Britain's world-class aircraft
industry needed to extend its engineering expertise by intensifying
apprentice training programmes. Within the great names of British
aviation was the Saunders-Roe Company who produced advanced aeroplanes
from their base at Cowes
on the Isle of Wight. There, the apprenticeship scheme was extended and
a residential centre was established in order to attract candidates from
residential nature of the training at Saunders-Roe engendered a
'college' culture, which, combined with the innovative spirit, which
prevailed at the time, created a very remarkable environment for
encouraging engineering achievement.
engineers dispersed all over the world and made a significant and
valuable contribution to aviation. Some of the names that were trained
at the Saunders-Roe Training College include former Chief Executive of
GKN Aerospace, Chris Gustar; and John Ackroyd, designer of Thrust
2, which secured the world's land speed record.
Company was absorbed into Westland Aircraft in 1965 as part of the
consolidation of the British helicopter group. If you are an
ex-apprentice of the Saunders-Roe scheme, see this website: www.saroapprentices.co.uk
Noble sold his TR6 car for cash to fund his self built, crude
THRUST1 jet car- the first pure jet car designed and built in England.
Thrust 1's first test run nearly killed him when the car rolled. His
wife, Sally, thought she had lost him forever. But Richard was surprised
that he did not panic and was determined to get on and build Thrust2 as
soon as possible. He then decided to place an advert: "Wanted 650
mph car designer".
advert found John Ackroyd and by 1978 they started building the car. In
1980 Thrust2 created 6 new British
records including the Flying Mile of 248.87 mph. Overcoming various
design, sponsor and location problems, Thrust2 eventually took the world
record averaging 633.468mph, with a peak speed of 650.88mph. This record
was held for 14 years, the second longest, for a land speed record, of
McGlashen has just announced his intention to go for the 900mph record. Currently
the fastest Australian,
with a record of 642mph with the Aussie Invader 2, McGlashen is
working a deal with SpaceDev, the same company that was integral in the
recently successful SpaceShipOne shot last June. This image is of his
concept car designed by
John "Ackers" Ackroyd of the Isle of Wight.
McGlashan is looking to drive the fastest car on Earth - strangely
enough, synthetic rubber and laughing gas could be the ticket.
After seeing X-Prize winner SpaceShipOne, McGlashan, "The fastest
Aussie on Earth," wondered if rocket motors could propel him up to
speeds of 1,609 km/h. So he called up SpaceDev, the company who provided
the rocket motor technology for the world's first
private-sector astronaut mission. He also enlisted the help of John
"Ackers" Ackroyd, the designer of 1983's
land-speed-record-breaking car Thrust 2. They came up a wingless
rocket-powered jet fighter on wheels.
INVADER . COM
INVADER 2 (1989 - 1997)
- Current holder of the Australian Land
Speed Record set at Lake Gairdner SA
at 802 km/hr
- 18,000 lbs thrust
- 36,000 horsepower
- Max speed 608 mph
SSC and THRUST 3
design for Thrust 3 - on the drawing board as part of the project from
the very earliest days - was shelved when Thrust 2 was deemed good
enough to get the job done. Whether or not it ever gets built will
depend largely on the efforts of Rosco McGlashan and Craig Breedlove
with their jet cars. Until then, sponsorship money is likely to stay
very firmly in company accounts.
Richard and John got the world record with Thrust 2, although they
wanted to build another car and looked at a number of ways of doing it.
But they were worried by a number of things. One was the question of
what actually happened underneath the car. They thought Thrust 2 could
have gone about Mach 0.1, (about seven miles / eleven km an hour)
faster, before the front of the car would start lifting.
Obviously, the margin of safety was too small at that speed.
and Richard kept talking, and kept seeing each other for a while
exchanging ideas, but it just wasn't going to gel. Then John had
to do some design work for Richard Branson's and the round the world
balloon project, leaving Thrust 3 in mid-air.
INVADER WLSR ROCKET CAR
Invader World Land Speed Challenge team headed by the 'Fastest Aussie on
Earth', Rosco McGlashan OAM, are building their new Land Speed Record
featuring 300,000 horses of LOX / JP5 rocket power.
unique design by project engineers and designers Dr Ian Sutherland and
John Akroyd shows that Aussie Invader 5R (R for rocket) will be much
larger than the jet powered Aussie Invader 2 and 3 Land Speed Record
accommodate the fuel cells required it is being built at over 55 feet in
and almost 10 feet in tailfin height.
Invader Rocket Car
NOVA: Tell us, John, what is your official title on this project?
