The aviation world got its first live look on Tuesday afternoon at what hopes to be the next big air sport -- rocket racing. With a huge EAA AirVenture audience gathered to watch under cloudy skies, a single ship from the Rocket Racing League lined up on the runway, lit its rocket engine for a noisy and abrupt takeoff, climbed straight into the sky, then turned off the rocket, glided back to position above the field, and did it again. The demo may not have quite rocked the world, but it did show that the concept works and the thing will fly. Essentially a single-seat Velocity homebuilt with a 1,500-pound-thrust rocket engine attached, the ship can reach speeds above 300 knots. The League plans to stage competitions with large video screens that depict a race course and make use of cameras mounted on the wings and in the cockpit to engage the audience with the action.
The league had hoped to debut its actual racing competition at Oshkosh this week, but was unable to get FAA approval in time. Now the first race is set for Reno in September. More demo flights are scheduled for Oshkosh later in the week.