The current speed record of 763 mph was set by a vehicle driven by Andy Green, a British pilot, in 1997. It was the first time a vehicle on the ground had broken the speed of sound, which is around 750 mph.
Unmanned, rocket-propelled sleds on rails have reached far higher speeds, however. In April, Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico claimed a speed record for rail vehicles of about 6,400 mph.
TESTS: below on airbase in film above in desert
by Senior Airman Jet Fabara 95th Air Base Wing
11/4/2005 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFPN) -- It looks like a plane, sounds like a plane and even goes as fast as a plane, but it never leaves the ground. What is it? It's the North American Eagle, a land vehicle attempting to bring the world land speed record back to the United States.
In preparation for this feat, the NAE team tested their 52,000 horsepower, F-104-based vehicle here Oct. 24 through 27.
The current land speed record, held by the British since 1983, is 763 mph. The NAE team hopes to break that record by reaching 800 mph, said Ed Shadle, owner, driver and co-builder of the jet-propelled vehicle.
"Originally, this vehicle was an F-104 A-model that was built at Lockheed in Los Angeles and delivered to Edwards on Aug. 29, 1957," Mr. Shadle said. "It spent its entire life at Edwards, was used as a chase aircraft on the X-15, XB-70, SR-71 and flown by significant test pilots in its time, such as retired Maj. Gen. Joe Engle, Scott Crossfield, the late Sen. Pete Knight, Bill Dana and retired Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager."
The aircraft-to-vehicle renovation started about eight years ago and it was in pretty rough shape when the NAE team acquired it, Mr. Shadle said.
Tech. Sgt. John Zambrano, an NAE land speed vehicle engine mechanic from the 62nd Maintenance Squadron at McChord Air Force Base, Wash., said the chance to work with this land speed vehicle was an opportunity he couldn't miss.
"I've been on the team for more than a year," Sergeant Zambrano said. "I found out about it through an e-mail on base. A co-worker and I jumped on the opportunity to volunteer. Once we got more involved with the project, it was so interesting that we both decided to stay on the team."
During the four-day test, the team conducted midspeed test runs not exceeding 400 mph and mainly measured significant technological equipment, such as the magnetic braking system and speed brakes, which were indigenous to the F-104. They tested the steering and other handling characteristics and gathered data so they could assess whether the vehicle was getting too much lift, Mr. Shadle said.
"Overall, the speed brakes worked perfectly and the magnetic braking system exceeded our requirements," Mr. Shadle said. "We were especially concerned with the aluminum brake rotors exceeding their heat limits, but that did not occur, and they were actually much cooler than we expected. During the test run, the NAE ran smooth and straight with little steering input."
Sergeant Zambrano and others on the team said the goal of bringing that record back to the U.S. is something that keeps them focused.
"It's outstanding to be able to use my Air Force training on jet engines like the one the NAE has and bring the world land speed record back to North America," Sergeant Zambrano said.
The team's other purpose while here was to test various functions on the NAE in conditions similar to what they will encounter at the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, where the team plans to achieve the land speed record.
"I think this was really significant bringing (the vehicle) back home to Edwards," Mr. Shadle said. "We're excited about the work that's being put into the vehicle as we build up to making speed runs at the Black Rock Desert and eventually accomplishing the ultimate goal by fall 2006."
About the Car:
Length - 56 feet (17.07 m)
Weight - 13,000 lbs. (5,896.70 kg)
Engine - General Electric LM - 1500 Turbojet supplied by S&S Turbine Services, Ltd., Ft. St. John, BC.
Thrust - Stock Engine for low speed testing: 42,500 hp (31,692,245.75 joules/s)
- Specially Enhanced Engine for record: 52,000 hp (52,721.22 hp/metric)
Fuel Consumption - Stock engine
• Idle = 40 gallons / minute (151.42 L/m)
• 100 % military = 80 gallons / minute (302.83 L/m)*
• Full AB = 90 gallons / minute (340.69 L/m)*
Chassis - F-104A-10 Starfighter with North American Eagle™ design suspension
and systems integration.
Fuselage Design - Kelly Johnson, Lockheed Skunkworks, serial number 56-0763.
System Integration Design - Ed Shadle, Keith Zanghi, Steve Wallace
Wheels - Solid Billet Aluminum, manufactured by Eagle Machine & Steve Green.
Parachute Systems: Drumheller Engineering