ACKROYD: Well, I'm not a believer in titles. I'm a believer in
what people do. If I had a title, it would probably be
NOVA: Okay. And what exactly as Engineer, are you doing on this
ACKROYD: Well, engineering starts with—the real background for
the project starts with making the machinery, the flying machine. And
the next job is to launch the flying machine. And the third job is to
bring it and the people back safely.
NOVA: And you're involved in all three of those processes?
NOVA: Can you explain for us—What is a De Rozier system?
A De Rozier system is a mixture between a gas balloon and a hot air
balloon. In other words on a long flight, every day in the heat of the
sun, the gas expands, becomes comparatively lighter, and the balloon
wants to go up. Every night, the gas contracts, becomes comparatively
more dense and the balloon wants to go down. And the way to iron out
these ups and downs is to warm the air beneath the helium to gain extra
lift at night. And that is basically the De Rozier system. It's a very
old system, used by De Rozier, way back in the last century and,
unfortunately, he used it with hydrogen, which was all he had, and it
was an explosive mix and poor De Rozier became, I think, the first man
to lose his life in a balloon. But we use helium, which is a nice,
inert, safe gas.
Is it a double balloon system, then?
ACKROYD: It is a compound balloon system. A double balloon system
would, perhaps apply more to the Earthwinds type of system, which had a
helium balloon on top and an air ballast balloon underneath. What we've
got is a helium balloon in a bottle over the top of a hot air cone and
the hot air cone heats the helium, which gives it extra lift at the cost
And what do you mean, "at the cost of fuel"?
ACKROYD: Well, it means that to fly a De Rozier balloon, you have
to carry a penalty and that penalty is propane in our case, which heats
the air, which heats the helium, which keeps the balloon up.
NOVA: Which means that you will have a heavier payload?
ACKROYD: We're carrying a higher payload, yes. We're carrying
fuel. And that is what this test program we're now entering into is very
much about. How much fuel will we need to carry? How fast will we be
burning it? Will we have fuel left over that we can use for ballast?
Will we burn a bit out of each tank or will be burn a complete tank
empty and drop it? So that will give us the formula on how best to use
our fuel. And, in fact, we may be able to learn that we can use fuel for
ballast as well as lift. So it can work a double bonus.
NOVA: Do you think this system has a better chance of success
than Fossett's solo system? I understand he's using a De Rozier and
there are obviously different variables because he's flying solo and
he's flying at a lower altitude. From your perspective, which De Rozier
has a better chance?
Well, really, the three major systems that are currently being
investigated—in fact, there's four—the De Rozier is one and this
seems the middle of the road system. It worked well on the Atlantic
balloon race. It seems at the moment to be the fashionable solution,
though there are other things around. One can use a super pressure
balloon, which keeps a constant pressure altitude, but if you burst that
balloon, you're in big trouble. And we saw an actual super pressure
envelope burst with the Earthwinds project, but, fortunately, that was a
ballast balloon and not the lift balloon. For a lift balloon to burst is
a serious problem. So I just hate the situation. So we're going with De
Rozier, the same as Steve
The big difference between ours and Steve's is that he's going to fly a
low altitude attempt and we'll fly a higher jet stream altitude. There
are three altitudes which one could attempt this 'round the world.
There's the very, very high Odyssey-type balloon, which goes way up to
100,000 feet—fantastic height, and will then fly with jet streams or
upper altitude streams going in the opposite direction from jet stream
flights, which go from west to east. They would go in the opposite
direction and they would slowly descend, hopefully circling the world as
they go. This is a very extreme, innovative kind of attempt and to come
back to ours, it's the middle of the road. We will try to fly
with the jet stream. We've done it before, we've got a lot of experience
in it and it seems to me that that is the rapid fast way around the
world. Above the air in the fastest streams with the technology we
is a low-altitude attempt and so he will be flying a simpler system and
simple is always good. He will have to use oxygen a lot more so it will
be uncomfortable and he will have to combat the weather, rather than fly
above it. And I think that will be very adventurous. I think he'll have
a lot of hard weather situations to get 'round, but he's a very
determined, accomplished, capable man and I wouldn't ever underestimate
his ability to go a long way at low altitude.
NOVA: What do you know of the fourth group?
