All Hail The Aero-Heroes of 2009!
Final Compilations by ANN
Editor-In-Chief/Trouble-Maker, Jim Campbell
It is both the most "fun," and most
difficult, task facing the ANN staff at the end of every year --
determining who, or what, did the most to promote the cause of
aviation in the past 365 days... while also chastising those people
or entities that did all they could to undermine the many successes
the aviation/aerospace community has managed to accomplish.
Thankfully, 2009 was a year in which we saw the best and brightest
among us step forward and work tirelessly on behalf of us all. No
doubt about it... the challenges we faced in 2009 were numerous,
and ongoing... so was the quality of expertise and passion brought
to our defense by those who heroically demonstrated to the world
the very best side of aviation... via their deeds, words and
It is ANN's honor to recognize Ten persons/organizations or groups
that qualify as our Aero-Heroes for 2009... in something of an
informal order, starting from the 10th to the 1st. Let us know what
you think of our selections... whom YOU would have liked be
included or omitted from such a list. In the meantime, we thank the
folks who made this year's list. Thank you, folks... we really
needed you this year, and you didn't let us down.
ANN will list our Top Ten choices over the next few days's, but
in order to kick off the New Year right, let's enjoy another
selection from our Heroes List for 2009...
Aero-Heroes #9: XCOR Aerospace
Don't get me wrong, as the proud
former owner of a much beloved Long-EZ, as well as having been
(once upon a time) a Mohave Airport ramp rat, I not only believe,
but can prove that Burt Rutan walks on water. Having spent times
working with a highest echelons of the XPrize organization, having
flown chase on some of Burt's most critical flights and missions,
and not only been friends with and attended Test Pilot school with
some of Scaled Composites' coolest people, I think that Scaled
Composites deserves every bit of the press that it's gotten thus
But... let's not ignore the folks that have NOT gotten nearly as
much press -- who have as much heart, as much talent, and are
destined to rock our world in ways just as profound as Burt and his
most talented tribe of acolytes. I speak, in this particular case,
of a little company that I've worked with off and on, as part of
XPrize, as part of the Rocket Racing League, as a journalist, and
as a friend of some those involved directly in the company... I
speak of XCOR.
XCOR is one of those unique enterprises that turns on the genius
of a leader whose greatest talent may be surrounding himself with
equally talented people that look upon the improbable as
mundane/easy chores and the impossible as a welcome challenge. Jeff
Greason's small operation in the Mojave Desert continues to push
the boundaries of what is considered to be the state-of-the-art in
private space initiatives, hardware, and design.
They've come up with some of the most intriguing and, at times
bizarre, concepts nd means by which to excite the world to the
potential of the commercial space business... such as strapping a
rocket engine to a Long-EZ (and eventually a Velocity airframe) to
demonstrate the capabilities of their shop and involve the public
in the excitement of the XPrize-inspired revilution that has been
underway for more than a decade.
The world is starting to understand how talented the XCOR team
is, with the appointment of Jeff Greason to a pivotal national
committee that was designed to look at the future of manned space
(the Augustine Commission), while the rest of the world waits with
breathless anticipation for the first flights of their Lynx
suborbital manned vehicle.
Millions of dollars have now been promised to the program, and
Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic initiative is going to find
itself with some competitions just a few years from now... and as
we all know from long-term observation of the aviation industry,
true progress occurs when not only is there solid competition, but
when the competition is as uniquely talented and inspired as
companies like XCOR.
ANN finds great inspiration in XCOR, as it does in Scaled
Composites, as it does with Masten Space Systems, and dozens of
other little private companies that will someday not just change
the nation, but show us the universe.