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Sat, Oct 20, 2007

MHV Implements New Procedures Following Scaled Accident

Air And Space Port Says Mishap Led To Improved Communication

Echoes of the fatal July 26 explosion that rocked the Scaled Composites facility at the Mojave Air And Space Port (MHV) still resonate for workers and tenants at the airport... but they also say something of a positive has come about as a result.

As ANN reported, three Scaled personnel were lost in the blast, which occurred during what was described as a routine cold-test-fire of the nitrous oxide propellant system to be used on Scaled's upcoming SpaceShipTwo. Three others were injured.

An investigation is underway by the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health (CalOSHA,) reports the Antelope Valley Press. Scaled personnel are also conducting their own investigation into the blast, and work has been suspended on the propulsion system until the cause is understood.

Tom Weil, director of business operations at MHV, says the accident has led to better communication between airport personnel, the Kern County Fire Department, and workers at Scaled.

"If anything, the Scaled Composites incident really has opened up the communication up and down the field. That has been very, very positive," he said.

New safety procedures have also come about as a result, including risk assessment practices prior to any further rocket testing at the airport. County fire and health department officials will also review further test plans, and advise on potential safety risks.

"That's the communication procedure we're starting at the moment," Weil said, adding such reviews will put airport officials and emergency responders on the same page, so "they know what they're up against" in the event of an emergency.

Additional procedures regarding the protocol for reporting accidents, as well as a new grid map of the airport for fire officials, have also been implemented.

"That's been a big help to everybody," Weil said.

Some of the new procedures came about following a safety audit conducted by an outside company in the days after the explosion. "It always helps to have outside eyes looking at things," Weil said. "If there's a better way to build a mousetrap, let's do it."



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