UPDATE: WK2 takes to the air just over three weeks following gear incident on Flight 37
On August 19th the crew of WK2 was performing touch and go’s while training for upcoming spaceship missions. Upon the fifth nominal touchdown, the left hand main gear partially retracted. Flight Test Engineer Marc Zeitlin immediately annunciated the anomaly and Pilot Pete Siebold called for an immediate abort while holding centerline. Meanwhile, Co-pilot Clint Nichols secured the engines and systems.
The occurrence highlighted another positive attribute of the unique design. Because of the twin boom configuration, the vehicle came to rest on the tip of the left vertical tail and left nose gear. This unique balancing act minimized the damage and kept it localized to these two areas. The engines which would have made contact with the ground on a conventional aircraft remained untouched while still feet in the air.
Numerous tests and inspections have taken place in the last several weeks. We have made minor modifications to the gear to add a fail-safe redundancy for any eventualities. Today’s flight 38 was an “FCF” (functional check flight) to shake the cobwebs off after three weeks of downtime and prove-out the newly configured gear. Because our ultimate goal is to keep SS2 flight test schedule progressing forward at pace, the mothership may be flying the next couple flights with the gear down and locked until we can fully test the new gear mechanisms.
We’d like to thank the Mojave Airport; both for their quick response to the Flight 37 incident, and also for their gracious support in helping us get our plane “back to the barn”. There is no place we’d rather be conducting flight test.