"Lacking the millions required to design and build a car from the ground up capable of breaking Mach 1, Ed Shadle and Keith Zanghi - co-owners of the car - decided to use a proven design. That is when they started looking for an F-104. It took one year to find a surplus aircraft. It turns out the vehicle was rescued in the nick of time, as it was only six months away from ending up in an aluminum scrap yard. When over 40 years' worth of paint was removed, they found the original serial numbers: 60-763. Investigation of the serial number showed that the old bird had spent its entire career at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., as a chase plane for the X-15 project. In addition, some famous test pilots such as Chuck Yeager, Scott Crossfield, Joe Engle, Pete Knight and Bill Dana had flown it. One day, the team hopes to have a reunion when high-speed test runs begin in the Nevada desert.
The North American Eagle team is comprised mostly of Boeing workers. Russ Garlow, an investigator for the Airline Concerns team in Everett, Wash., created the eye-catching graphic design for the "Eagle." Bill Eckberg, a 777 flight line mechanic, is the team's engine expert. Having done his training at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, working on F-4s, Eckberg is in charge of the horsepower department. Cam Shadle, 777 lead mechanic, is the son of Ed Shadle, who is chief mechanic on a 240 miles per hour Bonneville Lakester. Jon Higley maintains the team's website, is the Chief Information Officer to the public and will be the Crew Lead when test runs and record runs take place. Others on the team include Steve Wallace, Data Aquisition Scientist, Ed Drumheller II, Deceleration Specialist, Sean Rondestvedt, jet engine mechanic, Bernard McVay, Welding Specialist, and many others who voluntarily support the project through their area of expertise.
This weekend / summer avocation for Jon began in the summer of 1995 after reading a local newspaper article about a team who was looking for volunteers. Having been an aircraft mechanic from his Air Force days out of high school, Jon caught what is known amongst land speed racers as "the bug", and has been hooked ever since. Jon said this project has been quite a journey. "You never know where the path is going to take you," he said. Jon enjoys being the NAE Classroom's "teacher" on the web site, where anyone can write him an email question about the sport and get an answer. "This is the type of thing that catches the interest of kids and adults alike and provides an opportunity for them to learn how different disciplines of study apply to a project of this magnitude," he said.
From the halls of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to the cockpit of the SR-71, the project has afforded the team members many memorable experiences that have expanded their personal and business skills. Shadle and Zanghi have given a one-hour presentation, "Challenging the World Land Speed Record," many times, including at three American Chemical Society national conventions, The Meadowlands, and the SkyDome in Toronto. In addition, the project has given the team exposure on national television programs and networks including LIVE! With Regis & Kathie Lee, and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and National Geographic's The Human Edge. Most recently, it has been featured on The Discovery Canada's Megabuilders series called World's Fastest Wheels, an hour long documentary about the project's progress. Last winter, the team conducted systems integration of the electrical, fuel and hydraulics system, with low-speed runs (under 350 miles per hour) that began last December and were successfully completed in March. Last October, the team conducted more low speed test runs at Rogers Dry Lake bed's Space Shuttle landing strip with magnetic brakes. It's hoped that mid-speed test runs will occur this spring or summer. barring any unforseen delays. Full-speed record runs nearing 800 miles per hour will hopefully take place the following year. Jon said, "The Brits have held the land speed record for 21 years now. It's about time the Americans took the title back, and we hope to do it."