Attempting to Break the Land Speed Record with the Help of CFD

[07 Nov 2012] North American Eagle's (NAE) all-volunteer team, headed by owners Ed Shadle and Keith Zanghi, is attempting to break the world land speed record. The team is using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to better understand the complex aerodynamics of a car traveling through the sound barrier. They are using a modified Lockheed F-104 Starfighter as the foundation for the car. A supersonic ground vehicle has to deal with the aerodynamic effects of the ground and the suspension system, which an aircraft does not. The suspension system affects the drag, lift, and stability of the vehicle. Prediction of the drag is crucial to ensuring the modified General Electric J-79 turbo-jet engine delivers enough power to enable the NAE vehicle to reach its 800 mph goal. Understanding the car's stability provides the driver with the confidence that they will be able to control the vehicle as it approaches and passes the sound barrier.

Aerodynamics Engineer Darren Grove has been performing CFD analyses using Pointwise for pre-processing, CFD++ from Metacomp for flow solutions, and EnSight from CEI for post-processing to guide the design that will improve the drag and stability characteristics of the NAE vehicle. This webinar will discuss how Mr. Grove used Pointwise and EnSight to help design aft suspension fairings to reduce overall drag on the car while maintaining stability and control. To help validate the CFD simulations, a recent field test at Oregon's Alvord Desert was conducted in which comparisons between experimental and computational results will be shown.

CFD++ solution of the North American Eagle @ 700 MPH with design cycle 1 fairings.
CFD++ solution of the North American Eagle @ 700 MPH with design cycle 1 fairings. Composite image showing unstructured viscous mesh generated with Pointwise, overlaid by stream-wise velocity on ground & symmetry planes, vehicle surfaces colored by pressure and near surface streamlines.

Discover how to

  • Generate fast, repeatable, complex, viscous, unstructured meshes with T-Rex
  • Employ CFD as a cost-effective tool to help an all-volunteer team attempt the world land speed record
  • Address challenges of designing a stable, low drag wheel system for a supersonic ground vehicle
  • Efficiently extract drag and stability information from a large number of calculations using EnSight

About North American Eagle

The purpose of the North American EagleTM Land Speed Program, is to test the capability of a land based vehicle to safely transition through supersonic speed. The by-products of this challenge have the potential to impact high-speed rail, ground effects of high-speed aircraft in the landing configuration as well as deceleration methods utilized by high-speed vehicles. The fuels and lubricants utilized during the project are also significant. Materials used for the construction of the vehicle, and most importantly, the wheels, are critical to the project's success. All phases of this project are continually measured against a risk factor. Above all, breaking a land speed record must not result in unacceptable risk to the driver, crew or spectators.

The primary objective of the project is to break the current land-speed record of 763 mph, currently held by the British, with the goal to get to 800 mph.

For more information, see their website at

About CEI

CEI are the developers of a visualization software package called EnSight, widely used in the engineering field to visualize, analyze, and communicate simulation results. EnSight's ability to extract out quantitative and qualitative information from any CAE simulation in a single, easy to use package allows the users to fully understand, visualize, and communicate the simulation results.

For more information, see their website at


Description Format File Name File Size [MB]
Webinar Video File MP4 Pointwise-Webinar-NAE-CEI-Land-Speed-Record.mp4 1350

Attempting to Break the Land Speed Record with the Help of CFD is also now available on YouTube.

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