Mojave Air & Space Port New Year’s Greeting

Mojave Air & Space Port New Year’s GreetingBy STUART O. WITT

CEO and General Manager

Happy New Year! On January 1, 1914, America entered the commercial air service arena with a flight that lasted just a few minutes and carried one passenger sitting on a wood seat across a short distance in south Florida. Today millions of passengers will board commercial aircraft and statistically all will reach their destination safely, in large part because of the robust industry in which we are a central participant.

Things occurred in the first 100 years of commercial air travel that no one could have predicted 100, 80 or even 70 years ago. If you asked anyone in 1925, “Within the next 70 years will people board a pressurized aircraft powered by jet engines and be fed steak and lobster, watch the latest movies or television while talking via telephone to their home or office?” they would have laughed in your face. But it did happen and the quality of life for all people has grown exponentially with our industry.

So what is possible in the next 100 years of endo- and exo-atmospheric flight? Two months ago I testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Space. Congress continues to ask, “Why is space important?” No doubt Congress in 1914 asked the same question about air travel. History has proven that Congress can be a bit shortsighted.

Mojave Air & Space Port’s participation in the future continues to build on our 2013 accomplishments. The year was a breakout year for Mojave Air & Space Port, and I predict 2014 will see the fruits of our collective labor. Look for rockets flying, new aircraft on our ramps and more unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) flying from our runways along with many new aircraft and technical jobs being created as a result of late 2013 contract changes.

With Northrop Grumman’s purchase of Hangar 210 providing NGC with a 100,000-square-foot footprint on our primary runway, we can expect expanding Department of Defense aerospace growth at Mojave. With Flight Test Aerospace’s purchase of Hangar 100 and Hangar 68, we can expect a rather large aerospace project to locate here, bringing additional new jobs. With our water, power and fiber project complete to the north-side rocket testing sites, we expect 50 additional recycling jobs and rocket testing jobs.

Some highlights of 2013 that may have missed your radar screen:

• Runway 4/22 was completely reconstructed and strengthened, lengthened and lighted with a new instrument approach and precision landing lighting system installed.

• XCOR did the first hot-fire tests of a new liquid hydrogen engine, developed with United Launch Alliance for ULA’s upper stage delivery system. Way to go, XCOR!

• Scaled Composites performed the first two rocket-powered flights of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo!

• Virgin Galactic hosted 300+ future astronauts, the largest gathering to date, providing them with a sneak peek of the second SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo vehicles currently under construction at MASP!

• Masten Space Systems continued to develop and test precision vertical launch and landing vehicles with amazing results!

• Stratolaunch completed building its second facility and began construction on the new aircraft with gusto!

• InterOrbital qualified a 7,500-pound thrust rocket engine!

• Renovations complete for new MASP Event Center!

• Firestar Engineering and Typhon Labs continued development of test stands to accommodate new rocket propulsion system developments!

• Incotec continued to lead the fastener coating industry, with one billion fasteners and counting!

• NASA Dryden Flight Research Center and Mojave Air & Space Port collaborated on an executive intern program. John Kelly spent one year with Mojave staff furthering the cultural bond between the two engineering centers.

• National Test Pilot School renewed its focus on training foreign test pilots and flight test engineers.

• Progress Rail expanded its rail yard to yield 40 new jobs and a new facility at Mojave.

• Stoken’s Donuts and Coffee celebrated its five-year anniversary, feeding the airport’s workforce nearly every day!

Infrastructure being developed in Mojave today to support our all-encompassing transportation sector, such as rail, soft tire, heavy lift (crane) and air and space systems, will benefit the entire region and the world. New transportation methods could easily yield point-to-point suborbital travel for humans within the next 20 years. This technology would reduce the travel time from India to the U.S. to a matter of minutes, a journey that now takes an exhausting 15 hours with stops.

Bolting together infrastructure to support tomorrow’s industry needs has proven to be our strongest asset in Mojave. These are realistic goals worth pursuing. Mojave is strategically positioned to continue taking on the nation’s air- and spaceflight development challenges.

Building, installing and going live with our electric vehicle charging station tied directly to our solar PV tracking system is a goal for 2014. Adding new composite fire and rescue systems to our response vehicles, and team training on the new pyrolance, is a huge improvement and a valuable investment in today and our future.

Infrastructure improvements and airside advancements made in past years have enabled the high-net-worth investment we are seeing today. Investments in navigation systems, lighting and security have paid huge dividends in terms of our ability to attract living-wage jobs to Mojave.

Our 2014 challenge will be to support grassroots local initiatives to improve quality of life for all in the region, enabling the retention of those who choose to make their living and pursue their dreams in the Aerospace Valley, which includes Mojave. Completing our event center and hosting five events in the fourth quarter of 2013 represented a long step in this direction. We will host the Antelope Valley Board of Trade Business Conference on Feb. 21, 2014.

Hosting the 100 Mule Train event and seeing 100 mules slowly march past the Virgin Galactic FAITH hangar told our story better than anything I could write. In 100 years, we have grown from transportation systems including mule trains, railyards, auto-soft tire exchanges, air transport and now space. The year 2014 will be a fun ride. We welcome you to get onboard, strap in and hold on!

Story First Published: 2014-01-15