Rocket racers land key FAA approval

The adventurous and sometimes arduous path the Rocket Racing League has taken to bring its spectacle to a wide audience took a positive turn this week when the Federal Aviation Administration granted an experimental exhibition certificate that will let the group fly at 20 venues nationwide in 2009.

The Rocket Racing aircraft which flew for the first time at the Experimental Aircraft Association's AirVenture 2008 show in Oshkosh, Wis. - was built by XCOR Aerospace. The aircraft are liquid oxygen rocket-powered jets based on the four-seat canard propeller-based experimental Velocity Aircraft plane. The jet engines are being built by Armadillo Aerospace and reportedly will launch the craft to 200MPH in under 15 seconds. The cockpit seats for all Rocket Racers will be reinforced to withstand impacts up to 20G load and other safety measures will be added using a methodology similar to that of F-1 and Indy Car to better protect pilots and passengers alike, the League said.

The idea is the aircraft will take off like a regular small airplane, blast into the sky and fly through a virtual course with twists, turns and straight-aways like a souped-up Indy or NASCAR racetrack in the sky. Racing League pilots see the course superimposed on helmet-mounted 3-D displays, while the crowd monitors the race from large-screen TVs on the ground.

 "This historic moment was built upon the unprecedented cooperation between our company, Armadillo Aerospace, and the FAA. The League will now move forward with solidifying venues for its 2009 Exhibition season and be on course for the official race season in 2010,"  said Granger Whitelaw, Rocket Racing League Chief Executive Officer in a release.

The league now plans to pick 8 venues from the more than 20 the FAA approved, including  National Championship Air Races and Air Show, Reno, Nevada; Miramar Air Show, San Diego, California; Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo, Sebring, Florida; McGuire Air Force Base Airshow, Wrightstown, New Jersey; Sun 'n Fun, Lakeland, Florida; Oklahoma Spaceport, Burns Flat, Oklahoma; Wings and Wheels Fly-in, Sheboygan, Wisconsin; Lackland AirFest, San Antonio, Texas; Langley Air Force Base Air Show, Hampton, Virginia; EAA AirVenture, Oshkosh, Wisconsin; NAS JAX Air Show, Jacksonville, Florida; New York Air Show at Jones Beach, Farmingdale, New York and Fort Worth Alliance Air Show, Fort Worth, Texas.

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