Jessi Combs breaks 48-year old land speed record


October 15, 2013

Jessi Combs this week became the world's fastest woman on four wheels in the 52,000 hp North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger with a speed of 392.954 mph (632.39 km/h)

Jessi Combs this week became the world's fastest woman on four wheels in the 52,000 hp North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger with a speed of 392.954 mph (632.39 km/h)

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Back in 1965, Lee Breedlove set the women's land speed record on Utah’s Salt Lake Flats with an average speed of 308.51 mph (496.49 km/h) over four runs. That record stood for 48 years until this month, when Jessi Combs smashed it in her 52,000 hp North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger with a speed of 392.954 mph (632.39 km/h).

On October 9, running out on Oregon’s 13 mile (20.9 km) Alvord Desert course, which is essentially a dried out lake bed, TV celeb Jessi Combs' first pass in the North American Eagle (NAE) Supersonic Speed Challenger delivered a top speed of 371 mph (597 km/h). Rules require racers to complete two passes within a one hour time frame and on the second run using the Eagle’s afterburner to full effect, Combs hit a speed of 440.7 mph (709.25 km/h), producing a record breaking average speed of 392.954 mph (632.39 km/h). The Eagle’s afterburner does provide the pilot a short burst of instant power, essentially doubling output from an already impressive 52,000 hp.

The converted F-104 Lockheed Starfighter that Combs pilots once actually served as a chase plane for both the record breaking X-15 experimental jet and the SR-71 Blackbird. Retaining its original intake ducts but sporting smaller wings to retain speed stability, the NAE racer now weighs in at 13,000 lb (5,896 kg) and measures 56 ft (17.07 m) from nose to tail and just over 7 ft (2.1 m) across at the widest point on the engine intakes.

Propelled by a General Electric LM-1500 Turbojet engine, the NAE crew increased the engine’s stock output by 10,000 hp from the leisurely 42,000 hp used for low speed test runs, up to the current 52,000 hp. But with great power comes great mileage degradation. North American Eagle reports the jet's appetite for fuel at idle to be in the 40 gallons/minute (151 L/min) range, but when under full throttle the Eagle vaporizes out 80 gallons/minute (302.8 L/min). Kick in the afterburner and another 10 gallons (37.8 L) disappears out the Eagle’s oversized, military grade tailpipe every minute.

As the Federation International de Automobile (FIA) is the governing body for land speed records, strict rules regarding engines and wheel configurations had to be followed in order to properly qualify. The FIA rules require the vehicle to be considered a “car” sporting four wheels. So in order for the Eagle to blast across at the lake bed at subsonic speeds, solid billet aluminum wheels were chosen. Solid aluminum wheels not only reduce rolling weight but remove traditional concerns regarding centrifugal forces associated with rubber tires. The solid wheel system also allows the driver to focus on “piloting” the ground based fighter rather than having to drive it.

Inside the cockpit, Comb’s surroundings, like most race cars, are sparse and minimalistic. Instrumentation is limited to engine temperature gauges, fuel and oil pressure gauges and the all important air speed indicator and mach meter. The steering wheel is a joystick, providing tail and rudder control at speeds similar to its airborne brethren. Unlike traditional fighter jets where oxygen is supplied to the pilot, the NAE team went with a simpler system using a scuba diving tank to provide compressed air.

The NAE crew hopes to break the existing land speed record of 761 mph (1,225 km/h) in the Eagle in 2014, this time with team owner Ed Shadle at the stick. In the meantime, Jessi Combs next plans to chase down the existing female speed record of 512 mph (824 km/h) achieved in 1976 by stunt woman Kitty O’Neil in a three-wheeled racer.

Watch Jessi's 440 mph run via the vid link.

Source: Land Speed

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Angus MacKenzie Born on the cold, barren Canadian plains of Calgary, Alberta, Angus MacKenzie couldn’t decide between marketing, automotives or an entrepreneurial path - so he chose all three. With an education in automotives and marketing, Angus has rebuilt the carburetor on his 1963 Rambler Ambassador twice, gotten a speeding ticket in an F430 once, and driven & photographed everything from Lamborghinis to Maseratis to various German and Asian designs. When not writing, Angus has for the past six years been Editor-in-Chief for elemente, an internationally recognized architecture/design magazine. All articles by Angus MacKenzie

Record pointlessness an aircraft that can't take to the air, wheels that can't take the road, an obscene amount of fuel... to go nowhere : what a waste.


The point is, it's something you can't do.


I don't know a lot about turbines but the fuel consumption numbers do not seem to add up. 40 GPM at idle , 80 GPM for 52,000 HP , and then afterburner only 10 more GPM but double the power?

Also 52,000 HP and only hit 440 mph? How long was she on afterburner 2 seconds? I would bet a top Fuel Dragster could do the same given a bit more gearing and a couple of mile long strip.

As to the fuel waste , come on give me a break, It is a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of fuels used every minute on earth. A few hundred gallons here or there will not spell the end of mankind.


"Also 52,000 HP and only hit 440 mph? How long was she on afterburner 2 seconds?"

