Friday, December 28, 2018

Plane Crazy Saturday and all things Mojave Air and Space Port Winter 2018

MOJAVE — There is a whole lot of action going on at the Mojave Air and Space Port this Christmas as MASP marks another space milestone, welcomes back one of their own heroes, gets an award, and looks to the future. All in two weeks. Let’s go.

Last Saturday’s Plane Crazy Saturday, hosted by MASP and the Mojave Transportation Museum, welcomed back American aviation legend and MASP local boy made good — the one and only Dick Rutan. Mr. Rutan was the guest speaker for the day, and along with celebrating the 32nd anniversary of the record setting Voyager flight he and Jeana Yeager completed Dec. 24, 1986, he came to talk about something else.

Never short for amazing and true stories that one can listen to non-stop, this story was one seldom heard of. It was the story of how Rutan and his pal, Arctic explorer Ron Sheardown, decided to go adventure at the North Pole in Ron’s brand new Anatov AN2, and what happened next.

The short form is that while in Alaska, Dick and Ron met up and decided to go adventure up to the North Pole in Ron’s AN-2, a very nice plane by any standard, and one that could handle such flights with little to no problem. They set out and managed to fly up to the GPS North Pole exactly and found what looked like a nice level spot to drop in on for a stop. There was a nice clearing of smooth icepack, and one plane had already landed and was parked, with a couple guys standing outside their plane, which was smaller and lighter than the AN2.

Long story short, Rutan and Sheardown landed and brought the AN2 right up alongside the other plane, assuming that the ice under them was thick enough to handle aircraft even though the usual protocol of a test drilling was not performed. They should have noticed the purple ice, Rutan said to the crowd, but they didn’t.

After being parked for mere minutes, the two guys that were outside their plane standing on the ice began frantically signaling Rutan and Sheardown to take off immediately, telling them the worst news possible: they and their brand new Anatov AN-2 were sinking into the water under the ice they had landed on!

Owner and experienced Alaska pilot Sheardown immediately attempted to fly out of it as suggested by the other two pilots, only going further into the softer ice and eventually the AN2 stopped stuck in the ice. That changed only everything, as now Rutan and Sheardown realized that their airplane they came in was sinking into the sea under them. They were at the North Pole — not exactly the most hospitable place on Earth — and their only way back home was sinking before their eyes.

Again to shorten the story, they quickly nominated pilot Sheardown to go back into the sinking plane to retrieve their emergency survival gear for obvious reasons, with a rope tied around him just in case the plane went down fast. By now it was up to its propeller in the icy cold water and was obviously likely to fall through and sink, though it held on by its wingtips for some time.

In total they got to spend a couple days fending for themselves and trying in vain to build a proper igloo, until Canadian First Air sent up a plane for them, which ended up being some shuttle flights afterward to retrieve the thousands of dollars of equipment they had to leave behind. The plane was lost.

Rutan tossed in a brief recapping of his ill-fated around the world balloon flight that ended in less than a few miles with him being dragged through a cactus patch face first back in 1998, as well. Oh, and again it was also the 32nd anniversary of his historic round the world flight in the Voyager. There is that too.

A couple days later at the most recent MASP board of Directors meeting, MASP General Manager Karina Drees brought forth last week’s flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two, the VSS Unity, and its successful flight to 51.4 miles above Earth. She mentioned the two pilots now being ranked as astronauts, Mark “Forger” Stucky and “CJ” Sturckow, the achievements of that day, and what it means to MASP’s history with that being the first space flight from MASP since 2004, she stated.

As the meeting closed out Matt Sheridan of Toxic Fastpitch presented the Board with a Certificate of Appreciation for allowing the nascent league, made up of young women fastpitch softball players, to use their softball field located at the Belshaw entrance by the Post Office for their league here in Mojave region. Sheridan stated that young ladies from Cal City, Mojave, Boron, and surrounding region have joined the league and been drafted by local colleges from it! One got picked up by Cal State Fullerton, while another is slated to go to UCLA based on their talents showcased in the Toxic league, and MASP for being a main proponent of that success. Always something big on at MASP. 

Original article can be found here ➤

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