The Experimental Aircraft
Association says the blogosphere is abuzz with reports of Virgin
Galactic's recently sent invitations to selected individuals for a
progress report and a rollout of WhiteKnightTwo on July 28 at
Mojave Spaceport in California. EAA says these reports foreshadow a
parallel media event and follow-up engagements with EAA members and
visitors at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2008, July 28-August 3.
"I can absolutely confirm that the Virgin Galactic event, which
takes place during the opening day of AirVenture, will have ties
back to Oshkosh, both real-time and throughout the week," said EAA
President and AirVenture Chairman Tom Poberezny. "We've been in
regular communications with our friends at Virgin Galactic and its
partner organization, Scaled Composites, to coordinate."
Poberezny added the Virgin Galactic team -- including Virgin
Group owner Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic President Will
Whitehorn, and Scaled Composites founder Burt Rutan -- will arrive
at AirVenture the following day (Tuesday, July 29) to speak and
interact with EAA members and event visitors.
WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo are significantly expanded and
modified progeny of the original White Knight and SpaceShipOne,
which seized the $10 million Ansari X-Prize in the fall of 2004 for
making the world's first qualifying, privately funded flights into
suborbital space within two weeks. As many ANN readers are aware,
those vehicles later made their only public flight demonstrations
at AirVenture 2005, before SpaceShipOne was permanently enshrined
in the National Air and Space Museum.
If we were to engage in some wild-eyed extrapolation -- and,
what the heck, it's a slow news day -- we might ask
what the odds are AirVenture 2008 attendees could witness a
flight of WhiteKnightTwo.
Alas, conventional wisdom says slim to none, given that the
Mojave announcement makes no mention at all about a possible
flight... nevermind a cross-country trip to Wisconsin.
Still... EAA coyly notes it "will announce more details
regarding the Virgin Galactic story at AirVenture as they are
finalized," and the word "conventional" isn't one we'd apply to
"This unfolding story of space tourism reflects directly on the
EAA community and the environment of pioneering and innovation that
it has always promoted," Poberezny said. "Burt Rutan, the genius
behind the designs of the White Knights and the SpaceShips, and
numerous other innovative aircraft, is a lifetime member of EAA who
got started as part of EAA's amateur-built aircraft movement.
"We're proud of the accomplishments of Burt, of the Scaled
Composites and Virgin Galactic teams, and of every EAA member who
lives the dream of passionate participation in aviation."