Virgin Group’s Sir Richard Branson added some star appeal in more ways than one at an aviation summit in Washington DC last week, where he shared insights on his quest to personally fly into space and to make that viable for the traveling public.
Branson went on stage at the summit, organized by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, with Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson. The two are allies in their new antitrust transatlantic joint venture between Delta and Virgin Atlantic Airways.
As Branson himself said, there is some irony in the fact that after his long, hard campaign against the American Airlines/British Airways alliance, during which he had “No Way BA/AA” painted on his Virgin Atlantic aircraft, he is now partnered with Delta. The joint venture was formed after Delta bought Singapore Airlines’ 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic.
Branson talked a bit about his Virgin Galactic project to design and build the world’s first commercial spaceliner. Early this year, SpaceShip Two (SS2), VSS Enterprise, completed its third rocket-powered supersonic flight of its passenger-carrying reusable space vehicle from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. There’s a great video here that explains the project. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6HjHNdWQBg#t=159
2014 is a big year for Virgin Galactic, when the spaceship will go into space and begin the transition to Virgin Galactic commercial operations, which will be based at Spaceport America in New Mexico.
Branson said last week that he was very excited about the prospect of personally flying into space. He talked of the possibility of one day having the option to fly from Sydney and Los Angeles in just 45-50 minutes.
ALPA president Lee Moak was a speaker at the same summit and also at the SkyHarbor Aviation Symposium in Phoenix the next day and he mentioned Branson’s comment. But he pointed out that given the very long immigration and border control queues that many people endure at US gateway airports, he couldn’t help but fear that after their 45 minute flight from Sydney, travelers would still have to wait hours at the airport.
You can learn more about the Virgin Galactic project here. http://www.virgingalactic.com/