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Volume 25, Number 38b
September 19, 2018
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SpaceX Introduces First Passenger For Moon Flight
Kate O'Connor

SpaceX has announced that Japanese fashion entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa has purchased a flight around the moon on the company’s still-conceptual Big Falcon Rocket (BFR). Maezawa, who is also an avid art collector, says he will be offering six to eight artists free seats for the flight in the hope that they will be inspired to create work based on the trip. According to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, the deposit Maezawa has already made will go toward the development of the rocket.

Musk said that although the amount Maezawa paid for the flight will not be disclosed, it is enough to make a material impact on BFR development. The trip is tentatively scheduled for 2023, but Musk called that a “things go right” date, saying that it wasn’t even 100 percent certain that they could get the rocket flying, let alone on time for 2023. Development of the BFR is expected to cost roughly $5 billion.

Manufacture of the first prototype is already in progress, with first test flights planned for 2019. SpaceX says the BFR will have a payload of about 100 metric tons, be fully reusable, and is intended to eventually make trips to Mars and beyond. Although a maximum of twelve passengers will be onboard for the first flight, Musk says the BFR has room for as many as 100 people. It is also designed to land on a wide range of surfaces in a variety of atmospheres.

SpaceX announced in February of last year that it had taken a deposit on a flight around the moon for two previously unidentified individuals—during Monday’s announcement, Musk said that Maezawa was also the customer for that trip—on its Dragon spacecraft powered by the Falcon Heavy rocket. That flight was originally scheduled for 2018, was pushed back to at least mid-2019, and is now abandoned in favor of the BFR trip.

Musk said that SpaceX’s NASA and national security commitments remain the company’s priority, with less than 5 percent of SpaceX resources currently going towards BFR.

How Not to Botch The FAA Medical
Jeff Parnau

I was thinking about taking a pass on my FAA Third Class medical, which was expiring at the end of May. I always dread this process (the paperwork, the physical), as do most pilots who have lived longer than five or six decades. But I decided to take the chance once more, and postpone a transition to Basic Med.

For those of you new to aviation medical questionnaires, there are no trick questions – except one, which has annoyed the hell out of me for years. The trick question asks if you have ever been admitted to a hospital. Ya’ gotta wonder. What does that mean? If you go to the information desk and ask to visit your aunt who has recently had bunion surgery, and they let you in, are you admitted to that hospital?  No, of course not. It means “Did you ever stay overnight in a hospital?” 

But lots of people stay overnight, sitting at the bedside of a beloved aunt. So it doesn’t really mean “Did you stay overnight,” but rather, “Did they keep you overnight because an insurance company was paying for it, and lord knows, the only reason they’re forking over the cash is because, hard as they tried, they couldn’t figure out how to avoid 'losing' a couple thousand dollars for your saline I.V. and that wonderful hospital food.”

If you’re about to get your first FAA med-exam, I’d recommend that on your very first medical application, you check this box and describe the first time you were admitted to a hospital. In my case, I was taken there involuntarily by a woman I had never met. Things quickly got crazy, and after being dragged out of what I considered my own personal space, I was held by my feet, inverted, and naked. This was all against my will. And someone slapped me. Then I was given a hospital ID bracelet, and hauled away where I was washed – still naked – by another woman I had never met. It was horribly embarrassing, all of me being quite small at the time, but at least I was no longer held captive by the person who soon claimed to be my mother. And I was held overnight, regardless of the fact that there was clearly nothing wrong with me! (A nurse actually told my mother I was perfect.)

So unless you were born in the proverbial barn, I’d report that first hospital admission. I didn’t. My dilemma is this: Should I report it now? If I do, would that be an admission that I had omitted my initial admission to a hospital? Would that be confessing to a federal offense, in that I should have reported it earlier? I can only hope that this confusing mess will continue to slip through the cracks.

But it gets worse. What if you simply forgot the next time you were admitted to a hospital? When I was eight years old, my uncle was backing down his driveway in his 1957 Ford. I was on my two-wheeler near the end of the driveway. I pushed off the mailbox using my left hand, hoping for a successful U-turn to get out of his way. I slipped on some gravel, and found myself lying flat in the middle of the driveway. As the Ford quickly approached, I pressed my head into the gravel and thought this: Adios. Fortunately, several witnesses saw my death approaching, and were screaming at him to stop the car. He stopped. So now I was underneath a ‘57 Ford. I crawled out and wiped from my head what I figured was gasoline (hey, I was eight). The screaming peaked as I stood up with a bunch of my scalp covering my right ear.

