The ThrustSSC -the first car to break the sound barrier
|Photo - ThrustSSC
One of the great sadnesses of record
breaking is that a huge team effort is needed to make it happen.. All that effort creates
a World beating car -huge global interest and a piece of paper. And then, in a
second, it's all over. There is no useful purpose for anyone in the team any more and its
time to move on.
This new exciting chapter in my life came from our friends at Dell Computer. I was in
Barcelona to present the ThrustSSC story at their European Sales Conference. The
conference had gone well and we were having dinner. They wanted to know how we were going
to follow ThrustSSC. I explained that I wanted to go back into aviation but had no focus.
The Dell people had the focus.
'Richard, listen to us. We manufacture in Ireland and sell in Europe. We are having
real problems moving our sales and marketing people around by airline. They are never
where we want them, they have to leave meetings early to catch planes -and the planes are
always late. Our people came up with a cost for all this wasted time and opportunity -
about $10m a year in Europe.'
Noble's latest dream: Artist's
impression of the Farnborough F1
|Photo - Farnborough
'Isn't that what the executive jets were designed for?'
'Too costly - and because they are jets with fast approach speeds and slow acceleration
to take off, they need the same long runways and airports as the airliners. And remember
with all the congestion the airliners always get the departure slots in preference to the
exec jets so there is going to come a time soon when its quicker by airliner'.
A really great idea was borne-an unbelievable opportunity began to emerge like a
butterfly from a chrysallis. There must be hundreds of companies like Dell- all concerned
about this extraordinary wastage of executive resource. I remember from my own business
travelling days the extraordinary love /hate relationship with the airlines - love them
for the ability to travel widely- hate them for the delays, poor customer relations and
the sheer inefficiency and stress which I suppose must come with any form of centralised
travel in a non-centralised World. For 15 years I had specialised as a corporate
motivational speaker- and now I started asking questions. Everywhere I went the answer was
always the same -there has to be an alternative to airline travel...
'Golf Oscar Foxtrot Lima Golf ?' Shoreham is calling me. 'Golf Lima
Golf' 'Golf Lima Golf, track South to the Worthing Pier and take up the hold at 1600ft'.
Still no room at Shoreham, but at least we are getting nearer. The sun is low, the sea
is like a mirror and the lights are coming on in Worthing. We take up another oblong
circuit with the easterly turn over the pier.
I went back to see the Dell people four months later with the first drawings. There are
7807 active airports in North America, Europe and Scandiavia. The executive jets need at
least 5,000 ft runways, which means they can only access less than 2000 airports. 80% of
the airfields are too small. Many date from World War 2 and are only used by the private
pilots at weekends. The airports are well distributed and in England you are never more
than 20 minutes drive from your nearest. In the US there are 4852 airfields - mostly
The Farnborough F1: Take-off configuration
|Photo - Farnborough
This represents the most tremendous distributed travel resource. The answer to Dell and
other's travel problems has been staring us in the face since WW2. In Europe and N America
airline travel will grow around 50% in 7 years. Already congestion has brought the
airliner average speeds down to 300knots on routes of up to 1000miles. The rate of travel
demand has outstripped the ability to create new airfields. By 2005 the Dell sales people
will be spending very long periods in airport terminals. Airport shopping will be a growth
The American Business Travel Association states that 97% of all business travel is in
groups of one to three people, so we propose to build a new six seat aircraft that will
fly faster than the airliners, but from the small airfields, operating as high performance
taxis and costing only $1 per mile. It will be so quiet that local people won't notice
them and it will make very big money for its operators. On a 490 mile route it will enable
travel twice as fast as by airline. And you travel when you want.
The Dell people were so enthusiastic that they backed the project with hardware and
gave us a great start in life. That was two years ago and now with 20 people working we
start to build the first Farnborough F1 plane this year.
If we are right and if 5% of all business travellers in Europe and the US want to use
this service- then there could be a demand for 13,000 planes. That's probably the largest
production since World War 2 and a $26Bn business!
'Golf- Lima Golf , join left base for runway 03-call final.'
'Roger Lima Golf.'
Landing checks, mixture rich, fuel pump on ,carb heat selected , power back, full flap,
prop to fine and we turn final towards the shoreline. Its getting dark and more yellow
street lights are on.
Computer simulation of the F1
|Photo - Farnborough
'Golf Lima Golf- Final to land.'
'Golf Lima Golf- cleared to land runway 03, wind five knots at 360'
'Cleared to land - Golf Lima Golf' The tyres kiss the tarmac and I taxi up to
Shoreham's beautiful prewar terminal.
Given a lot of luck and a great team, we might just..just be able to pull
this off, and just like ThrustSSC, we'll do it live on the internet.
What an opportunity! What an experience! What a challenge ! The
website is operational and we fly the F1 in 2002.
The man himself: Richard Noble
|Photo - Farnborough
Richard Noble specialises in
managing demanding high profile/high technology projects. He held the landspeed record for
13 years (1983-1996)in the Thrust2 and led the ThrustSSC team which broke the sound
barrier and currently holds the record. He is currently CEO of Farnborough Aircraft and
the driving force behind the F1.
Follow Farnborough F1 on its website: www.
You can see the ThrustSSC Archive at: www.ThrustSSC.com
and get the book/video from Richard Noble:
Thrust book: 320 pages in hardback with contributions from Andy Green and ThrustSSC
team members (£20 plus p&p) ThrustSSC video: 90 min BBC video Supersonic Dreams PAL
(£15 plus p&p)
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