Hand-Flying Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo to “Space”

Unlike Blue Origin’s New Shepard, which flies completely autonomously with no pilots on board, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo is hand-flown by its crew of two from the moment of release from the White Knight Two carrier aircraft to landing on the runway after its suborbital hop into “space” (the U.S.-only definition of 50 statute miles [80 km], not the international standard of 100 km). There is no autopilot, and the crew’s flight controls are connected directly to the control surfaces by cables, just like in the “stick and rudder” age of aviation.


BTW, for those who would like to understand just how an airplane flies, the forces at work generally and the forces which must be applied by control surfaces to tame it, the book by that name - Stick and Rudder - by Wolfgang Langwiesche ( * ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0070362408 ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0070362406) is a classic worth the read. It is truly a masterpiece and made me a much better pilot.

It so happened that Herr Langwiesche and I flew out of the same small airport in NJ (Sky Manor in Pittstown) in the early 1970’s and he kindly autographed my copy. It is one of my most prized possessions.