I did not report this on my first medical. I forgot. Yet subconsciously, I was aware of what happened: Sirens blaring and heavy bleeding during a 20-minute ambulance ride to a hospital; 40 stitches being sewn into my scalp; asking the ER surgeon if I was going to die. I vaguely remember that after he wrapped my head in a turban, my uncle came in and I saw him cry, which made me feel guilty, and the experience eventually became just a slush of emotions, filed in the mysterious, subconscious part of my brain.

But there it was again: another unreported hospital admission during the first decade of my life. Should I report it now? And if I do, must I then check the box that asks whether I have “Mental disorders of any sort; depression, anxiety, etc.”? What on earth does etc. cover? Suppressed memories maybe? I don’t know. There’s no definition of terms on the application. 

What, oh what to do? If I report it, will I have my medical yanked retroactively? Rather than being rewarded with two more years of Third-Class flying, could I be sent to the slammer for “lies of omission”? And if “suppressed memories” of an eight-year-old kid count as a condition of mental instability, maybe they’d put me in the psych unit.

A simple addition to this application would resolve all of my concerns: There should be an option that says, “If this is not your first medical application, do you have anything to add that you may have inadvertently omitted on an earlier application?” That would resolve not only the problem of being born in a hospital, but also the problem of forgetting that my uncle ran over me in a 1957 Ford, one of the ugliest cars ever. I’m sure I would have remembered it all clearly if it had been a 1957 Chevy Bel Air Sport Coupe with a 283. 

Frasca Named Navy Subcontractor
Kate O'Connor

Flight simulator manufacturer Frasca International announced that it has been named subcontractor for the Navy TH-57 Aircrew Training Services Contract on Monday. Frasca says it will be providing ten Flight Simulation Training Devices (FTDs) as part of the ground-based training systems for the TH-57 helicopter. According to the company, the FTDs will be used for initial rotary wing training at Naval Air Station Whiting Field near Milton, Florida.

Included in the package are seven Level 7 TH-57 FTDs. The Level 7s use Frasca's Motion Cueing System, which was specifically designed for rotorcraft simulation, and have a 240-degree by 70-degree field of view visual display. The remaining three FTDs will be Level 6 simulators with a 180-degree by 40-degree field of view display and a vibration system. Frasca says all of the FTDs will be networked “for real-world training scenarios and formation flying” an be controllable via a single remote central control station if desired.

All of the FTDs can be configured as either the Bravo and Charlie versions of the TH-57 and will include Frasca’s Blade Element Modeling, which allows edge-of-envelope flight maneuvers like retreating blade stalls, vortex rings, loss of trail rotor effectiveness and settling with power. The primary contract was awarded to FlightSafety Services Corporation by the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division and includes contract instructional services, contractor operations and maintenance services, and FSTDs.

High-Desert Tales: Smoke
Elliot Seguin

Radio communication is a huge part of flying, and a lot of effort has been made to improve its efficiency. In fast-paced situations like high-risk flight, test radio communication becomes even more important. The best radioman I know is retired Scaled Composites test pilot Doug Shane. His ability to calmly, clearly communicate while subtly letting you know both that you can do it and you really need to do it, is one of the reasons he has had so many awesome opportunities.

I remember a particularly hairy first flight of a strangely shaped homebuilt here at Mojave. I had the privilege of watching and listening to Doug chase the test aircraft in his Long-EZ as the pilot limped around the pattern with a serious primary control problem. It was really impressive. Like so many skills that make all the difference in flight test, the trick is creating opportunities to practice those skills ahead of time so that we can be proficient when those skills are needed.

Mojave Records Week

The first record attempt of the 2015 Mojave Records Week was on Tuesday, April 14. The record I was attempting to break was the C1C time to climb to 3,000 meters (9,842.52 feet). The time to beat was three minutes and nine seconds, set in a pressurized Cessna 210 in 1984 by Wilhelm Heller in Bonn, Germany.

