What’s That Semi-Tractor Doing on an Airport Runway?

About 375 miles per hour and it’s the world’s fastest jet truck. Not only is this 3 ton truck doing 375 miles per hour but it’s shooting out a 30 foot wall of flame, generating enough smoke to believe a small nuclear device has detonated and creating the kind of overwhelming, chest thumping noise that makes your knees wobble. This particular semi-tractor is the jet powered Shockwave, holder of the Guinness Book World Speed Record for Semi Trucks at 376 MPH.

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Shockwave is a Peterbuilt semi-tractor powered by three turbojet engines that has been entertaining crowds at air shows, truck shows and drag racing tracks across the U.S for over 30 years. The Shockwave was the brainchild of the aptly named Les Shockley who built the truck in 1984 and drove it at events before passing it on to his son Kent. Since then the Shockwave has been acquired by another father/son team Neal and Chris Darnell who added the crowd pleasing afterburners that juiced up the ride to its Guinness Book of World Records performance and spew flames out the back and up the exhaust stacks. It is a visual experience not to be missed!

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Unleashing 36,000 Horsepower

If you spend enough time on the interstate you are bound to spot an older Peterbuilt lugging a trailer but it is highly unlikely that you will see one blasting down the road powered by three Pratt & Whitney J34-48 jet engines. These turbojets, rated at 12,000 hp each, formerly powered the Navy’s T-2 Buckeye jet trainers. In aviation parlance, the J34-48 was rated at 3,000 pounds of thrust (4,200 on afterburner).

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Converting pounds of thrust to horsepower is pretty tricky but it gets easier when you have a known thrust (12,600) pushing a known weight (6,000 lb. truck) a known distance (say a ¼ mile) in a known time (7.2 seconds). The actual formula is far more complicated
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