Quick exit from rocket car is not an option
Andy Green plans to soon drive a rocket car at 1600 kilometres per hour and he sees no reason to think about how to get out of it in a hurry should something go wrong.
The RAF fighter pilot already holds the world land speed record set in 1997 at the Bonneville Salt Flats clocking 1227.99kmh (763.035 mph) – which at Mach 1.016 was the first supersonic land record.
Now he has a new car, Bloodhound, and aims to hit 1609kmh which at a 1000mph "is a nice round number".
In Auckland promoting Bentley cars, he told a media briefing that they had thought of an ejector seat in Bloodhound, but realised they would have to design it specially – and there seemed no real point.
"An ejector seat would be the most dangerous thing in the car ... There isn't any reason to leave the car; you are already in the safest place."
Nor will the car have any fly-by-wire functions; Green says he does not want to trust in on-board computers, or their weight. And apart from anything else, the land speed rules require that the vehicle be continuously controlled by the driver.
Green's latest plan is costing around £20 million (NZ$38 million) and he freely concedes the world is "not in a most robust of financial conditions."
Sponsors want something more than just a record which has a "big-so-what at the end of it...
"National pride doesn't cut it any more."
The team has to pitch the effort at a global youth audience and when the car sets out on its record run, multiple onboard cameras will offer live-streaming of every twitch.
"Our target audience is 12-year-old and she is still in school."
They are framing it as an engineering adventure and using it to reignite interest in science and engineering. They are trying to generate the same interest that the US Apollo programme did in the race to the Moon: "a land based space race."
"This is a human endeavour story, its abut people and technology."
Since he set the current record, their has been a hiatus in efforts by rivals. But it has started up again with a couple of US teams, an Australian, and New Zealand's own Jet Black now in the race for the new record.
Green says he thinks Jet Black have the most challenging design.
"They have the most sophisticated car by design. I really hope we get to see that car."
He noted that New Zealand did have an interest in speed, including Burt Monro in motorbikes at Bonneville. And in 1932, one Norman Smith made an attempt on the world land speed record in New Zealand. His car achieved speeds of up to 200 mph but did not pass the world speed record of 245 mph.
Green said he did not know the financial or support base behind Jet Black but he noted they needed a great deal, if only to make a purpose built track. At the speeds the next record will be set tyres are not an option, they will have to be solid wheels.
And Bonneville is going soft and will not support such wheels with next year's record attempt to be on a purpose-build mud track in South Africa.