Model: T Mk.20
Wing Span: 38' 5"
Length: 35' 6"
Max Speed: 500 mph
Gross Weight: 12,500 lbs
Power Plant: Pratt & Whitney R-4360
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
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
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
Frank Sanders taxiing out for the first
flight of "Dreadnought"
August 6, 1983, Chino, CA.