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FAA investigating Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic over flight ‘deviation,’ grounding SpaceShipTwo aircraft

FAA investigating Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic over flight ‘deviation,’ grounding SpaceShipTwo aircraft
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has barred billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic from flying its SpaceShipTwo aircraft until the agency concludes an investigation into its flight last month.

The government agency’s investigation concerns a deviation in the descent of a Virgin Galactic rocket plane that carried Branson and others to the edge of space on July 11. 

During Virgin Galactic’s first fully crewed test space flight, security alerts lit up in the cockpit forcing the aircraft to change course for a brief period of time. The issue led to a shaky landing at the Spaceport America launch site leased by the company in New Mexico.

The FAA investigation into this deviation is “ongoing.” Issues with the flight were first reported by the New Yorker, but Virgin Galactic has blasted that report and the notion that they put Branson or the five others on board – including two pilots –in any danger. 

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“We dispute the descriptions and conclusions of the New Yorker article,” the company said in a statement to AFP.

High altitude winds were behind the deviation, the company claims, and their pilots responded appropriately to the situation. 

“Although the final path deviated from our original plan, it was an intentional and controlled flight path,” they said. 

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