Thursday, March 27, 2008

Space Access 2008 - Pannel on Rocket Piloting

(Order in the picture: Ian, Randall, John, Mark, Erik)

Randall Claque of XCOR opened by reviewing the FAA rules of being a rocket pilot. Basically you have to know how to fly the rocket, be physically healthy and know the rules.

John Carmack of Armadillo said that he doesn't have a pilot's license, and the FAA is willing to wave the rules at times. At Armadillo they fly the rocket via remote control, and if there is a problem, then they may choose to abort. John made the provocative statement that being a rocket pilot will be like being an elevator operator, ancient history.

In response to a question from the audience John said getting a pilot's license is helpful. It is also worth getting an understanding of risk management and understand how rockets work. John says they expect to program most of the work so it is just push button.

Randall said there were 7 AST licensed flights and 9 ASL permitted flights. I'm not sure what the distinction is between the two.

Ian Kluft was the instigator for the panel discussion. Ian wants to be a rocket pilot and a flight instructor. Ian has had a private pilots license for twenty years and recently got his instrumental license. Ian made the point that one problem currently is an airport is closed when a rocket flies. He suggested that we look for ways to avoid having the airspace closed down.

Mark Street said that while rockets are few now one way to get some experience is to work with a variety of planes. He pointed out that while rockets are taking off it is pulling serious g's, so it would be good to build up tolerance. Rockets will be fast and one option to develop a feel for the speed is to practice in a Czechoslovakian L39. But that is expensive, it can cost $2,000 for one hour. He said it would also be helpful to get a private gilder's license.

Erik Anderson took his turn. Erik is a pilot for the Air Force. He felt lots of experience was worth having.

The audience started asking questions.

Erik said that yes simulators could be worth while, especially since right now we don't have rocket planes to practice with.

A member of the audience said the Oklahoma space port doesn't shut down when a rocket takes off.

Erik said it was worth develop g tolerance. Mark said it is only for fifteen or so seconds. Erik said that because it is fairly gradual 4 or 5 g's isn't too bad. A few people in the audience pointed out that high end roller coasters are pulling 3 to 4 g's.

Randall said that legally there are no passengers now. Passengers buy tickets to an activity which is assumed to be safe. Currently rockets take flight participants.

The full agenda

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Anonymous said...

Aero L-39 Albatros is not a Soviet jet. It is Czechoslovak. See

Henry Cate said...

Thanks for the correction.