In this update: Axle swap out; Equipment checks; Topcon data collection;

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Today Keith Zanghi, Patricia Wood, Von Armstrong, Zac Hopkins, Steve Wallace, Jason Mitchell, and Marty Jackson came prepared to work toward our upcoming engine test.

John Winchester

Some of the team were introduced to our former parachute expert, John Winchester for the first time. John brought some books and cotton webbing for Keith and was prompted to have his picture taken.  John was a parachute rigger in the US Army.  During his career, he packed thousands of parachutes and spent endless hours behind a sewing machine, keeping them in shape.  When Ed Drumheller II passed away it was John who took his place.  Ed introduced us to John back in 2005.  We are still using the equipment that John Winchester built for the North American Eagle®.


Von Armstrong and Zac Hopkins put the race axle on mobile dollies

Zac Hopkins aligns the rear axle

Keith Zanghi moves a jack into position

Zac Hopkins and Patricia Wood prepare the axle for removal

Patricia Wood rolls the massive axle out of the way

Zac, Von, Keith, and Patricia went to work swapping axles on the car…off came the racing axle and on came the narrow loading axle.  It’s really a bit more involved than it sounds but that task was completed in a short time…making ready for loading into the trailer.

Global Navigation Satellite System Antenna links up with 18 GPS and 8 Russian Satellites

The two GNSS Antennae work through the Lenovo ThinkPad

Steve sets up the Topcon GNSS antenna

Steve Wallace came by the hangar for some preliminary work in setting up instrumentation data for the engine test session.  The Topcon Positioning System records an extremely accurate position location and velocity. The system is directly tied to the instrumentation on the Eagle.  With PCB Piezotronics accelerometers, load cells, strain gauges, and pressure sensors, we can tell exactly what is happening with the car at any speed.  It is so accurate that over a 12-mile distance, we can determine the above parameters every 0.020 of an inch (about six sheets of looseleaf paper). After gathering some needed data, Steve loaded the equipment and headed out for a suitable rural area for more tests.

Patricia moving the bridge crane

Jason, Marty, Zac, and Patricia checked out the overhead internal bridge crane operation in the trailer.  They also fired up the onboard generator and declared the car ready to be loaded.

Our Favorite Photo of Ed Shadle with Bob Gilliland


Photo courtesy of Robert Gilliland

This week one of the pilots of 56-0763, Bob Gilliland passed away.  He was Lockheed’s SR-71 Chief Test Pilot;  one day in June 2006 he ventured out to El Mirage lake bed and spent the day with us.  He told us about a photo (see below) that was sent to us by Tony Landis.  Mr Gilliland told us he was flying the SR-71 that day and was Drag Racing the F-104A  SN56-0763 (The Eagle).  The Blackbird was a classified project and we’re sure drag racing is a top-secret flight test performed by all test pilots.  The SR-71 in the photo was SN 64-17950. Unfortunately, this aircraft was destroyed on January 10, 1967 when it burned during an anti-skid braking systems test.  The main landing gear tires caught fire, soon spreading to the magnesium wheels.  Before you knew it the entire aircraft was in flames. Fortunately, the Lockheed test pilot Art Peterson survived.

This week, we thought that the week back in 2006 was pretty special.  Here are some more photos of Ed from our test session in June 2006.

Bob Gilliland and Ed Shadle, El Mirage CA

The tiny F-104A SN 56-0763 is right behind the tail of the SR-71 64-17950

Piloted by Bob Gilliland that day

Ed Shadle June 2006


Ed Shadle talking to Bill Eckberg and Von Armstrong

This Week’s Cover Photo Copyright © 2006 by Michael Darcy

Used with permission.

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Ordinary people doing extraordinary things!


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Land of the Free…Home of the Brave