Murdo Cameron, a former airline pilot and composites enthusiast, may have found a way to make the extreme sport of hydroplane racing faster and more thrilling. The owner of Cameron Aircrafts is working with North Idaho College’s (NIC) Aerospace Composite Technician program to develop a new manufacturing process for the racing boats, using CFRP to create a strong, lightweight, cost-effective hull.
Typical replicas of classic hydroplane boats are made up of roughly 6,000 pieces. But Cameron’s replica of the Miss Spokane, a vintage unlimited hydroplane that ran from the late 1950s to the early 1960s, uses a hull made in two pieces. “If you damage a piece – which you do with these boats all the time – you can go back to the mold and recreate that piece and then bond it back into the boat,” Cameron explains.
Today’s vintage hydroplanes are generally featured in demonstrations rather than true races, scaled back to a mild 130 to 140 mph – rather than achievable speeds closer to 200 mph – in order to reduce the chances for damage. Cameron saw a way to combine his passion for vintage boats with the speed of today’s unlimited hydroplanes, the fastest boats in the world.
Now, Cameron is sharing his passion with local students. The former flight instructor serves on the board of NIC’s composites program, which seeks to build skilled trade workers. This boat project provides a unique learning opportunity. Cameron quips, “Teaching composites is a lot like teaching people to fly: it’s a hands-on business.”
In this case, those extra hands are helping create all graphite, high-temperature molds capable of producing high-temp epoxy pieces for hydroplanes. One mold forms the bottom and sides of the boat, while a second mold creates the top deck.