ACKROYD: At the moment, there are no super pressure attempts that
I know of underway, really. Julian Knott was proposing one some time
ago, and in fact, he made a very long distance flight in Australia with
one, which was a pumpkin-shaped super pressure balloon. But it seems to
have died a bit of a natural death, maybe because of the high risk
2 Carlton Terrace, Low Fell, Gateshead,
& Wear, NE9 6DE United Kingdom
Tel: 044(0) 191 230 4414
Fax: 044(0) 191 487 5359
NOVA: What about the team that wants to launch out of the Swiss
ACKROYD: That is the Piccard attempt, sponsored by the Swiss
watch maker, Breitling,
and that is another De Rozier balloon and, as far as I know, it's
similar in concept to Steve Fossett's.
NOVA: Our mission, as you know, is science and technology. What
kinds of technical and educational background does one need to do what
Well, I think
you have to understand several fronts. One is the basic physics of
ballooning or aerostatics, which is based on things like Boyles' law and
expansion of gases and change of gas with temperature and pressure and
also, of course, there was—apart from the physics of it—there is the
technical aspect of building a balloon itself which is materials
testing, welding, what are the best materials, what are the solar
properties of retaining and transmitting heat.
on top of that, then, there is the general engineering for building a
capsule, which is basically firmer dynamics, we're going to run engines,
we're going to gain heat, we're going to pressurize the capsule, it
comes into survival systems, life support systems, floatation systems,
and keeping the pilots alive, keeping the burners and
engines—pressurization engines running, and, of course, there's a huge
natural geographic element here because we will be really fighting the
elements. Mother Nature—one would need a good understanding of the
geography of the world, which I think would be interesting to people.
this flight, we'll be flying across all sorts of countries. We're flying
in the air. The air is an interesting medium in its own right. It
changes temperature, it changes pressure, it's subject to weather, it's
subject to moving air streams, which, once again, I think is a very
educational element and we learn an enormous amount, just being
associated with it. We're learning about the world we live in.
NOVA: You've been involved in another global ballooning attempt,
of course, and Richard and Per's past record-breaking flights. What do
you see as the largest limiting factor—the biggest obstacle—to these
Well, really, I think you can't miss the biggest concern. The concerns
of all these projects are man, machine and the elements. You have to
have the crew right, you have to have the machine right, you also have
to have the elements right as well. Because without all three being
right, both in concept, and in detail, you won't succeed. And without
the right people and the right flying machine, you cannot succeed. But
even if you have the right people and the right flying machine, you may
not succeed if the elements stack against you. So I think you can't
NOVA: With this project, as with all others, when you're working
on designing a system from scratch, do you begin with drawings or do you
start with a system that already exists? Where do you begin?
Well, I think, really, as an engineer, one is not really an inventor.
And I think we haven't invented a system here. All of it is really
development of previous ideas. It's very difficult to come up with
something that hasn't been thought of before. But new materials are
developed and new knowledge is developed, but it is based on old, well
proven ideas and I think this particular attempt is very much the
development of existing technology, rather than new technology.
I'm sure you're
finding new things in the existing technology. For example, an around
the world balloon flight has never been done before. We're starting from
the basic fact that no manned balloon has ever flown in the jet stream
for more than—what is it—five days? And so, to go beyond that, there
are some unknown variables.
ACKROYD: There certainly are, but—I mean, very much what we're
doing is building upon the foundations we have and taking them further.
And with that step, a lot of work with this one has gone into the
balloon because the balloon itself is the key to extending the duration.
The capsule is very much the same technology, but just a little bigger
and a little better equipped to make the longer flight more bearable.
But really, the balloon technology is what we've been concentrating on
for two reasons. One is that we will still only be able to carry a
limited amount of fuel so we have to be more efficient with our fuel
burn to make it 'round the world. And I think Leon (Eversfield, the
Special Projects Engineer for Virgin Global
Challenger) will tell you about the efforts that have gone
into this balloon to make it more fuel efficient to give it that range
to give it the safety, durability and range that we're looking for.
2 Carlton Terrace, Low Fell, Gateshead,
& Wear, NE9 6DE United Kingdom
Tel: 044(0) 191 230 4414
Fax: 044(0) 191 487 5359
How do you calculate the amount of lift needed for a system like this?
ACKROYD: Well, basically, the system is very, very simple but the
refinement is where the trick lies, as always. And simply, one cubic
meter of helium, very approximately, lifts one kilogram of weight. So if
we can work out how much we have to lift, the weight of the capsule, the
fuel, the people, the ballast, the food, the water, and the balloon
envelope, itself, then we can work out how big the balloon has to be to
lift this load. And our load is approximately ten tons and we have
approximately just over a million cubic feet of balloon.
