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NAE™ Project:
Project Overview

Copyright © 1998 - 2004  Edward J. Shadle and Keith Zanghi

The purpose of the North American Eagle™ Land Speed Program, is to test the capability of a land based vehicle to safely transition through supersonic speed. The byproducts of this challenge have the potential to impact high-speed rail, ground effects of high-speed aircraft in the landing configuration as well as deceleration methods utilized by high-speed vehicles. The fuels and lubricants utilized during the project are also significant. Materials used for the construction of the vehicle, and most importantly, the wheels, are critical to the project's success. All phases of this project are continually measured against a risk factor. Above all, breaking a land speed record must not result in unacceptable risk to the driver, crew or spectators.

The following is an overview of the project, some observations and experiences encountered during the development and testing stages.


Support surrounding a project of this nature is vital to the lifeblood of this project. Without the supporting cast of individuals willing to give of their personal time, energy and financial impact, I don’t believe the project would survive. Many members of our team have given up weekends, burned their vacation time from their employment and taken time away from their families in order to keep the project flowing. From time to time a crew member will take a hiatus from the project to refocus on the family or the job; something we all should do in order to keep life in balance.

Revenue is one of the greatest obstacles we continue to struggle with. Although we have been able to develop this project though services and products donated or loaned to us, we have to be creative in coming up with money to support this project. We have designed T-shirts, hats, pins and jackets to sell. The volume, or lack of it, impacts the profit one can make. The Thrust SSC Team sold a very high volume and paid for about 30% of their project through memorabilia sales. We have a series of Auto Shows available to us which pays well enough to provide the basic necessities. Of course a revenue sponsor is the key to success, as we all know, from watching the success of Richard Noble with the Castrol sponsorship and Craig Breedlove with the Shell Oil sponsorship.

Skills required in a project team are difficult to measure. If you have volunteers that can work hard but have few skills, the limitations are obvious. We have been fortunate to gather a team with a wide variety of talent and education. We have specialists in bearing engineering and airframe mechanics from Boeing, a jet engine specialist from Fort St. John, B.C. and the owner of a high tech machine shop in Abbottsford, Canada. Some members have backgrounds in racing or flying. We even have two young men, still in high school, who pump fuel, sweep floors, and clean the windshield. Overall, to have a well balanced team with administrative skills, technical skills and scientific skills is absolutely necessary. If you can manage all those people, put egos aside and keep focused on the mission of breaking the land speed record, then you might stand a chance.

Commitment to a project of this nature is not to be taken lightly. It is almost an obsession with most land speed racers. With very little money and an equal amount of notoriety, you must ask yourself from time to time, why would I want to continue? I can understand the obsession on the part of the driver, who of course gets all the glory, but the rest of the crew? It must be the personal satisfaction of knowing you did your part to create a vehicle that challenges the extremes of speed.


Permits are required to run a vehicle at the Bonneville Salt Flats and the Black Rock Desert. They can be obtained through the Bureau of Land Management. This process sounds easy, until you start filling out the information forms on environmental impact. Attending various meetings to clear through the red tape and gain approval of the request is also necessary. For the two month permit to run the vehicle at the Black Rock, we will be required to post a $30,000.00 (USD)bond plus have $10,000.00 (USD) in a checking account which is to be utilized by the BLM for any expenses they may incur from our stay on the desert while attempting the record.

Authority for validation of the land speed record will be the Federation International de Automobile (FIA). They are the ultimate authority in validating a record. Of course, the expenses of bringing their inspectors to the United States from France and housing them even for a few days, can be very expensive.

Course safety, for both the crew and the spectators, will be of paramount importance. Support crews will need to F.O.D. the 13 miles (20.92 km) or more of dry mud lake bed, the run line will have to placed down the middle of the lake bed so as to be as far away from anyone as possible, monitors in vehicles on the ground and ultralights in the air will need to make sure no animals or people are on the course which will be communicated back to the command center in a coordinated manner.