Conditions were very good for a late-morning attempt, not too hot and very windy (35 mph winds and 55° F), and Lynn Farnsworth’s Aerochia-prepared Super Legacy was ready to go. After waiting on the runway for 60 seconds to be sure we got a good GPS fix, I set 200 horsepower while holding the brakes. This is the most power that the tires can reliably hold, and setting it allows the propeller governor and fuel pump to come up to speed and pressure. It also dramatically reduces the risk the engine will stumble when you rapidly apply full power and ADI (anti-detonation injection). Once the engine was stabilized, I checked engine indications one last time, opened the throttle butterfly, released the brakes, and switched on the cylinder spray water and ADI.

Image: Harrison Schaaf

The airplane’s first movement would be caught by the GPS and officially start the clock for the record. On an Aerochia Super Legacy, once the throttle is open, the power is controlled by the aftermarket pneumatic wastegates that regulate the turbochargers, and therefore the manifold pressure. At last chance I had set the wastegates to give me just over 500 hp once I opened the throttle. On race gas, 500 hp is the most power we run without ADI (which takes a few seconds to pressurize). The next seconds were spent focused on the engine monitor on the far left side of the panel, specifically the indicated manifold pressure and fuel flow. Comparing these values is the quickest way to manage fuel/air mixture on Race 44.

The stock Continental mechanical fuel controller has trouble keeping up at these higher power settings and needs to be trimmed using the mixture knob. I got lucky, or all the testing paid off, but the mixture was very close and after turning on the spray water and the anti-detonation methanol injection, I was able to crank more power into the wastegates. For the record attempt we lowered rotation speed to 85 KIAS without flaps (we found in testing the flaps took too long to retract) and as soon as the airplane was airborne, I dumped the nose and selected gear up, watching the airspeed build toward VY of 125 KIAS. The hydraulic pump typically turns off about the time I get VY, so when I found the airplane at VY and the pump still running, I knew it had been a good start. We reached 1,000 feet in 20 seconds. The fastest start we had ever done previously was 42 seconds; the improvement was due to the wind and the aggressive rotation speed. With the airplane stable and headed uphill, I broadened my scan off the HSI and went back to watching the engine. Head temperatures confirmed the spray water was functioning and exhaust temperatures confirmed the mixture was close. Things looked good; and since Lynn and Andy Chiavetta had cleared me to run more power, I used the wastegate regulator to roll that power in, adjusting the mixture accordingly. At 3,800 feet AGL (1/3 of the way to the top), I got a call from Justin Gillen who was with Andy and the crew on the ground watching the attempt. His voice was familiar and calm, and he said one word: “Smoke.”

Now What?

Image: Blake Brown

The biggest concern through all of the testing had been monitoring the air/ fuel mixture of the engine. Therefore I assumed the smoke call was intended to mean thick black exhaust that related to rich mixture. I had been watching the mixture and was pretty confident that it was right, but I trusted Justin and Andy, so I reached up, leaned the mixture and went back to adding boost. Justin called again, “Smoke, you are smoking.”

I could hear Andy in the background, and he sounded alarmed. Andy’s concern snapped me out of record mode, and I started thinking about all the kinds of smoke—particularly the ones that ruin a day. I called back, “Do you want me to abort?”

“Abort, abort, abort,” Justin said. In a modern control room environment, the majority of conversations happen independent of the crew. The team on the ground is watching what is going on and communicating it to the test conductor, who decides what to communicate to the crew and how. In this case the crew on the ground included Andy, the builder of the airplane and designer of its systems; Lynn, the owner of the airplane who has more time in it than anybody; and Justin, the flight test engineer who had been focused on preparing for this record exclusively for the last two months.

Holding the radio, Justin had the responsibilities of a test conductor without the authority to censor the rest of the team. The result was all of the control room coms were transmitted, and there was a significant reduction in efficiency.

Image: Harrison Schaaf

After the abort call at 4,500 feet AGL, I started my emergency abort checklist. I pulled the throttle back to idle, turned off the ADI, confirmed the spray water was still on, and rolled the airplane into a split S back toward the airport. The deceleration was impressive. “Glitter One copies—knock it off, going Runway 30.”

