Update: Lexus LFA Beats Eclipse 500 Jet, Pilot Gives Us His Take Page 3

A Lexus LFA Nürburgring takes on an Eclipse 500 jet - image: Lexus

The initial pull-up and hard left turn was done with flaps partially down (this is just barely visible in some of the photos) to minimize the turn radius. The aircraft is limited to 2 G’s with flaps down. My G meter recorded 1.93G’s. Airplanes stall at a given angle of attack, NOT at a fixed airspeed. This means the harder you pull in a steep turn, the higher the stalling speed. Turning first left, then right at 115 KEAS and nearly 2G’s put the plane very close to an accelerated stall. Stalling at low altitude is fatal. Fortunately, the Eclipse has an advanced ADHRS (Air Data and Attitude Heading and Reference System) which analyzes actual angle of attack in realtime. I rode that indication to stay 5 knots away from the automatic stick pusher which would have automatically pushed the nose down with 45 pounds of stick force (also a really bad thing to do at low altitude).

Then at the top of the right 270 degree turn, I selected flaps UP, but it takes 15 seconds. While waiting for the flaps to retract, I pushed the nose down past the horizon to 60 degrees down. The top of the turn was only 1,500 feet above the ground which is pretty low (and 60 degrees down feels like you’re pointed straight down) with the engines producing full take off power. Every instinct says “PULL”, but I had to wait until the flaps were fully stowed. (Remember the Star Wars scene, “Stay on target…. Stay on target…”?) Once the green flaps UP indicator flashed, I could pull out of the dive using the full certificated G load limit of 3.62G’s.

Level at 100 feet above the ground, I saw Scott Pruitt in the LFA almost half way down the runway and headed for the finish line, but I was gaining fast. I was doing 300+ and came within 2 seconds of catching him at the finish. The only thing left for me to do to win the race was lean forward and once I get a chance to see the race photos, it wouldn’t surprise me to find that I did that too!

A great deal of effort went into organizing the event and we wanted a close finish, but we had no idea it would end up being THAT close. We were extremely diligent to be sure that every aspect of the race was safe and legal. Within those constraints, you can be sure I did everything possible to win.

Bottomline: The limits of aircraft are finite. We carefully calculated the maximum possible speeds and forces that could be reached during the complex maneuver and compared those against the technical limits of the aircraft specifications. I practiced & performed the race as close to those limits as safety and legality permitted. Another, more "aggressive" pilot could only have gone faster by busting those limits.

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