Thinking the same thing myself.

Did she forget to take the handbrake off?

Keith Reeder

I'm sure Richard Noble is hoping someone takes the record he has had for 30 years, instead of having to break his own again with his 1000 MPH goal car in 2014 or 2015.

Dave B13

The Eagle uses a LM-1500, a modern, industrially-refined version of the classic General Electric J79 turbojet with afterburner, and I would expect it to be something like as thirsty. The figures I could find on the J79's thirst for fuel are:

Specific fuel consumption: 1.965 lb/(h·lbf) (200 kg/(h·kN)) with afterburner, 0.85 lb/(h·lbf) (87 kg/(h·kN)) at military thrust.

These are not figures that I particularly understand, but I think I see that the "afterburner" figure is about twice that of "military thrust."

Another reference online reports that the prototype J79 in afterburner used about 10 gallons of fuel per SECOND to get around 15,000 lbs. thrust. This sounds more believable to my ears. I mean, when an engine this size is on full rock'n'roll trying to make something the size of an F-104 go supersonic, how long do I think 10 gallons of fuel is going to survive in a tailpipe that size? Yeah, about a second.

Ironically, they may have limited the speed across the measured course not just by throttle settings and such, but also by NOT holding the "handbrake" as long as they could have. Holding the brakes while letting the engine spool up is kinda like how far you draw the string back on a bow before letting the arrow fly.

I've been following these folks for several years now, as they've been hobbled by lack of funds. It's great to see them finally running it and getting some kind of a record. Hope they can continue! If they don't go after the LSR soon, I'm afraid they're going to have to go looking for a nice clean used SR-71.

zoid asteroid

ok here is the deal the reason that she did not go faster is this was the first time she had driven the car. ed shadle the owner of the car is using her to try and find someone to put up the money so he can go for the world land speed record held since 1997 by THRUST SSC owned by richard noble and driven by andy green. the record is 763.035mph. there is no offical womans land speed record jessi only went faster then craig breedloves wife did in 1965.sometime next year ed will let jessi try and go faster then kitty oneil ran in 1976 in the SMI Motivator. when they where at the lake bed last month ed ran the car up to 550mph he could have gone faster but the course they where using was a little shorter then they wanted. some of the systems on the car are still being tested. being a land speed racing fan i could care less how fast jessi went because what she did has no affect on the world land speed record i am waiting for ed to go after the big one. in the world of land speed racing the 763 record is the one that ed really wants.


The fact that a woman was at the controls has no meaning.

I tire of hearing the "first woman, (or red, green, white, black, blue man or woman) to - insert incredible feat here -"

Men and women are different. Anyone who tries to deny this is really to far PC to save.

Please tell me (someone because I am not familiar with the requirements to go fast in a ground jet) why would the record fastest period be restricted to men? Is there a strength component i don't see?

I get why weightlifting an other similar activities separate the two but records that seem to have no requirements that aren't shared by men and women should just be that.

I guess in a way it offends me when people scream for equality but then spout off in a way that makes me feel they don't really believe it.

No we are not over race or gender discrimination as long as someone brings it up as a point of interest.

Personally I'm bored with it all.

If a person can meet the standards, mental, physical, emotional etc.. For a specified job then they should have a chance. What do I care what they are?

Why am I even bothering the readers with this? Sorry for the diatribe. Please respond and tell me where I miss the point.

Dr. Veritas

Interesting exposition of a cutaway similar to both J 79 and LF 1500 There could be a very bad case of mixing apples & oranges on the fuel consumption figures. Fuel consumption is affected tremendously by altitude (air density) & thrust (efficiency) by how fast air is hitting the intake of the engine. Recollected gleaning is that airliners use more fuel during taxi per minute than when cruising in the thin air at 35000 ft . During takeoff climbout fuel use is tremendous. Fuel consumption during static testing is going to be a lot higher. Fuel cosumption at low altitude to accelerate, and maintain speed is going to be a lot higher to have a mix that burns in higher density air and that pushes through higher density air.

Dave B13

Another item that could be confused occurs to me. Fuel consumption whe n In afterburner. Is the figure total fuel or just the fuel being routed to the afterburner.

Dave B13

Truly amazing reading all of the sexist very predictable comments.

A LSR is just that, a bit of fun frivolity with a very real element of danger. I wager none of the "men" on this thread have been over 170. Or own vehicles capable of doing so. Till you have done something yourself, best just to shut up.


Go, Jessi, go!

Jon A.

The fact that it s a woman at the controls should mean nothing.



Josh Gungum

LM1500 gives 10000 hp according to Wikipedia. Is there some confusion and spurious calculations here? The hp figure would only mean something if the engine is driving the wheels. This vehicle seems to be using the engine for its' thrust, so in effect it is a J79 turbojet. Power is meaningless for a jet engine because power depends on speed; unless the vehicle is moving there is no power*. Thrust is more meaningful. The J79 has about 15000 lb thrust - more when using afterburner.