With the sudden and significant change in available bandwidth, I looked around the cockpit for clues about what had just happened. The midday sun, which had been washing out the cockpit, was now blocked by the raised right wing and the contrast made it hard to tell if there was smoke in the cockpit. Is that really smoke in the cockpit? With all that had already happened, I decided it was relatively low cost to act as though there was smoke in the cockpit. I reached behind the ADI tank and turned Lynn’s A-14 diluter-demand oxygen regulator to emergency (100% oxygen) and called to the ground, “Glitter One has smoke in the cockpit.”

Dave responded from the Mojave tower: “Glitter One, clear to land Runway 30.”

On an SFO (simulated flameout) in the Super Legacy, I typically use 2,500 feet AGL for high key, so at 4,000 feet I had more than enough energy to glide back to the airport. With the time pressures of a potential fire, I elected to go direct to low key (2,000 feet AGL) and extend the gear early. Touchdown was a relief, and as I rolled out, the Mojave Airport fire trucks were waiting for me at the edge of the runway; Donald McMullin’s truck with the crew wasn’t far behind them. Before I could get the engine shut down, Andy approached and quickly disappeared beneath the wing to inspect; he returned with an oily hand. I was sure we were done for the week and wasn’t sure how to feel about that.

Problem Solved

Image: Zac Adams

It turned out the airplane had started streaming white smoke almost immediately after I broke ground, and the entire crew had seen it. The acceleration due to the high power setting (the highest ever run on takeoff in a Super Legacy) and all the turbulence from the wind had pushed the oil up the back of the crankcase where it had gotten whipped up by the crank, then blown overboard via the hot exhaust. The belly was covered with oil but only half a quart was missing. To fix it for the rest of the records, Andy separated the crankcase breather from the hot exhaust so that if it vented, it wouldn’t smoke. We repeated the record two days later and broke it by over a minute, eventually setting four records in three days, including two 3-km closed-course speed records, without another failed attempt.

Image: Drew Seguin

I walked away from this, my 28th forced landing, fascinated by another lesson in how to communicate during flight test. The idea that telling the pilot he is smoking in this particular situation may have no value, and could actually be a distraction, fascinates me.

SpaceShip Two pilot Mark Stucky describes the initial smoke call as a descriptive call, rather than a directive call. Justin, Andy, and I decided after this flight that during this type of fast-paced test, descriptive calls have no place on the radio and should be saved for “control room” type conversations. Of course, the idea that Justin should have said nothing when he saw the airplane smoking until there was an associated directive call is what makes the whole thing absolutely fascinating and an important lesson about an awesome occupation. This is good work that we do—cold and unforgiving—but good.

Elliot Seguin is a homebuilder, engineer, and test pilot based at the Mojave Civilian Flight Test Center in California. He is a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, and each year he competes in Wasabi, the IF1 racer he designed, at the Reno National Championship Air Races. Elliott is currently a test pilot for Aerochia Performance Aircraft and Mooney International on the new M10 program. He was also a project engineer and flight test engineer at Scaled Composites, founded by Burt Rutan.

This article originally appeared in the February 2016 issue of Kitplanes magazine.

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NASA Project Backs Three New Aviation Concepts
Kate O'Connor

NASA has announced that it will be allocating resources for three aviation-oriented ideas as part of its Convergent Aeronautics Solutions (CAS) project. The ideas selected for the project’s 2019 fiscal year are a seamless composite assembly technique, new ways to reduce and shed heat generated by an electric motor, and replacing lithium batteries with a water-based option. The concepts were chosen from among more than a dozen proposals.

According to NASA, the composites project is working on a new manufacturing technique to bond composite structures together, potentially removing the need for bolts and rivets and resulting in a seamless, fully bonded part. In addition to exploring new designs for electric or hybrid-electric power systems, the High-Efficiency Electrified Aircraft Thermal Research (HEATheR) project is aiming to reduce the size and number of parts needed for an electric motor, resulting in less heat being generated. HEATheR is also looking into ideas for shedding heat, which include using the skin of the aircraft “as a sort of radiator.” The last idea chosen for CAS this year is the Aqueous, QUick-charging battery Integration For Electric flight Research (AQUIFER) project. AQUIFER is exploring aviation applications for a rim motor powered by a flow battery, which uses an iron-infused, water-based solution to generate electricity.

