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Sanders Aeronautics' Hawker Sea Fury T Mk.20 "Dreadnought"


 

Home Base: Ione, CA
Model: T Mk.20
Wing Span:
38' 5"
Length: 35' 6"
Height: 17' 1"
Max Speed: 500 mph
Gross Weight: 12,500 lbs
Power Plant: Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major
Horsepower: 4,000+

The ultimate Hawker Sea Fury racer is, without a doubt, the Sanders "Dreadnought", brainchild of Frank Sanders and his family, long time owners of Sea Furys. The concept for Dreadnought came about when Frank Sanders began contemplating mating the big and rugged Sea Fury airframe with America's biggest production piston-engine power plant: the Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major.

 

One Second on the Course with Dreadnought

This Hawker Sea Fury T Mk.20 was delivered in 1957 as VZ368 and transferred to the Burmese Air Force as UB-451. Frank Sanders obtained the fairly complete airframe from Burma and had the aircraft stored in its wooden shipping crate at the family's Chino, California, hangar during 1979. The two-seater was an ideal candidate for Sanders' project, so the Centaurus engine was removed, the airframe thoroughly cleaned and stripped, and a search begun for missing components while Sanders began tackling the engineering needed for the conversion. There was no doubt that the big Sea Fury could handle the R-4360, but problems such as a new cowling, motor mount, propeller, and new internal systems all had to be solved. By the end of its development life, the R-4360 was developing well over 4,000 horsepower, and in the early 1980s complete engines were available, along with a strong parts supply. With the help of sons Dennis and Brian and wife Ruth, work on the new racing aircraft began to proceed rapidly. Sanders also subcontracted some of the work to the vast aviation talent pool at Chino.

Sanders put lots of detail work into his new racer, some of which is not readily visible at first glance. For example, the rather clunky two-seat canopy arrangement was subtly refined to produce a unit that created much less drag than the normal canopies. As usual, the British air-brake system was dispensed with in favor of much more efficient American equipment, including brakes from an F-102. The completed aircraft made its first flight from Chino, CA on August 6, 1983, and few problems were encountered. However, it soon became apparent that a larger vertical stabilizer and rudder were needed to handle the increased power and larger propeller, so the vertical surfaces were suitably enlarged. The two-seat, dual-control configuration was retained (unique for an all-out Unlimited), but Sanders wanted the aircraft to be useful as a possible high-speed test bed. Typical of British nautical terminology, the aircraft was christened "Dreadnought".

Dreadnought (NX20SF) created a sensation when it arrived on the ramp at Reno 1983 as race number 8. Finished in a sparkling Royal Air Force scheme of silver and red, Dreadnought was one of 32 Unlimited aircraft set to qualify that year. In the cockpit was General Dynamics executive Neil Anderson, an ex-Marine Corps fighter pilot and test pilot for the F-16. However, Anderson was regarded as a rookie because he had never raced in an Unlimited event. Anderson took Dreadnought out on the 9.187-mile course and hit 446.392 miles per hour, making him the fastest qualifier. Anderson did not hold back in Sunday's Gold race and went on to win the championship in Dreadnought's first outing at 425.242 miles per hour.

Long time race fans call Dreadnought ‘The Buick’; it’s about as reliable as a Buick, but a lot faster. Over the years, Dreadnought has been a regular Unlimited participant at the National Championship Air Races at Reno, Nevada, "the world's fastest motor sport" and has enjoyed its share of success. At Reno 1995, Dennis Sanders qualified the racer at 434.667 miles per hour, which put the plane in fifth place. At Reno 2006, Matt Jackson flew "Dreadnought" to a second place finish in the Unlimited Class Gold Race Sunday afternoon with a speed of 453.559 mph.

First Flight of the Dreadnought - Video

Photo Gallery


Frank Sanders taxiing out for the first flight of "Dreadnought"
August 6, 1983, Chino, CA.

 

 
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