Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer
Jeanine walked the length of her racer, running her bare hand across the seams, feeling for any fastener stressed out of place, trying to get a sense of any uneasiness in the craft. She paused and read the name stenciled down the side, “Spirit of America : Ultra III”.
“Craig ran the Spirit to four hundred miles an hour in nineteen sixty three.” Jeanine talked over her shoulder to the small group of friends and family that had gathered on the Salt Flats to cheer her on. “In sixty three, Corvettes were pushing one hundred forty, maybe one fifty miles per hour. Breedlove took her to four.
The fifty foot long silver tube lay slung between four tall skinny wheels at the end of axels shaped like aircraft wings. The cockpit was barely a sliver disrupting the graceful arc of the craft ahead of the massive intake ports and menacing teeth of the turbines.
“He almost got to seven hundred before he crashed. Might have gotten eight if he’d had a better day.”
The salt crunched softly under her boots as she continued her walk around, pausing at the tail of the craft to pull away the exhaust cover and hand it off to a ready set of hands. Deep inside the heart of the new Spirit was an engine that had been liberated from a research facility near Black Rock. The exact circumstances of its disappearance were unknown, but it had arrived at her shop late one night by trailer, an unusual hybrid of conventional jet technology and something she’d never seen before. She could tell it was something special and asked no questions.
The engineering of the jet tech graft made it fairly straight forward for her and her crew to swap it in, replacing the GE turbojet that had to that point powered her Spirit, and many Spirits before.
“I’ll bet we break a thousand miles an hour today.” Jeanine’s grin split her face between the ears, eyes sparkling as she ran her hand across the edge of the exhaust nozzle. “A thousand easy.”
Her reflective demeanor gave way to one of purpose, and Jeanine collected gloves and her helmet from a crew member, waved at the nervous and fidgeting crowd and slipped into the cockpit of The Spirit.
There was a rumble, then a whine steadily increasing in pitch as the turbine came to life. The crowd hastily pulled on headsets or covered their ears and moved away as Jeanine rolled the Spirit out onto the flats to line up her run.
The noise was deafening, and The Spirit almost disappeared in the haze of exhaust gasses heating the space behind her.
“Ok baby, let’s show ’em what we’ve got.”
She pushed the throttle forward, holding wheels steady and straight with both feet braced against the steering pedals. On the dash, streams of data flashed by as the onboard systems reported the state of virtually every component, and every compensation or adjustment of her course.
Her suit adjusted pressure in step with the rising force of acceleration, and she pushed the throttle farther still, watching the ground slip past outside in a smear. Five hundred miles an hour flashed past in an instant, eight hundred an instant later. The thousand mile an hour milestone came and went and still the craft was surging forward, wanting to go further, faster.
Jeanine’s hands were frozen on the throttles, pushing them hard against the forward locks. She’d never felt such emotion in her entire life. They’d done it, pushed The Spirit back on top of the record books.
From the ground, the crowd watched the glimmering point of light streak across the flats before nosing up and tearing a hole in the midday sky.
There was a rapid series of snaps, then The Spirit left earth bound for the heavens.