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We did have to come up with a unique method of interfacing the bearings to the aluminium wheels. The FEA conducted by our team physicist indicated that the growth at 800mph of a 3in (76.2mm) diameter centre hole would be about 0.017in (0.432mm). That meant that a pressed-in bearing race would loosen and probably destroy the wheel. We therefore had to build a 4340 steel insert into the aluminium wheel and encase the bearing race into the steel. Using SKF 15 degree angular contact bearings with Kluber grease, we were set to go. We’ve now run the wheels up to 400mph and feel confident that our next testing at 600mph will prove that we are safe beyond 800mph. ‘We recently made a couple

of changes to the front wheel. First we took it to Victor Aviation and had it cryo-treated. We then installed double sets of bearings in the nose wheel for added insurance that they will stay intact at roughly 12,000rpm.’

SLOWING DOWN The choice of an F-104 allowed the team to utilise the existing air brakes mounted on each side of the waist of the fuselage, which were designed to take the forces at speeds up to Mach 1.8. The wheel brakes, however,

are an intriguing part of the development. Shadle elucidated: ‘Using LEV X technology, we built magnet packs that slide on rods out to within 1/8in (3.2mm) of the rotating brake discs. Using permanent magnet technology, we can generate 1550 braking horsepower off each rear wheel when the magnet packs are activated, yet no braking resistance exists when the brakes are retracted to rest. There are 27 neodymium iron boron magnets in each brake pack. The 28th pocket takes an infrared temperature sensor to monitor brake disc temperature. The discs themselves are made from 1.5in (38mm) thick forged aluminium and cooled with pressurised water sprayed onto them while engaged. ‘The parachutes are hand

made from nylon and Kevlar. They are pressure packed into a deployment bag that is stuffed

General Electric J-79 Turbojet engine is produces 18,780lb of static thrust

into two stainless steel ‘chute cans. A button on the instrument panel picks a relay that pulls a solenoid to release the door on the ‘chute cans. As that door opens, it picks a micro switch that fires an air charge and blows the deployment bag into the air stream behind the vehicle. As all 15ft (45.7m) of multi-strand

and lubrication systems and afterburner in our hangar. Our engine volunteers, Bill Eckberg, Sean Rondesvedt and Cam Shadle, got it all together for successful testing by S&S Turbine Services in Fort St John, British Columbia. Robin Sipe and Al Vanholan [at S&S] are two of the best GE J-79 engine experts

“We can generate 1550 braking horsepower off each rear wheel”

plasma riser line plays out to full length, the bag strips off the ‘chute and allows it to stretch out. The pilot ‘chute that assists the deployment stays attached to the deployment bag via a tag line. As the ‘chute reaches full stretch, the reefing line retainers begin to separate and the ‘chute is allowed to blossom. As the high-speed ‘chutes are only 8.3ft (2530mm) diameter, the forces on the riser line remain within the 51,000lb (227kN) strength of that line. We’ve tested the ‘chutes to 400mph with superb results. We also tested the magnetic brake system with no support from the speed brakes or parachutes and they also worked perfectly.’

ENGINE As if to illustrate that projects such as these aren’t all plain sailing (no pun intended) Shadle related the tale of early engine running: ‘We started off with a surplus General Electric J-79- 11B engine. We assembled the gearboxes, ignitors, fuel

in the world. After the tests were completed, we installed the engine in the airframe.

‘Our initial engine runs in the North American Eagle proved to be a bit of a disaster as we discovered an afterburner feedback cable had a pinch in the housing that caused the turbine blades to overheat and the engine spat out the blades. So we upgraded the hot section and solved the feedback cable problem. Since then we have run the engine many times with no bad results. In 2010, S&S sent us a new afterburner section and the engine now puts out a static 18,780lb of thrust.’ And demonstrating that land speed record racing is no different to any other branch of motorsport when it comes to retaining competitive advantage, Shadle remarked, ‘We do have a few other tricks up the sleeve, but won’t divulge those at this time...’ North American Eagle has also

created its own data acquisition system. Strategically located

sensors include strain gauges, accelerometers and other sensors, including air pressure. 75 input channels sample at a rate of 3.5 million Hz into a system that captures the data and inputs that to a Lenovo computer with an Intel solid state drive, water cooled to deal with the desert and operational heat. There is also an onboard uninterruptible power supply to keep the system functioning when the engine is shut down after a run. ‘Steve Wallace, our data acquisition engineer, also built a network of antennas using a wireless Ethernet system so that all data from the 12-mile run can be transmitted to a base station. For positioning information, we use a Tropos GNS (Global Navigation System) that pinpoints our position within 0.20in (5mm) up to 1000mph. The North American Eagle team began testing in 2005 and, since then, has carried out nine test sessions and completed 31 runs at various venues, including Black Rock Desert, Nevada, where Thrust SSC set the current record. Shadle describes the project as ‘close to being finished’, saying, ‘We want to conduct one more test session to validate our CFD, steering and rate of acceleration and deceleration, then we can set a firm date for our attempt at the record.’ If the team can secure the necessary funding, that could be as soon as autumn 2012.


North American Eagle (

Length: 56ft (17.07m) Weight: 13,700lb / 6227kg dry

Chassis: 1957 Lockheed F104A-10 Starfighter fuselage with NAE designed suspension and systems

Engine: GE LM-1500 turbojet developed by S&S Turbine Services Ltd

Thrust: 18,780lb (83,742N)

Wheels: solid forged aluminium by Eagle Machine Co

Braking: Lockheed air brakes; Drumheller Engineering parachutes; magnetic wheel brakes

January 2012 • 21

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