November 11, 2010
By Mike Collins
Looking back on his flight into space as pilot of SpaceShipOne, Mike Melvill finds the whole experience somewhat surreal. “As old as I was at the time, I didn’t think there was any way I’d be chosen to do that,” he said. “Dropping off the hooks, it’s like a bomb falling off an airplane. If anything’s loose in the cabin it floats up into the air.”
After release, he said, you unguard the rocket ignition switch and light the rocket as quickly as you can, to minimize altitude loss. “The acceleration was just staggering. A rocket motor doesn’t come on gradually like a jet; it comes on full tilt.”
Melvill, who was 64 years old at the time, trained in part by riding his bike and walking four or five miles every day. The space flight went from 0 Gs to 5 1/2 Gs and back to zero, a profile that Melvill practiced in an Extra every day for three weeks.
“The training is everything. You can train yourself, just like a parrot. Actually, doing it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be,” he said. While his first flight into space was pretty easy, another presented him with an uncontrolled, uncommanded roll that sent the aircraft out of controlled flight. “It took 29 more rolls before I got it back,” Melvill recalled. —Mike Collins
Mike Collins has worked for AOPA’s media network since 1994. He holds a private pilot certificate with an instrument rating.
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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