And Leon, I'm sure, will explain in greater detail the niceties of this,
which, as we've said, depend on the temperature and the flying
environment, a bit. And we always have an ability to expand because, as
the balloon goes up, so, the air around it gets thinner and the balloon
will expand. So we don't take off with a full balloon. If we are going
up into an atmosphere which is only a third as dense as down here on
earth, we will only fill the balloon one third. Because as it goes up,
the air will get thinner and fill the other two thirds of the balloon.
So the balloon, in actual fact changes in its shape as it goes up.
What kinds of
communications equipment will be on board?
ACKROYD: Well, I think the first thing to address is why we even
carry it. And, of course, this is one of the big safety breakthroughs
from the old balloonists who would disappear into the blue and no one
would really know where they'd gone. But communications is a really
vital part of our safety systems because we can tell where the balloon
is, how they're dealing with it and—in the reverse way, also through
communications—they can be fed information about the weather, what to
expect and, if all goes wrong, we can also, through the same
communications, we can alert the search and rescue systems. So really,
it keeps track of the balloon, it gives them weather information, and,
in the final analysis, we can find them through their Sarsat and locator
NOVA: So they will have Sarsat and locator beacons?
ACKROYD: Yes, they will be carrying locator beacons, they will be
carrying radios for talking, Inmarsats for location, GPS for location,
and full communications, as one would find upon an airliner.
NOVA: What is a load cell? And why is a load cell critical to the
ACKROYD: Well, on our capsule, we have several load cells. Now a
load cell is an instrument which measures load. And this is done by the
deflection of a metal element and the change of electric current with
that deflection, which really is allied to a strain gauge which also
measures the change of current when a thin filament is put under load.
We are using the load cells, which will give us a load
read-out—electrically, it is an electrical read-out, which is then
calibrated in load but really is reading in millivolts but calibrated in
we have the capsule, at launch, anchored to the launch pad with six load
cells. And as the balloon is filled it will pick up the weight of the
capsule. And when it is filled beyond that state, it will actually have
what is known as free lift. And the free lift is what will accelerate
the balloon up to its float altitude. And the free lift will be measured
by the tie-down load cells. And when we get to somewhere between ten to
fourteen percent of our all-up weight, a little electrical explosive
guillotine will be fired and that will separate the capsule and the
balloon is irreversibly away. So the load cells, at tie-down, tell us
when to cut the cutters and launch the balloon.
There are two irreversible steps at launch. One is when you start
pumping helium, you're then committed to a launch. And when you fire the
cutters, you're committed to a flight. So those are two very crucial
elements. And one of them is dictated by the load cells.
NOVA: The load cells are, as you say, electrical, so right on the
piece of equipment, you get this electrical
ACKROYD: No, we have a cable which leads away from the load cell.
It just looks like a little pancake. These are pancake-type load cells.
And there's an electric cable that goes away to a read out. Very much
like any other temperature probe or other remote read out so we have a
remote read out. And similarly, all the fuel tanks which are disposed
about the capsule—there are six fuel tanks, and each one of those fuel
tanks is suspended on a load cell. Because that will tell us the weight
of fuel consumed, and that way we can know how much fuel we've burned,
and also, we know how much weight we have residually with the capsule.
So we know how much weight we're flying and we know how much fuel we've
NOVA: So that is a read-out that, presumably, the pilots will be
able to access.
ACKROYD: That will be read out in the capsule, and the launch
load read out, which is a free lift at launch, will be read by somebody
remote from the capsule. In fact, probably, the crew will have it in the
door and they will simply observe it because it will be their decision
to fly and they will be able to read their free lift and say,
"Okay, fire the cutters." They can then disconnect it and
throw it away. They don't need it anymore.
NOVA: Okay, is there anything that you feel that we haven't
ACKROYD: Yes. That's Leon's share. (laughter)
for the Record: Thrust 2 (ISBN: 0907485014)
Biggleswade, BE, UK
Description: UK: CHW Roles & Associates, 1984. Soft cover.
1st Edition. 72 pages. A fascinating insight into this land
speed record breaking British design!. Bookseller Inventory #
Description: Kingston, Surrey, Roles, 1984. The story behind
the building of Thrust 2 World Land Speed Record holder,
written by the designer. Foreword by Richard Noble, Driver. In
white illustrated laminated wrappers, 210x150mm, 72pp, 18
photo plates in colour and b&w. circuit diagrams, charts,
adverts etc. VG+ copy signed by author/designer. Bookseller
Inventory # 5144
taste for adventure capitalists
Cola - a healthier alternative