Reno Air Races-Worlds fastest otorsort! Air Rac
has their "silly season" and football its
pre-season, all filled with rumors flying around so
quickly that its sometimes hard to distinguish fact
from fiction. "Reno" is much the same at about
this time of year. Ill try my best to give the
facts, and only the facts, but we all know that rumors
spread quickly and sometimes take a life of their own. If
Im unsure of something, Ill definitely
say so. That said, lets get on with it shall
As I said in my last article, there has never been such a great potential for new aircraft to compete at this years event. Now Im not talking about your "stock" racers - quite the opposite. Imagine if you will, a group of highly trained and talented people that wish to build an aircraft for one purpose - to set the competition on its ears as well as set the straight line speed record for piston powered aircraft. Discounting "stock" airframes, they take on the challenge of building a custom racer. This is exactly what happened over 2 years ago when Reno racing veteran and world renowned pilot Darryl Greenamyer and the AmJet folks decided create one beast of an aircraft. And they went at it with a passion!
Marrying a Hawker Sea Fury wing (with the inner section cut down to about 6 feet) to a custom fuselage (designed using computational fluid dynamics computer programs) with tail surfaces off an F86 military jet was just the beginning . Add to that a race ready R4360 (the worlds largest ever piston aircraft powerplant), a prop from an Allison turbine engine, a spinner from a Lockheed C130 and a tailwheel that used to be another planes nose gear - and you have the correct formula for a Shock Wave, Darryls new mount that he hopes will take him to the gold.
Key players in this project, besides Darryl, include
Pete Law and Bruce Boland. Both of whom worked closely
with John Sandberg on Tsunami, and thoroughly
understand the complexity and difficulty of such a
project. To old die hard fans, Bruce Boland needs no
introduction: This structural engineer and aerodynamicist
has been in air racing since its beginnings. He has been
involved in just about every top unlimited gold aircraft,
including - Red Baron, Strega, Rare Bear,
Somthin Else, Jeannie, Dago Red, Super Corsair,
Conquest I, Miss Candace, Dreadnought, Mr. Awesome,
Georgia Mae and my personal favorites of all time, Tsunami
and the Pond Racer (and this is just a partial
The entire concept of this project is to put the lowest drag airframe behind the biggest and most powerful piston engine ever produced. According to this formula, the design of Shock Wave was conceived. Now brace yourselves race fans..... the massive Wright R-4360 has a stock rating of about 4,000 hp. In the hands of Greenamyer, whos noted for his talent at getting the most from an engine, it can be expected to put out measurably more. Top speeds could very well approach the 590 MPH range - this aircraft will boogie! Im getting goosebumps just thinking about it <g>.
But there have been setbacks and problems galore. As many of you know, Darryl was the man with the vision of resurrecting Kee Bird from the frozen tundra. The Kee Bird was a B-29 that had crashlanded on a lake and had been frozen in time. Shock Wave had to be put on the back burner for the Key Bird rescue effort. After spending 2 years and countless hours on this attempt (as well as over $500,000), he and his team were met with disaster, Key Bird was lost in a testing accident. Add to this setback the loss of key personnel (Bruce Boland and Rick Kriege to name but two), and its surprising that Shock Wave even exists.
But will it be ready for this years event? Darryl is not a person that gives up easily, that pretty much goes without saying. This seven-time Reno Gold champion and former holder of the worlds speed record for piston powered aircraft says that you can "count on him being back" at Reno with this radical design. All we can say for certain is that Greenamyer is in the final stages of completing the racer at his Ramona, Calif. Base. Who knows, maybe a super-human effort by his team could possibly have the aircraft ready for the race, but Ill be honest - it doesnt appear likely. However, you can guarantee that this birds gonna get off the ground soon.
Is it race time yet? Well, not quite but the Reno National Championship Air Races are less than 2 months away. If you havent gotten your hotel reservations yet, you should! As it happens every year, available rooms are usually sold out at about this time - so hurry up and "just do it!". (cancellations can be had right up to race weekend so don't give up!)
Next time, well talk a bit about what will be at Reno, what wont be there and have more fun discussing what might be ;-)
Cya in the pits,
(or maybe, at the pylons!)