Andy Green is a British Royal Air Force fighter pilot and the current holder of the World Land Speed Record. On 25 September 1997 in Thrust SSC he beat the previous record in the Black Rock Desert, US, reaching a speed of 714.144 miles per hour (1,149.303 km/h). In memory of this event, the 25th of September let’s take a look at the story of Andy Green and his journey to achieving the world land speed record.
Supersonic Driver Wanted
In 1994, Richard Noble announced that he was looking for a driver for his supersonic car – the Thrust SSC. Andy Green who was at the time already a full-fledged jet fighter pilot applied for the position. After a series of psychological and technological tests, and interviews conducted for all the applicants, 32-year-old Andy Green was chosen in February 1995.
The record-breaking Thrust SSC supersonic car parades through the City, during today’s (Saturday) Lord Mayor’s Show celebrations. Photo by Rebecca Naden/PA (Photo by Rebecca Naden – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
In September 1997, Green’s team at the Black Rock Desert, Nevada, US for what will eventually become a record-breaking world event. In1983, Richard Noble had achieved 634.051mph (1,020.406 km/h) with his earlier car – the jet-powered Thrust2 at the same location. On 25 September 1997, Andy Green broke Richard Noble’s 14-year old record by over 80mph. Green attained a speed of 714.144 miles per hour (1,149.303 km/h) with the jet-propelled Thrust SSC to become the fastest man on earth.
The Land-Speed Record
Andy Green wasn’t finished yet. On the 15th of October 1997, Andy Green made another official attempt to set the land-speed record with the Thrust SSC. The speed was measured as an average of two runs made across a measured mile, both to be completed within an hour.
10.13.97. Black Rock Desert, Nevada. Andy Green drives Thrust SSC faster than the speed of sound, through the desert
Green achieved an average speed across both races of 763.035 mph (1,226.986 km/h) and set the first supersonic record at Mach 1.016. Andy Green’s record-breaking ride was achieved a day after the 50th anniversary of the first supersonic flight by Chuck Yeager.
The Experience of the Supersonic Record
On the outside, the Thrust SSC ride seemed super-smooth, but for Andy Green, it was anything but. As the vehicle crossed the speed of sound, it created a sonic boom.
The world’s first supersonic car, Thrust SSC, returned to Britain after crossing the Atlantic overnight, to arrive at Stansted Airport, Essex, having broken the world land speed record to break the sound barrier. (Photo by Tim Ockenden – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Green described the vehicle at 500 – 600 mph (800 – 960 km/h) as “a massive handful, bordering on uncontrollable.” The result was two substantial sonic booms that rang out at the location during Andy’s outward and return run. Although Green couldn’t hear the sonic booms himself, the sound sent Green’s crew into spur-of-the-moment cheers. On that day, Andy Green drove faster than anyone else in history. Aerial photographs that were taken showed a shockwave that formed around the front of the car and extended behind it about 300 ft (90 m). The supersonic car left barely any tracks on the floor of the desert due to the shockwave that pounded them down.
Diesel Land Speed Record
Andy Green continued to pursue in the British Royal Air Force as a Wing Commander. In 2005, JCB decided to go for the Diesel Land Speed Record and approached Green. On 22 August 2006, Andy Green drove the JCB Dieselmax streamliner on the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah.
9.25.97. Black Rock Desert, Nevada. The Thrust SSC races through the desert at record-breaking speed
After achieving an average speed of 328.767mph (529.099km/h) during two runs, Green broke the previously set August 1973 Diesel Land Speed Record of 236mph (380km/h). 24 hours after this achievement, Green broke his record by achieving a speed of 350.092mph (563.418km/h) on 23 August 2006.
About the Thrust SSC
Thrust supersonic car (Thrust SSC) is a British jet-propelled car developed by Richard Noble, Glynne Bowsher, Ron Ayers, Jeremy Bliss, Reece Lienberg and Joshua Hambury. On 15 October 1997, Andy Green set the world land speed record at a speed of 1,228 km/h (763 mph) with the Thrust SSC.
Black Rock, NV Andy Green, the driver of Thrust SSC, is congratulated by car owner Richard Noble after breaking the land speed record.
On that day, Thrust SSC became the first land vehicle to exceed the speed of sound officially. Thrust SSC was made with 2 Rolls-Royce Spey jet engines, same as the British version used in the F-4 Phantom II jet fighter, riding on four solid wheels with no tires. No tire ever made has been able to endure supersonic speeds and forces. Thrust SSC had no front wheels but had two conventionally spaced wheels mounted centrally at the rear, in slightly staggered tandem, which steered. The car had a length of 16.5m, the width of 3.7m and weighed about 10 tons. It produced a total thrust of 223 kN (approximately 50,000 pounds force, equivalent to around 110,000 brake horsepower). The car first turned a wheel on a British runway in September 1995, but it wasn’t until October 1996 that it first ran on a desert.
Before the Land Speed Record
Series of test preceded the record run of Thrust SSC in October 1997 runs in autumn 1996 and spring 1997, in the Al-Jafr desert (located in Ma’an Governorate) in Jordan.
Black Rock Desert, Nevada. Thrust SSC driver Andy Green pictured next to his car after driving at a record-breaking 714 mph
This location was unknown before for its capabilities as a test range for high-speed land vehicles. The Al-Jafr desert provided numerous advantages for the team compared to the salt deserts of the Western United States.
The Retirement of Thrust SSC
Thrust SSC was officially retired after those 20 dazzling days in 1997 and is now displayed in the Coventry Transport Museum in Coventry, England. The supersonic car is housed in a barrel-roofed hall.
BLACK ROCK DESERT, NV – SEPTEMBER 1997: The Thrust SSC car makes a speed run in September 1997 in the Black Rock Desert north of Reno, Nevada. The car eventually set a series of land speed records, culminating in the first supersonic land speed record of 763 mph. (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)
Visitors can board the pit trailer from which Thrust SSC runs were controlled and can ride a motion simulator depicting a computer-generated animation of the record-breaking run from the perspective of Andy Green. As part of the Museum’s redevelopment project, the car was relocated from its position in the Museum’s Spirit of Speed Gallery to the new Biffa Award Land Speed Record Gallery which was opened in 2015.
What Is Next?
The story doesn’t end here. Andy Richard Noble is currently working with Richard Noble’s Bloodhound SSC project to achieve another record based on world-class British engineering.
Duke of York (center) talks to Squadron leader Andy Green (right) and Thurst’s aero-dynamicist, Ron Ayers during a visit to Farnborough, Hants today (Friday). The Duke spent more than an hour examining Thrust SSC, which has returned to Britain from its record-breaking success in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. WPA ROTA Photo by Tony Harris/PA. See PA story ROYA: Thrust (Photo by Tony Harris – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
The Bloodhound team built the first 1000mph Bloodhound car and successfully started its EJ200 jet engine on 29th September 2017. Plans are underway to attempt the 1000mph run in the North Cape of South Africa on the Hatskeen Pan.
Honors and Awards Conferred on Andy Green
Andy Green was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 1997 New Year’s Honours List. In the same year, Green was awarded the Segrave Trophy by the Automobile Club.
Thrust SSC Car pilot Andy Green talks to the press during the Supersonic World Land Speed Record Challenge at Black Rock Desert in Gerlach, Nevada. Mandatory Credit: Harry How /Allsport
In 2006, The British Racing Drivers’ Club awarded him the John Cobb Trophy for a “success of outstanding character.” Staffordshire University also awarded Green an honorary degree in July 2008.