwheel that was turned down in size.
(NOTES) 1986 (first flight, Reno)
1987 (gears collapse at Reno)
(repairs/rebuild- Magnesium added to tail, c.g. corrected, wing moved 2% or 9 inches aft)
1988 (pretty good year)
1989 (speed record attempt)
In 1991, Tsunami was repainted before the Reno Air Races sporting a highly visible color scheme. Painted red with light blue wing tips, an artistic tidal wave was painted on the tail. This year was one of Tsunami's most uneventful set of races. Technical problems were very small. What would happen after was the tragic loss of both Tsunami and John Sandberg. The aircraft went faster than it had ever gone before. Rumors of Tsunami being unofficially clocked during qualifying for a 500 mph lap on the race course were being heard. It was unfortunate that this was never verified. Tsunami put on some of the best races that it had ever done- reaching official lap speeds in excess of 490 mph. the Gold Race in 1991 saw Rare Bear, Strega, and Tsunami battling it out for the lead. While Strega and Tsumami were only 1 second apart in the Gold Race with Rare Bear just barely ahead of them all the aircraft were firewalled. The finish was Rare Bear, Strega, and then Tsunami. This was the first race ever in which the top three race speeds exceeded the top qualifier.
With Tsunami finally settled out in flying characteristics, John Sandberg had ideas to refine Tsunami's wing design. (The only thing that I know is that he wanted to add sweep to it.) Unfortunately, that was never to be so. The aircraft was lost on September 25th, 1991 in Pierre, South Dakota. John Sandberg was flying the aircraft home after the air races. On a refueling stop in South Dakota, he lowered the flaps on final approach and one flap failed- leaving the aircraft in a highly unstable flight position. According to the chase plane behind John, the aircraft supposedly made a roll and recovered very low to the ground. Approximately one mile from the airport, Tsunami pitched up violently and snapped into the ground killing John Sandberg. This ended the legacy of Tsunami. 

Last revised on 11/13/96 @ 11:45 am
Original document started on 8/8/96