December 24, 2008
By Dave Hirschman
White Knight Two - photo courtesy of Virgin Galactic.
The odd-looking aircraft designed to help launch the fledgling space tourism industry made its first flight Dec. 22 in Mojave, Calif., and reached an altitude of 16,000 feet.
The hour-long flight went smoothly despite a rare snowfall that coated the high desert with snow.
The twin-fuselage, composite, four-engine, White Knight Two is designed to carry the Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo to an altitude of 50,000 feet. There, it will release the Burt Rutan-designed, rocket plane on sub-orbital flights carrying high-paying space tourists.
“It all went well,” said Dick Rutan, a record-setting pilot and the designer’s brother. “All the big things worked. Overall, 99 percent on target and everybody is really happy. You get an airplane that’s this weird and get it up and get it down . . . and it’s safe on deck.”
White Knight Two is a larger, more complex, heavy lifting version of the original White Knight that carried SpaceShipOne to altitude. SpaceShipOne won the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004 by becoming the first privately funded aircraft to make a pair of flights to the edge of space within two weeks.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.
As the cold weather chills AOPA’s Headquarters in Frederick, many of us are inside generating new resources for flying clubs.
In my house, every Friday night is “Movie Night.” While the movies are rarely educational (I don’t think I learned anything from the Lego Movie), we look forward to the weekly opportunity to spend time together. Why not use the same concept for your Flying Club (with the addition of education, of course)?
AOPA Flying Club Manager Kelby Ferwerda posted the following on the AOPA Flying Club Facebook Page: “Recently I’ve talked with quite a few Flying Clubs about maintaining social activity through the cold winter months. Some clubs host Holliday Parties, others have Potluck Movie Nights. What does your club do to keep members involved during the chilly months?”
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