Has Scaled Composites made further changes to the rudder of its WhiteKnight Two prototype Eve?
In the company’s online log for its WK2 prototype’s flight test 13 it says: “Eval control surface mods, Eval pitot probe relocation, Intstrument approach practice, Pilot LOA practice.”
Hyperbola contacted Virgin Galactic and was told by its president Will Whitehorn: “minor refinements [made to control surfaces were] based on learning to date.”
Asked which control surfaces had been modified, Whitehorn said: “this is commercially sensitive as it is and Scaled don’t give a running commentary to their competitors, that’s all they wish to say.”
In its 23 April statement Scaled Composites stated that “We concluded the rudder aerodynamic modification tasks following flight 3.”The statement followed Flightglobal’s 21 April exclusive report of a tail strike by Eve which Scaled clarified with its 23 April statement was caused by an idle engine mis-setting giving more power to one engine
During the incident the aircraft was seen to employ full right rudder but it took an increase in thrust from the left engine to correct a growing port bank as the prototype was carrying out a touch and go manoeuvre at Mojave air and spaceport
Virgin Galactic has stated that it wants to carry customers on WK2s for their training and so they can witness the launch of SpaceShip Twos prior to their own flight
The US Federal Aviation Administration told Hyperbola that WK2 would have to be certified for passenger flight for any activity beyond its operation as a launch platform for SpaceShip Two
One of the requirements for certification for passenger aircraft is that the rudder can compensate for just the situation that Eve was involved in, a thrust imbalance
So the question is, is Scaled making further changes to its rudder when it said it would not and are the changes to make the mothership ready for certification?
Mojave sources have told Hyperbola that WK2 has been seen flying what appeared to be a airshow routine three times, indicating that the LOA acronym in the test flight update refers to limited operations area, i.e. an airshow box
This will be in preparation for its demonstration flights at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture airshow which Mojave sources believe could see a Viking departure (going vertical immediately after take-off) demonstrated by the mothership – due to what has been witnessed during recent test flights