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Just The Facts For The Week Of April 26 – April 30, 2021

Stratolaunch Flies Again, A Farewell to Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins, A Mars Copter Update, Our Readers Weigh In On “Lunken’s Leap,” And Much More.

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Stratolaunch, the aircraft with the longest wingspan in the world took, off from Mojave (California) Air and Space Port for its second-ever flight on Thursday morning. The “Roc,” named for the giant mythological bird, was built for aerospace company Stratolaunch Systems by Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites. It has six engines and a wingspan of 385 feet. It flew for the first time in April 2019, shortly after Stratolaunch’s founder Paul Allen died, after which Stratolaunch ceased activity and sold the company.

Michael Collins, the command module pilot on NASA’s 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon, has died of cancer at age 90. His family shared the news in a Wednesday statement on Collins’ Facebook page. “Mike always faced the challenges of life with grace and humility, and faced this, his final challenge, in the same way. We will miss him terribly. Yet we also know how lucky Mike felt to have lived the life he did. Acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk said, “As pilot of the Apollo 11 command module, some called him ‘the loneliest man in history,’ while his colleagues [Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin] walked on the Moon for the first time, he helped our nation achieve a defining milestone.” In the years since, Collins has been a tireless advocate for space exploration. Iurczyk quoted Collins’ stance, “Exploration is not a choice, really, it’s an imperative.” The NASA Acting Administrator added, “There is no doubt [Collins] inspired a new generation of scientists, engineers, test pilots and astronauts.”

Mars Copter to “Try Again” After Aborted Fourth Flight NASA’s four-pound Mars helicopter Ingenuity was supposed fly yesterday from the floor of Mars’ Jezero Crater, but a failure to transition to flight mode grounded the mission. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California tweeted, “Aim high, and fly, fly again. The #MarsHelicopter’s ambitious fourth flight didn’t get off the ground, but the team is assessing the data and will aim to try again soon. We’ll keep you posted.” NASA scheduled an 11:30 am (EDT) briefing on today’s proposed flight.

Our reader survey about the FAA’s revocation of Martha Lunken’s pilot certificates showed that pilots who answered the survey questions, and that was more than 500 of you, are strongly united on some of the thorny issues. Fifty-eight percent believe the FAA went overboard with Lunken’s discipline by revoking her certificates; just less than 30 percent thought the penalty was fitting; and 9 percent believed the feds should have done nothing. But how dangerous is flying under bridges in general? We asked how you felt about the statement, “Apart from the legality, stunts like flying under a bridge can be done safety under certain circumstances.” Seventy-four percent of you agreed or agreed strongly. As for the capper, “Have you ever flown under a bridge?” Just over half said that they “never have and never would’ and 34 percent said that they “never had but it sounds intriguing.” Just three respondents said that they done it and regretted it, while 30 of you said you have done it and “regret nothing.”

The EAA announced this week that it was embarking on a project to add square footage to the already impressive footprint of its museum. Details of the plan, dubbed Project 21, signal the association is expanding its programs to help create new pathways for young people to get deeply involved in aviation. Jack Pelton, EAA president and chairman of the board, summed it up nicely. “While the EAA Aviation Museum highlights more than a century of accomplishments in personal flight, a major part of EAA’s mission to grow participation in aviation is to offer high-level programming for current and future pilots, Project 21 brings that vision to reality, and further strengthens Oshkosh as the home for those who pursue their dreams of flight.”

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Aerobatics airshow performer Matt Younkin was uninjured after a partial gear-up landing in his Beech D-18 twin in St. Joseph, Missouri, Thursday, (April 29, 2021). No one was injured. Younkin was in St. Joseph for an airshow this weekend. Younkin reported a problem the gear on his D-18, and with first responders in place, landed the big twin on the lone remaining gear leg. The plane went off the runway and was heavily damaged. The important part, of course, is that the pilot (and apparently sole occupant) was unhurt.

Details are sketchy, but the British Aviation Accidents Facebook page published photos showing the results of a reported forced landing of G-HYZA, the PA-46-350 Piper Malibu Mirage and the test aircraft for a hydrogen-propulsion system. No one was injured, according to the report, but the overhead photo shows the aircraft is heavily damaged, with its left wing separated at the root. The government-backed company behind the project is ZeroAvia. The UK’s Jet Zero Council promises “a laser focus on UK production facilities for sustainable aviation fuels and the acceleration of the design, manufacture and commercial operation of zero-emission aircraft.”

A pair of U.S. Air Force officers have publicly taken the service to task for not effectively anticipating that its pilots would be tempted away so soon by civilian airline jobs. The officers published a report in Defense One, a military-focused website, that high-ranking Air Force officials did not anticipate the speed of the airlines’ recovery from the pandemic, which had provided the military a respite from retention incentives for service pilot. The officers wrote, “When Air Force pilots start heading for the exits again soon, the Department of Defense will have problems meeting its commitments.”

Ethan Eck, President of Wichita Manufacturers Association (WMA), said aerospace leaders are seeing the industry slowly return to pre-pandemic levels and more stable conditions. He said many companies are beginning to recall workers or experience growth in general aviation and defense/military divisions. Eck said, “While this will be a gradual return to pre-Covid levels, commercial [airline] customers are beginning to upgrade their fleets, positively impacting WMA members,” Eck said. “General aviation also has a positive outlook and defense/military manufacturing work continues to be robust, as well as the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) capabilities Wichita is known for in all aviation sectors.”

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