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The accident immediately killed test co-pilot Michael Tyner Alsbury [memorial fund] and wounded pilot Peter Siebold, who emergency ejected and parachuted to the ground.
Preliminary NTSB reports note that no explosion occurred, and that an early deployment of the craft's feathering systema function that adjusts SS2 into something of a shuttlecock shape for re-entrymay have been the cause of the spacecraft's breaking apart.
Many are wondering if this will shut down the program, but Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides are clear in their statements that this tragedy is an obstacle, not an end. "Space is hard—but worth it. We will persevere and move forward together."
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[Update: This feature was written and published prior to the tragic events of 31 October, 2014, when SpaceShipTwo suffered an "anomaly" and was lost, with one fatality.]
How about Paris for the weekend, or a two-week trip around Southeast Asia? Forget itthat's so 2014, so terrestrial. Should Virgin Galactic have their way, 2015 will be the year you book a vacation of suborbital space travel, or perhaps a supersonic 45-minute flight from California to London.
This month SpaceShipTwo completed her 54th test flight, improving the odds that next year will indeed be the one to finally kick off space tourism. In fact, Virgin Galactic has already begun the big move from Mojave, CA to Las Cruces, NM, the latter being home to Spaceport America and, hopefully soon, flights to space full of paying passengers (6, to be specific, plus 2 pilots).
Seeing as the US treats spaceship technology with something of the same intense secrecy as defense technology, much of what Virgin Galactic's been up to out in their hangar in the California desert is hush-hush top secret. The 10th Anniversary of their Ansari X Prize win however opened up a small window for us to peek behind those massive doors. Here's what we can tell (and show!) you:
In an interview with our big bro, Conde Nast Traveler, Sir Richard Branson was asked if there were any new ideas he'd been kicking around for his airlines. His response, on the surface, was seemingly directed at improving family travel:
"I would love to introduce [a] kids' class," Branson said. "It would be a separate cabin for kids with nannies to look after them. We’ve had an issue with the Civil Aviation Authority. They worry in an emergency kids would be running in one direction and their parents would be running in the other. So we haven’t got it through yet."
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The Virgin Atlantic look is sharp, iconic, sizzling; there’s no denying the head-turning appeal of a crisp white blouse tucked into a scorching red pencil skirt, topped off with red heels. But, with the celebration of the airline’s 30th Anniversary this year, it’s about that time for a snazzy refresh so as to continue “flying in the face of ordinary,” as the airline’s slogan goes. For this, Virgin Atlantic paired with UK designer and punk powerhouse Vivienne Westwood. The new uniforms were just unveiled July 1 in London, and will roll out for all Virgin Atlantic staff, from cabin crew to flight crew, and desk agents to Clubhouse hospitality.
Alas, a flash of the new uniform as it swishes down the airplane aisle isn't enough to appreciate the detail. Aside from the fact that it’s now easier to care for with a new tech “nano finish" (the earlier uniform was dry clean only) and yarn made from recycled plastic bottles, there are small secrets hidden in every dart and under each lapel, telling the story of the collaboration between England’s flag-carrying airline and one of the country's most iconic fashion influences.
Although the uniforms don’t officially take flight for the entire Virgin Atlantic fleet until September 1, keep an eye out for a preview on your next VS flight; crew have been heading to the airline’s Base near Gatwick Airport to pick up their full looks since this past weekend. Here's what to look for:
Planes, trains, and space ships are already a reality for Virgin, and if Richard Branson gets his wish, a cruise line will be next.
Currently, only three companies, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian, control 80% of the global market when it comes to cruising, prompting Branson to believe that he can come in and compete by doing things differently. Though specific details are slim, Branson told The National that his line would be based in Miami and "supply the Virgin touch" while offering "more entertainment and leisure opportunities on board the ships."
There are different ways of "making it" in the world of airline travel. You could gain lifetime elite status on your favorite airline. You could travel the world on miles you accumulated in all kinds of clever ways. Or you could write a complaint note about a miserable experience that's so damn elegant that no less than Richard Branson declares it to be "brilliant." So congratulations Arthur Hicks. We know nothing about you in terms of who you are or where you live, but you've made it.
