In February 2011 the FAA issued an Airworthiness Directive calling for removal of chemical oxygen generators from airplane lavatories, or emptying the generator and restowing the masks. (By the way, no one told the passengers that there was no longer any supplemental oxygen supply in the bathrooms.) While security wasn’t mentioned in the AD, apparently there was a safety problem. Or as the FAA so confoundingly put it in the new final rule, which rescinds the 2011 AD, “This AD was prompted by reports that the current design of the oxygen generators presents a hazard that could jeopardize flight safety. We are issuing this AD to eliminate a hazard that could jeopardize flight safety and to ensure that all lavatories have a supplemental oxygen supply.”
The science-fiction pundits were wrong. The future of space travel doesn’t look like a Buck Rogers-style rocket poised to roar straight up into the twinkling heavens from a tinkerer’s backyard. What space travel will look like, according to a company called Stratolaunch Systems−which includes board member and backyard tinkerer Burt Rutan−is kind of unsurprising, more airplane-like, although no less fantastical.
Burt Rutan, who retired in April from Scaled Composites, the company he founded in Mojave, Calif., has joined with Paul Allen in a plan to build the largest aircraft in the world. Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates, funded the SpaceShipOne effort that successfully boosted the first privately funded manned rocket outside the Earth’s atmosphere.
The Orion Air Group upped its profile by displaying a Gulfstream IISP modified as an R&D testbed at the Royal International Air Tattoo, RAF Fairford, UK, in mid-July. The privately held U.S.-based group was founded about three years ago, and generated nearly $200 million in 2010 from special mission and corporate aircraft services. The latter are marketed under the Tempus Jets name.
After a span of 30 years the space shuttle program ended on July 21 when Atlantis landed safely at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The landing represented the conclusion of the 135th flight of the reusable space plane, and for me, the end of the only manned space program I had ever really known.
Associated Air Center, StandardAero’s large transport-category VIP aircraft completions center in Dallas, has developed a full-scale airframe mockup for creating and testing new designs, fabrications and systems on Boeing Business Jets.
At 11:29 this morning, the final space shuttle flight got under way as Atlantis rose from the launch pad on a column of fire from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The threat of thunderstorms had remained at bay, and, some 2.5 minutes later than planned, STS-135 headed skyward to punch through an overcast on its way to spending 12 days in the void above.
FedEx Express is converting its entire fleet of 250 Cessna 208 Caravans from de-icer boots to CAV Aerospace TKS ice-protection systems and Garmin G600
EADS Astrium (Stand H23) is displaying a model of its proposed Space Plane, which would require seven years of development between actual program launch and first commercial flight.
Global airlines are still suffering reduced demand for flights, but the Virgin Group’s dream of launching passenger flights into space has received a boost in the form of significant new investment from Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments. The Middle East firm will invest about $280 million to take a 32-percent stake in Virgin Galactic, valuing the subsidiary at almost $900 million.
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