Fuel transportation is always a problem. During our initial testing phases, jet fuel was provided by Small & Sons, a Unocal Distributor in Auburn, WA. The only exception would be if we decide to run the NAE™ on Liquid Propane Gas. In that case, we will have to transport our own LPG in containers and obtain the permits to do so. With a one-hour window between runs, refueling would be a problem so we would design the vehicle to carry enough fuel for both runs. However, at this point it does not appear to be an option we will be using unless circumstance warrant it.

Transportation of a vehicle that weighs 13,000 to 16,000 pounds & measures 48 feet in length without the nose cone presents problems transporting it around the countryside. With the NAE™ prototype we built a trailer to fit. The vehicle was 40 feet long and the trailer bed length was 41 feet. Our experience of designing a light weight trailer proved to be flawed. Traveling over some highways in North America was like driving through a minefield. A great deal of damage was done to the trailer and some damage occured to the prototype vehicle. The diesel tractor also was under powered and made traveling long distances seem even longer. The NAE™ is 12 feet longer . The NAE™ team has aquired a semi-trailer to transport the vehicle. We will also be pulling it with a full size diesel tractor with adequate power to travel over mountain passes at more than 60 mph, thanks to the donation of the Volvo tractor from the Lev-X® corp.

Shelter for the vehicle will be a temporary one, which will be set up to protect the vehicle and crew from the dust and hot sun that can bake you quickly out there. Setting the shelter up is a major undertaking. The comforts of home are provided by motorhomes parked on site. Other items, such as a power generator to run any tools or computers will have to be on site as well.

Insurance is required for transporting and running the vehicle on Government property. The cost of insurance is a major financial drain. In order to display a vehicle at an auto show for a week costs over $500.00 (USD). Insurance on the truck and trailer normally costs over $9,000.00 (USD) per year.

Website communications is probably the best media we have developed to help our project expand and gain support from sources outside our local community. Seven years ago we created a site which we named landspeed.com. Keith Zanghi originally began this site, but Jon Higley stepped in with his expertise and further developed the site to what it is today. This communication outlet provides constant updates about the progress of the project, provides information about our sponsors as well as background information about our individual team members and supporters. Higley also provides educational material about land speed racing and links to other racing teams. We have included links to our charitable causes, such as Race Against Drugs®, Greyhound Adoption and several others. During the height of the high-speed runs by Noble’s ThrustSSC team in 1997, our site received over 50,000 hits per day. When we begin our own attempts at the record, we expect to see much more than that.


Media attention is something any project of this magnitude seeks in order to gain attention about our program, benefit its sponsors, as well as gaining more followers who support it. Unfortunately, it also takes attention away from the tasks which the crew must perform while conducting any tests or actual runs. It will be imperative that someone be in charge of dealing with the media who also understands the value of media attention. This position on the team is being filled by Jon Higley; Chief Information Officer and webmaster. Obtaining film footage of work efforts and test runs can be difficult to orchestrate, not to mention expensive. If an outside contractor or film company does the work, it is usually of better quality than trying to capture it all with a camcorder. However, we recently finalized an agreement with Puget Sound Video to have their video production department take on this task.

Events at which to demonstrate the star quality of such a vehicle are reasonably easy to get invited to. Most events will pay a display fee, plus expenses. Much of our revenue to continue with the project has been derived from auto shows. We have displayed the North American Eagle™ at the Javitts Center, New York, Washington Convention Center, Washington DC, The Meadowlands, New Jersey and the Sky Dome, Toronto, Canada. On the West Coast we have displayed the vehicle at the Texaco Cup, Unlimited Hydroplane Races in Seattle and some local air shows like Arlington, WA and the Museum of Flight's "Speed Week" event. We have learned from our experiences at these events that a vehicle like our is a tremendous draw. The organizers of the New York International Auto Show told us the appearance of the vehicle at their show increased the attendance by an estimated 300,000 over the previous years 1,000,000 attendance. The team shook hands with all 1,300,000 people over the 10 days of the show. Shows are hard, grueling work!

