North American EagleTM
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Friday was spent breaking down base camp. The WRS Cover-All shelter was taken down, frames disassembled, and all support equipment and tools were packed into trailer #2 for the trip back to Washington state the next day.
Per Wimmer was popular, so several team members had their pictures taken with him. Finally, with everything packed into the two trailers, the team is ready to head for town for the evening and home the next morning.
Three angles of the trailers and trucks ready to head out the next day. And finally, Ed’s summary of the week’s test session.
Black Rock Desert, July 5-11, 2009
The two NAETM trucks left Spanaway Airport about 10 PM Friday night, with Tom Pengelley driving NO.1 and Geno Sanfilipo and John Drury driving NO.2. The trip went pretty well with the exception of a flat tire on trailer NO.2 along the way. They pulled in to Bruno’s in Gerlach Saturday late afternoon. The rest of the team members traveled in pickup trucks, cars and commercial airlines, arriving late Saturday or during the day Sunday.
Sunday was partially wasted trying to find a good area on the Black Rock Desert to set up and find a track that was useable. After checking out various areas on the North end of the lakebed, we finally searched farther South and found some useable territory between the 3 mile and the 9 mile. We began setting up on Sunday afternoon, laying the base plates for the shelter and unloading some of the equipment. On Monday, with nearly all team members finally on site, we were able to get busy with the task of setting up the shelter and unloading the NAE. One small problem surfaced. Two law enforcement agents with the BLM arrived and noted to me that we were in violation of our BLM permit as we were not set up in the location we had described in our permit. I explained to them that I had called the BLM office to get approval to relocate to an alternate site, but there was no one at the BLM phone number so I left a message. My normal contact at BLM was on vacation and could not be contacted either. After some negotiating and a phone call to the Black Rock Regional Director, we were let off the hook and continued to set up camp.
We were able to find a reasonably good stretch of desert, but it needed much work, so we used the trucks with their trailers attached to drive the length of the track, side by side, to pack the surface. After several trips up and back then dragging the track with a 20 foot beam, we felt we had a good 3.5 miles we could use for a run.
Tuesday, we fueled the NAETM, loaded the parachutes and lined up the Eagle for a test run. We did have a hold for a few minutes when we discovered a solder connection had failed at the intercom plug base inside the electronics bay. The connection was repaired and we continued with engine startup. I accelerated the Eagle at 90 percent to get it rolling. I took it up to 100 percent from the 1/4 mile to the 1 mile then backed off to 90 percent. The track was much rougher than expected, but we were able to get a run to the 3.5 mile. No parachute was required and stopping was through speed brakes and magnetic brakes.
Wednesday, we were fueled up from the evening before, the parachutes were packed and the Eagle was ready for an early run. This time we had the high speed parachute ready for a test. The track we used the day before was determined to be too rough so we moved over about 50 yards and used a roadway that had been packed down from traffic that paralleled the track we used before. I began this run a little more aggressively in an attempt to get early speed, throttling to 100 percent early. At about the one mile was a really soft spot that threw the Eagle off track to the left. I gave it full right stick but with the limited steering radius, it wasn’t coming back on track as quickly as I desired so I kicked in some right rudder. This action engaged the right magnetic brake and with steering and right brake, the Eagle came back onto the track and I continued on. At the 3 mile I fired off the high speed parachute. It deployed as planned and worked perfectly.
Thursday, the work plan was to get a faster run down the track and test our ability to conduct a full turnaround and make a second pass within the required one hour two way pass. In our previous test runs we discovered we had no 115 volt power when disconnected from the start cart. That meant we had no afterburner ignition or other devices that require 115 volts. We then discovered we also had no 220 Volts either so when the start cart is unplugged, we lose our electric boost pumps which limits our ability to make power. It was discovered that a wiring mistake was made back in the hangar at home that came back to haunt us.
Because we had no real length of track on the two previous runs, we searched the lakebed and found 4.25 miles of good track at the 14 mile on the North East end of the lakebed. It took the team about one hour to tow the Eagle to the test track and we got started about 10 AM. After all the pre-run workup, we made the first of the two runs from North to South. I went to 100 percent from the 1 3/4 mile to the 3 mile but without afterburner and limited fuel delivery, the Eagle couldn’t get past 350 MPH. The rolling resistance was pretty high at BR, as the vehicle sinks in quite deeply and takes power to overcome the resistance. The team immediately got to work with the business of a turn around, reload the chutes and prepare for the second run. We were able to make the second run to completion in 40 minutes.
After the last run, we put Vicki Cruse in the cockpit and did familiarization startup. Vicki was on the short list for driving the Fossett car and has volunteered to drive the NAETM for a female land speed record for a Guinness World Record. Vicki is also the 2007 World Aerobatic Champion. After towing back to camp, another one hour drag, we put Per Wimmer in the cockpit to conduct an engine startup. Per has expressed interest in either sponsoring or investing the NAETM project, with the potential of becoming the co-driver.
Some of the things we tested were our Intel Solid State Drive installed in a Lenovo laptop to see if they would survive the heat and vibration inside the Eagle. They did that to perfection. We even taped one to the parachute can and blew it off on one of the runs. After searching for it in the desert for more than an hour, we installed it in the laptop and it booted up with no problem at all. Pretty tough, huh? We tested our Tropos Ethernet transmission towers and were able to capture data from the test runs onto the base station in the command post with no loss of data on all test runs. We also tested the accuracy of the TopCon GPS system and it worked perfectly with finite measurements of speed throughout the full range of speeds. One of the other items that needed to be tested and filmed was the high speed parachute designed and built by Thomas Aerospace. It deployed perfectly and blossomed straight and true. It performed with perfection.
On Friday, we broke camp and packed. We were off the lakebed by 4 PM and had a very well deserved dinner at Bruno’s. Some team members left on Friday but most departed Saturday morning and made the long haul back home, arriving late Saturday. The trucks rolled in to Spanaway Airport Sunday morning at 2 AM.
During the week, we hosted writers and photographers from Popular Science Magazine, National Geographic Adventure Magazine and FalconJet Magazine. Visitors included Sally Crossfield and a few BLM agents. Two fellows from the railroad stopped by and one gave me a key to the locomotive and he swears it will work. Mark Moore, Dave Stevenson and a friend flew in with a Bonanza and another friend, Dorn, flew all the way down from Friday Harbor. Our long time fuel sponsor, Steve Small (Small and Sons) came down and Robin Sipe (S&S Turbine Services) sent Al Von Hollen down from Ft. St. John BC to monitor the health of the engine. Rex Ridnoure of Ecliptic Enterprises (on board cameras) spent several days with us.
All in all, it was a pretty good test session. The one thing missing was the high speed run but we will reschedule that for a few months down the line; probably in October.