A 22-foot, wingless aircraft, the forerunner of future space ferries, performed flawlessly Wednesday (11/13) on its first full-power flight.
PILOT GETTING INTO AIRCRAFT; TAKEOFF OF LARGE LAUNCHING CRAFT; LAUNCH OF WINGLESS PLANE; WINGLESS PLANE IN FLIGHT; WINGLESS PLANE LANDING; PILOT GETTING OUT OF WINGLESS PLANE.
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: A 22-foot, wingless aircraft, the forerunner of future space ferries, performed flawlessly Wednesday (11/13) on its first full-power flight.
This was actually the second test flight for the experimental aircraft, called the HL-10. On the previous test, Pilot Jerauld Gentry, an Air Force Major, was able to ignite one engine only briefly, and could not attain full speed.
In Wednesday's test, the HL-10 was piloted by John A. Manke, an employee of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Afterward, Manke said he, too, had difficulty in getting the engines to start, but succeeded after two or three tries.
Manke, who celebrated his 37th birthday Wednesday, entered the HL-10, mounted under the wing of a B-52 bomber, and was carried aloft to 40,000 feet. At that point, the HL-10 was released and fell to 5,000 feet before its engines ignited. During the flight, which lasted just over 3 minutes, the HL-10 climbed to 43,000 feet and hit a top speed of 610 mph.
The purpose of Wednesday's test was to check the stability and handling of the aircraft under power. In later flights, its speed and altitude will gradually be increased to 1,000 mph and 80,000 feet.
NASA officials hope similar, more heavily-constructed models, one day will be used to ferry astronauts between earth and orbiting space stations.
After Wednesday's successful test, Manke said "It was marvellous. I sure have a lot of confidence in that plane now. I didn't seen any difference (in stability) with power and without power."