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F-104 Starfighter to Be Used for Land Speed Record

Starfighter

December 9, 2010 — We bring you another story of EAAer ingenuity when it comes to speed records on land. Ed Shadle, EAA 662442, has been racing cars at the Bonneville Salt Flats since 1989 and holds a 275-mph record in the Lakester class. Now he is chasing a record in the Unlimited category and has enlisted the historic airframe of an F-104 fighter, which served as a chase plane in the halcyon days of flight test, in his quest.

Ed Shadle is a member of EAA Chapter 326 in Puyallup, Washington, and has lots of experience in land speed racing, having achieved record speeds in the Roadster class and two different Lakester classes. Ed has some experience turning airplanes into usable vehicles; he built his Beechcraft Skipper from two wrecked airframes and has been flying it for about 10 years. In 1998 a British team raced the Thrust SSC (SuperSonic Car) to 753 mph at Black Rock Desert, and that was all the motivation Ed needed to chase that record in his new car, the North American Eagle.

Instead of building a supersonic vehicle from scratch and dealing with all the required design needed for things like air inlets, Ed went with a surplus F-104A-10 Starfighter fuselage. The one he found (serial No. 56-0763) arrived at Edwards Air Force Base in 1957 and spent its time there as a chase plane for many key research projects, such as the X-15, XB-70, and SR-71. In addition, the car has extra karma since some of the “who’s who” of the time, including Scott Crossfield, Joe Engle, Pete Knight, Bob Gilliland, Bill Dana, and many more, flew the aircraft, according to Shadle.

The North American Eagle is 56 feet long, weighs 13,000 pounds, and features a General Electric LM 1500 turbojet engine that will produce 52,000 hp when it goes for the record. So far Ed’s team has conducted 30 test runs at various locations, including Toledo-Winlock Airport, El Mirage Dry Lake, Edwards AFB, and Black Rock Desert. The car will compete in the thrust-powered Unlimited class and has reached a top speed of 400 mph, with a new speed target of .85 Mach (590 mph). To break the record Shadle says they will make one run at 771 mph and a second at 800 mph. The North American Eagle team is aiming make its first attempt at the record in early fall 2011.

You can find more about the North American Eagle here.

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