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Jet engine bike passes test-fire trial ahead of speed record bid

posted 6 Feb 2012, 05:56 by Mpelembe   [ updated 6 Feb 2012, 05:56 ]

British inventor Richard Brown has built a unique jet engine-powered motorbike, fitted with an afterburner, which he plans to drive at more than 700 kph (440 mph) to break the world land speed record. It will be Brown's second attempt, after trying but failing to beat the current record in 1999.

Richard Brown hopes to make up for 13 years of disappointment by breaking the world landspeed record, riding a high-speed motorbike he designed and built himself. Jet Reaction is a revolutionary thrust-powered motorbike which uses an afterburning jet engine.
Brown created the bike from scratch, incorporating a 930 kilowatt helicopter engine retooled to create thrust power. Its afterburner sprays fuel into the exhaust, helping generate even more thrust in an effort to make the bike travel at eye-watering speeds.

Brown explained: "The thing that makes it most unique is that very few landspeed record bikes have ever used thrust power. Actually I was one of the first back in '99, if not the first, back in '99 with the Mach 3 Challenger bike and yes, what I've now done is I've taken a gas turbine which is normally used to power a very large helicopter - the Sea King in fact - and I've converted the engine, basically redesigned and re-engineered the engine to turn it into a thrust engine."

While cars used in landspeed-record attempts have taken advantage of jet thrust since the 1950s, all record-breaking motorbikes have used a conventional engine that drives the rear wheel.

This is because it's difficult to pack a jet engine into a two-wheeled frame capable of enormous speed with any degree of safety. Fast cars can be built around old jet fighter engines, but these are far too heavy to fit into a bike that must be balanced by the driver making tiny steering adjustments to the front wheel.

Brown's reheat burner sits above two canisters that deploy braking parachutes when needed. The British inventor and rider described his afterburner as perfect for his mission.

He said: "Without the afterburner the engine runs more efficiently in that the amount of fuel it consumes is considerably less than it will with the afterburner but of course the afterburner's only used for very short durations, so much for the same reason as a jet fighter they only use them for certain manoeuvres, like for take-off on very short runways and various similar applications, and of course that's why it makes it ideal for a landspeed record because it's a very short duration thing. The vehicle will only ever run for a matter of minutes."

On January 26 Brown carried out a test firing of the jet engine and afterburner at temperatures of up to 1400 degrees Fahrenheit in an airfield in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. Brown declared himself "very very pleased indeed" with the tests.

He said: "It was quite a milestone test, you know, first time that all these new components have come together in the vehicle, and obviously as you saw very much on the button, everything worked exactly as it should do."

Brown added: "What we saw was basically 1100 pounds of thrust , ...or 500 kilograms if you prefer, which is pretty much exactly what it's designed to do. That's how much power we need to break the record and everything, so that's what you saw here on test."

In 1999 Brown narrowly missed beating the land speed record on Bonneville salt flats in Utah using a custom-built rocket bike, the Gillette Mach 3 Challenger bike, which featured a custom-built hybrid rocket engine.

He smashed the one-way speed record for a motorbike by hitting 584 kilometres per hour but his claim on the outright world record - based on the average of two runs in opposite directions - failed when a tyre burst.

Brown hopes he will become the first person to exceed 720 km/h on a motorbike while achieving an average two-way speed of at least 640 km/h. He hopes to make the attempt onboard Jet Reaction in Bonneville in 2013.

He expects to make an attempt at the British landspeed record this summer.

The current motorbike land-speed record, 606 km/h, was set in 2010 by Rocky Robinson on a bike called the Ack Attack Streamliner. Such record-breakers feature elongated metal bodies - as does Jet Reaction - making them look more like giant bullets than motorcycles. They are also fitted with retractable stabilisers for balance when moving slowly or stationary.

Brown expects to drive Jet Reaction on a test run at a British airfield this Spring.