“This year’s selections represent a broad range of research topics,” said director of NASA’s Transformative Aeronautics Concepts program John Cavolowsky, “yet each could significantly contribute to building future aircraft that are more energy efficient, produce fewer emissions and are quieter.” NASA says the goal of CAS is to give new ideas “time and resources to determine if they are technically feasible and perhaps worthy of additional pursuit within NASA or industry.” This will be the fourth year for the project.

Short Final: Turbulent Landings

We were over Tennessee having a pretty decent ride at FL390, but lower altitudes were not faring as well, and the chatter between aircraft and Memphis Center reflected the hunt for smoother air. As the crew of a regional jet (RJ) checked on frequency, they asked about rides.

Memphis Center: It won’t smooth out until you land.

RJ: You haven’t seen my landings!

Jim McIrvin
Dulles, VA
Jets Land Safely After Air Race Midair
Kate O'Connor

Two aircraft were able to land safely after a midair during a Jet Class heat at the 55th annual National Championship Air Races at Reno-Stead Airport (RTS) near Reno, Nevada, last Friday. As seen in the video below, the two Aero L-39 Albatros jets made contact when “Reality Czech,” piloted by Nathan Harnagel, was attempting to overtake “Race 37,” piloted by Alexandre Eckmann. The aircraft were reportedly travelling in excess of 400 miles per hour when the collision took place.

Both aircraft sustained damage, although “Race 37” took the most significant hit, losing approximately one-third of its right wing and sustaining visible damage to the elevator and vertical stabilizer. Eckmann was able to pull out of the race, call in a mayday and land shortly thereafter. Harnagel landed after a close inflight examination of his aircraft by chase pilot Jeff Turney, one of the founding members of the Jet Racing class at the National Championship Air Races. Neither pilot was injured in the collision.

The National Championship Air Races, which are hosted by the Reno Air Racing Association (RARA) annually each September, include six racing classes, a display of static aircraft and military and civilian flight demonstrations. The last collision to occur during the Reno Air Races took place last year and also resulted in damage to the aircraft but no injuries. The last fatal accident at the event occurred in 2014.

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Final LAANC Installment Goes Live
Kate O'Connor

The last piece of the FAA’s Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) system, which allows “near real-time processing of airspace authorizations” for drone operators, went live last week, according to a statement made by FAA Acting Administrator Dan Elwell. LAANC was rolled out incrementally by region, beginning with the south central U.S. at the end of April and finishing with the north central region on Sept. 13.

“LAANC is a technological solution that helps us safely integrate drones into our airspace,” said Elwell. “It gives our air traffic controllers visibility into where and when authorized drones are flying near airports so they can have more flexibility to plan flight operations.”

According to the FAA, LAANC will be beta tested nationwide through the rest of 2018. The system now covers 288 ATC facilities and 470 airports across the country and is designed to streamline the approval process for routine Part 107 drone flights below approved altitudes in controlled airspace and to help integrate drones into the national airspace system. LAANC  services are provided by private contractors.

ADS-B Installation Field Report
Larry Anglisano

With the Jan. 1, 2020, ADS-B equipage mandate quickly approaching, Aviation Consumer magazine is kicking up its field reporting on ADS-B installations. We'll be visiting with busy shops throughout the country—the folks on the front line—to learn about buying patterns, scheduling backlog and other tidbits to help readers with the buying decision. In this video, Aviation Consumer editor Larry Anglisano spent some time with Brian Wolfe at NexAir Avionics, a busy shop located outside of Boston, Massachusetts.

General Aviation Accident Bulletin

AVweb’s General Aviation Accident Bulletin is taken from the pages of our sister publication, Aviation Safety magazine, and is published twice a month. All the reports listed here are preliminary and include only initial factual findings about crashes. You can learn more about the final probable cause in the NTSB’s website at Final reports appear about a year after the accident, although some take longer. Find out more about Aviation Safety at

December 6, 2017, Chesterfield, Mo.

