The Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser was released from a helicopter in its first glide test. The ship was able to intercept the glide slope, and line
itself up perfectly with the centerline of the runway at Edwards.
The problem came when it was time to land. The nose skid, and right main deployed and locked, but the left main never came out of the wheel well.
The computer did everything possible to keep the wing off the ground, but eventually they were slow enough that it had to come down.
Initial reports said the craft flipped, but Sierra Nevada has said that it skidded off the runway, and did not flip, but did suffer some structural
damage. They said that the crew would have survived fine if there had been anyone on board.
They have video of the landing, up until just before touchdown, but they haven't released anything from touchdown on.
The approach and initial touchdown were perfect. Unfortunately, the left main gear didn't deploy. As the vehicle slowed down and settled to the
ground, it began to drag on the left side and veered off the runway. When it hit the dirt, it rolled several times but eventually came to rest
upright. It was horrible to watch - and the sound was just brutal - but the vehicle came through it all surprisingly well. The damage is repairable
and mostly (well,...mostly) cosmetic. Most significant is that the vehicle performed exactly as predicted during flight, all systems were still
functional after the craft came to rest, and it would have been a survivable event if a crew was on board. The flight met all planned milestones and
provided a wealth of data. This is what flight testing is all about.
I wish SNC would be more forthcoming to the public with the details because the vehicle's condition (despite what it went through) is a real
testament to the designers and builders. I wish I could say more, but I can't. Sorry. Maybe someday the company will release the full landing video
and photos of the damage. Prepare to be impressed (someday).
Way back in the 60s we were doing lifting body test which you are no doubt aware of. What gets me (bugs) is since the 60s other than materials, and
computer flight systems to control an aircraft nothing has really changed... Where are the scientist that once built the X-15 and put men on the moon
with less computing power than many digital watches worn today....
I think All the test of the lifting bodies of the 60s at least the darn gear deployed! Most of our airliners today can fly a complete route and even
land at a destination half way around the world.. They can't even drop something and have it land without incident... Kinda pisses me off... But
thanks for posting S&F
The fluffy dice are only taped up inside the windscreen. The fact that they stayed put throughout the incident gives some indication that the lateral
forces weren't too severe. It appears to have been a survivable accident.
Other low lift/drag vehicles have suffered rollovers that were survivable. The X-15 rolled when one landing skid collapsed during a heavy touchdown.
The pilot only injured his back because he jettisoned the canopy before the vehicle turned over. The M2-F2 lifting body tumbled and rolled across the
lakebed after touching down before the gear was fully deployed. The pilot's injuries were, again, due to the loss of the canopy. He would have healed
up just fine, and only lost his eye due to an infection he picked up in the hospital.
It's a testament to the builders and designers that all those craft, including this one, came through those accidents so well. I'll be looking
forward to more glide tests once the repairs are done. This one was impressive as hell to watch, considering everything went so well on the first
"flight", except the actual landing. Although even that could be considered a success since the crew would have survived.
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