Power hp = speed ft/sec x thrust lb / 550 Tel

Again, Who cares if it is a woman or no, Go fast, have fun, burn fuel that is the aim of the game. I think that the report is a bit hazy, was it a Woman, in a 4-wheeler (car) record, ("The FIA rules require the vehicle to be considered a “car” sporting four wheels.")

So the outright "fastest woman" record, doesn't have to be on 4-wheels. Hence: ("Jessi Combs next plans to chase down the existing female speed record of 512 mph (824 km/h) achieved in 1976 by stunt woman Kitty O’Neil in a three-wheeled racer.")

And if the car is aiming to beat Thrust SSC before Bloodhound is unleashed, this was obviously nothing more than a test run (sideshow).

Note: Horsepower (or Simply Power, in metric units = Watts) Output by any engine can be calculated as, Thrust Force * Speed , energy per second ( = Power) into the engine can only be calculated by using the theoretical chemical energy of the fuel (Jet A1 =34.7 MJ/L ,therefore burning 302/60 = 5.03 Litres per second will result in potential power of 175.1 MW @0.2 for efficiency (or say =35.02 MW = 46,967 HP, actually if using 0.22143 = 22.143% efficiency, the numbers are on the mark as reported. ) allowing for efficiency to be calculated thereby maximising performance by reducing waste energy.

Static Thrust, (by definition of power) transfers Zero power (at zero speed) to the vehicle, so it isn't very useful in working out how a thrust vehicle will perform at high speed. (Though measuring the average speed of the jet exhaust and the mas of air + fuel being thrown out the back of the engine, power can also be calculated based on static thrust.)

The engine must be able to maintain that thrust at high speed, in order to continue acceleration, once it all reaches equilibrium, the vehicle will reach its max speed (terminal velocity).

Static thrust will only indicate the acceleration from a standing start, not high speed performance. (Remember Newtons Second law, Force = Mass * Acceleration.)

Its all a bit of fun, if the calculations are in error, just suck it up.


Regarding that brief acknowledgement at the end-

Kitty O'Neill ALSO went 412mph IN THE QUARTER MILE at El Mirage- in 1979.

She later went 550mph (in the SMI-Motivator,I believe it was) up in Oregon on a dry lake up there.

Kitty ran Rockets- not jets.

Her best E.T. in the Quarter Mile course that they set-up at El Mirage was 3.22.

Kitty O'Neill is the Fastest AND Quickest PERSON to ever run 1,320 feet in ANY machine from a standing start.



Kitty is still the ONLY person that has ever exceeded 400mph in the standing-start Quarter Mile(although it was in the desert and not on sanctioned asphalt so it is not an NHRA record).

Regarding the controversy&complications of various World Speed Records:

As for the 3-wheel/4-wheel controversy, the silliness is made manifest in that after the FIA refused to ratify his Record, the FIM agreed to ratify Craig Breedlove's first Spirit of America record as a MOTORCYCLE! Technically, as a 3- wheel "cycle-car".

The FIM is (in English): the "International Federation of Motorcycles".

The media and the rest of the world barely noted this- and it is largely remembered as the "World's Fastest Car" of its time IN SPITE OF the controversy. Few people know or care now anyway.

To me, Fastest is Fastest- regardless of OFFICIAL quibbling. There are Drag Boats that break the "World's Fastest Prop-driven Boat" at every major event by some 40mph BUT they don't meet the UIM's 2-way Kilometer criteria.

Look up Glenn Curtiss's World Motorycle Speed Record and how long it stood and the controversy surrounding it.

Lee Taylor's rocket boat Discovery exceeded the World Water Speed Record but he crashed & died trying. Did he do it? Even if he did, it wasn't Official.

It's like a murder trial- if the wrong person is convicted, does that really mean that, "Officially".... they actually did it? Apparently so.

At any rate, it's cool that the NA Eagle is FINALLY setting records but it will be cooler when they are more absolute without special "stipulations".

Hopefully, their Eagle will end up better off than Gary Greenmayer's F-104 "The Red Baron".

Gary G. STILL holds the World Low Altitude Speed Record (not the military)... but who knows or cares about that? I do- but there are not many of us.

It's Gary's "Rare Bear" that's in the Smithsonian close to the original Wright Flyer,which is also another controversy... but for another time.

How many of you know (or care)who holds the World Ice Speed Record?

Once upon a time, BEFORE it was a separate Record, Henry Ford and Barney Oldfield fired up his company around breaking the World LAND Speed Record on a frozen lake with an actual Model B "stock"-Car that was named after a famous (at the time) locomotive that held various World Train Speed Records- "The Old 999". Barney O. then went on to set more Records with that Car and it's sister.

Et Cetera....

You be the judge: because,really... There is no jury.


In LSR 'HE WHO SUPPLIES THE TIMING LIGHTS MAKE THE RULE'. Drag boats & Top Fueler are faster than most LSR record holders. BUT the rule makes set a two way distance that these sprinters could not survive.

I built the american eagle 50ish years ago ( OK, it was a 1/24 scale model kit of the F-104 with 4 wheels)


@ Griffin: Isn't it Darryl Greenamyer? Or is my memory faulty?

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