Beech B36TC Turbocharged Bonanza

The airplane impacted a gas station pump canopy and parking lot at 1454 Central time, following a reported loss of engine power while on a visual approach. The solo private pilot sustained fatal injuries; the airplane was destroyed by post-impact fire. Visual conditions prevailed; the flight was conducted on an IFR flight plan. According to preliminary information, the airplane was on a left-traffic visual approach when the pilot reported losing power. The local controller immediately cleared the pilot to land but he responded that he may not be able to make it to the airport. No further communications were received from the pilot. Witnesses observed the airplane at a low altitude with no engine noise. Shortly thereafter, the airplane impacted the gas station and a post-impact fire ensued. Witnesses attempted to suppress the fire with available fire extinguishers but were unsuccessful due to the intense heat and smoke.

December 7, 2017, St. Croix, V.I.

Beech 58 Baron

At about 2100 Atlantic time, the airplane was destroyed after it impacted terrain while attempting to return to the airport shortly after takeoff. The private pilot and four passengers were fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed. Shortly after takeoff, the pilot reported to ATC, “the engines are not running right,” and requested to return to the airport. The controller instructed the pilot to fly north and cleared the airplane to land on Runway 10. There were no further communications with the pilot. The airplane came to rest on flat terrain, about 380 feet from the Runway 10 threshold and about 60 feet right of the extended runway centerline. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and consumed by fire. Examination revealed a hole in the top forward portion of the left engine crankcase and connecting rods 4, 5, and 6 were broken. The left engine’s propeller blades appeared to be in the feathered position.

December 7, 2017, Auburn, Wash.

Cessna 172D Skyhawk

The airplane experienced a loss of aileron control during landing at about 1600 Pacific time. The solo private pilot was not injured but the airplane sustained substantial damage to its right wing and fuselage. Visual conditions prevailed. The pilot later reported the airplane’s nose veered sharply left without any control input after turning final for Runway 16. The pilot counteracted the movement by applying right rudder and the airplane veered to the right as he noticed that he had no response from aileron control input. The pilot tried to stabilize the airplane with rudder and aborted the landing by applying power. As power was applied, however, the lack of aileron response became more pronounced. He decided to reduce throttle and land. Subsequently the airplane landed on the runway surface about 45 degrees off the runway heading, exited the right side of the runway and impacted a water retention pond.

December 8, 2017, Geneva, Fla.

Beech C90 King Air

At about 1115 Eastern time, the airplane was destroyed when it impacted a lake. The flight instructor and two commercial pilots receiving instruction were fatally injured. Instrument and visual conditions prevailed in the area. An IFR flight plan was in effect. Preliminary information revealed the flight conducted a practice instrument approach to Runway 9 and executed a go-around. Controllers changed the active runway to 27R and vectored the flight for a practice ILS to it. About two minutes after the flight was cleared for the approach, the controller issued a low altitude alert and advised the flight to climb to 1,600 feet. Following a second low altitude alert with instructions to immediately climb to 1,600 feet, the flight responded, “I am sir, I am.” Shortly afterward, radar and radio contact with the accident airplane were lost. A witness observed the airplane below the cloud ceiling at 250 to 300 feet agl, then it climbed rapidly. The witness then observed the airplane dive vertically into the lake.

December 9, 2017, Algona, Iowa

Cessna 172C Skyhawk

The airplane collided with a ditch at about 0945 Central time during a forced landing after a complete loss of engine power during initial climb. The flight instructor, student pilot and passenger were not injured; the airplane sustained

substantial damage. Visual conditions existed. The student pilot was flying during takeoff. When the airplane reached 1,800 feet MSL, the student pilot began a left turn on course. Shortly after the turn, the engine went silent and stopped producing power. The flight instructor took control, slowed the airplane and landed into the wind on a gravel road. During the landing roll, the left wheel caught the edge of the road and the airplane veered into the ditch, which resulted in substantial damage to the wing and fuselage. Examination revealed the No. 1 cylinder head had separated at the cylinder-head-to-barrel interface.

This article originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Aviation Safety magazine.

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Brainteasers Quiz #247: What's Ahead Can't Be Left Behind

As Space Force cadets boldly reach for the Sun and galaxy quests beyond, it's incumbent upon those left behind to maintain the aviation traditions that lead to successful sub-orbital flight while acing this earthly quiz.

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