Branson blogged Hicks's letter - which wasn't even sent to Virgin, but to LIAT - last Friday. We've blockquoted it below from what we think is the original online source so you can read it for yourself. It's among the more elegant, witty beat-downs we've read in a long time.
The experience itself sounds miserable but, very importantly, it happened to him, and not to us, and not to you. So no worries. The P.S. is what really makes it shine.
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Sure, we love all the speed and comfort of modern travel, but it didn't that way overnight. Every Thursday, we're going to take a look back at travel the way it used to be, whether that's decades or centuries ago. This is Throwback Thursday, travel edition.
The year was 1984 and the place was London-Gatwick International Airport. A 747-200 named "Maiden Voyager" taxied on the tarmac for a virgin flight to Newark, on a virgin airline. The airline's name? Virgin, or, well, Virgin Atlantic.
Virgin's flight attendants weren't yet known for their cherry red lips, or their scarlet pencil skirts and chic up-dos, but they were on their way.
Fast forward to today, as Virgin Atlantic continues to fly 747sthe fleet and destination list are much larger nowand they're again ready to show a fresh face with new flight crew uniforms designed by Vivienne Westwood.
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We haven’t heard that much from Virgin Galactic recently, but that doesn’t mean the space ship team hasn’t been hard at work behind the scenes. They’re still doing their very best to ensure that space tourism becomes a reality sooner than later. That’s definitely good, since from what it sounds like, the space flight carrier already has more than a few customers on the books and ready to go.
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip Two just finished its latest round of testing, and thankfully things all went according to plan. The latest aerial endeavor was known as a "cold flow” test. They haven't lit the rocket engines on this sucker just yet, but it means they've completed pretty much everything else—so that means they’re ready for the next step. The ship’s contrail was even visible for the first time, so now we know how awesome the thing will look like when it blasts away from earth.
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Right now, somewhere in Malaysia, a red skirt is being tailored to fit Sir Richard Branson.
On May 12, Branson will join Air Asia Group CEO Tony Fernandes on a flight from Perth, Australia to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The six-hour trip is a special one, as it's finally the moment Sir Richard makes good on a bet he lost to Fernandes in late 2010, over whose Formula One race team would be ranked higher. Spoiler alert: Fernandes' Lotus Racing team won over over that of Virgin, and the plans to install Branson as a flight attendant on an Air Asia X flight began.
The event has been delayed many times, but finally seats are now for sale from $399 AUD ($420 USD) on the special, one-way flight, and may be purchased online. Be sure to book AirAsia X’s flight D7 237 on Sunday, May 12.
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Remember a couple of years back when Richard Branson lost a bet with Air Asia’s CEO Tony Fernandes, which meant he was going to have to dress up as a female flight attendant? That may not have come to fruitionalthough, according to Fernandes, the time is nighbut he went one step
better worse further early this morning at Scotland's Edinburgh Airport.
Launching Little Red, Virgin Atlantic’s domestic UK service and a major step for the airline, Branson donned a kilt and then dressed down by flashing us.
Kinda like an irreverent Amber Alert, Richard Branson is looking for someone and now all corners of the earth have their eyes peeled for the original Virgin model. One major problem is that identity of said model is a complete mystery.
The model became the face of the brand some 40 years ago, posing for the very first Virgin Records brand logo. Donning nothing but her birthday suit, the 'mystery virgin' became the inspiration for the the drawing which has been tweaked and reworked over the years to reflect a modern twist, now replaced by the current vampy red 'Virgin' word.
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WHat the luxury tents will look like
Share your next vacation with a few wild party animals...or just animals. Richard Branson has just the place for the latter, or both if you're into it! The newest addition to Branson's Virgin Limited Edition Retreats family is Mahali Mzuri in the Kenyan bushlands and it's taking reservations for a summer debut.
The safari grounds, located in the Motorogi Conservancy within the Maasai Mara ecosystem, will play host to travelers looking for the "glamping" experience while staying right on the reserve. 12 luxury tents are poised on the edge of the wildlife sanctuary, and each features an en suite bathroom, a living area, and a front porch for watching zebras and giraffes as you sip tea.