Television is certainly the best way to get exposure for the vehicle and your sponsors. When we were invited to start the jet car on the nation wide program of "Live with Regis and Kathy Lee", we had no sponsor and no show performances booked. As a result of that television performance we were invited to perform at many events and shows. During the New York Show we performed for FUJI Television, Japan before a viewing audience of over 14.3 million viewers. We have been featured on local programs as well as the Discovery Channel. The highlight of our TV appearances was the day we took Jay Leno for a ride in the back seat of the North American Eagle™ (we had a back seat in the prototype vehicle). The scene was used in a skit on the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno". Another performance was a commercial for the SONY Corporation to be shown on Japanese television. Our latest television exposure was a Discovery Canada one hour special about our project's achievement at getting our first test run done on the Megabuilders series titled "World's Fastest Wheels".

We will film any future test runs and recording the development of the next phase of this project for educational purposes. The FBI Race Against Drugs® and the National Child Safety Council will be using this project in their drug awareness program. With their support of our program, we hope to have a positive influence on the youth of America and set a record, or two, along the way.

Driver Safety

Driver comforts are few. The driver is protected with halon 1211 for fire protection. The seat belts are 3" wide with 5-point attachment. The fire suit is Nomex, 7 layers thick and of course the gloves, boots and helmet must meet current safety standards for the racing industry. In the past, most drivers were provided with an air or oxygen supply. We currently have not installed the air supply system to the driver. We haven’t detected a loss of cabin pressure during our runs, so we haven’t felt it necessary at this point in time. Of course, modifications are what this whole process of testing are about.

Instrumentation is minimal. We have the engine temperature gauges, fuel pressure and oil pressure, air speed indicator and mach meter. There is little else to look at and we think the driver should be looking outside anyway. A racing radio is required and the ground crew handles all of the other communications. Simple and basic.

Our ground crew is supplied with fire extinguishing equipment. Thanks to our sponsors at Western Fire & Safety, we have a 150 gallon pressurized tank with flame retardant foam for hosing down the vehicle should it ever be necessary.

The most important safety factor we build into this project is orientation of the ground crew in all aspects of a high speed run. We also are using a driver with skill, experience, and physical conditioning to handle the extremes of such an event.

The new North American Eagle™ is the next phase. We are using the fuselage of a Lockheed F-104A-10 Starfighter (Tail # 56-0763) as our basic platform. The J-79 was utilized in the Starfighter so we have few modifications to deal with. We will be running the LM-1500, which produces about 18,500 lbs. of thrust. S&S Turbines of Ft. St. John B.C. is providing the engine and any engineering changes necessary. They have zirconium plated the fuel nozzles and other internal components to better manage the heat exchange within the engine. This coating produces about 13% more power for the jet engine.

What are the Expected Results?

First, we believe that America needs something to be proud of at this particular juncture, along with a hero or two. When the British or any other country can transport their vehicle to the United States, utilize US resources and take the record and research information back to England without so much as a "bye your leave", there is something dreadfully wrong. The North American Eagle™ team will be attempting to bring the record back to the USA and share data with North American industry.

Second, few people on this earth have ventured into the realm of such high speeds on the surface of this earth. Researchers today may not be able to explain what phenomenon occurs as a vehicle transitions past the speed of sound and what happens beyond that speed, but that's because man has not been able to go there, until now. We want to know and we want to share that information. Many questions beg to be answered about this issue. What bearings can handle the weight loading and revolutions per minute in these high-speeds? Can the aluminum wheels withstand the tremendous centrifugal force? What about the shock wave and acoustical absorption of it into the earth's surface? Can we keep this beast controlled and stopped safely? To the average individual, these issues may not seem worth bothering to learn about, however, most people had a difficult time envisioning the benefits from the space race program of NASA in the '60s they're now taking for granted; microwave ovens, VCR and DVD players, cellular phones, and the computer you're using to read this page, to name a few. The knowledge gained can have more far reaching impact than would appear at first. This has usually been the case with research that seems initially frivilous.

A quote I read on the Thrust web site puts this into perspective for us,


It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out where the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood. At best, he knows the triumph of high achievement; if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat. - Theodore Roosevelt.

This North American Eagle™ team, headed by Edward J. Shadle and Keith Zanghi has a "Mount Everest" to climb. We have made it to base camp, we have our team organized, we understand the difficulties of the mission, but we are undaunted by the immensity of the mission. We expect to succeed!

If you'd like to send a donation to our project in support of our goal, then go here for more information.

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