Can aviation's newest spectator sport lead to routine space travel?
- By Larry Lowe
- Air & Space magazine, September 2007
(Page 4 of 4)
Independent team owner and race pilot Jim Bridenstine is a former Navy E-2 Hawkeye pilot who now flies the F/A-18 Hornet at Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada. Nearing the end of his Navy career, Bridenstine sees team ownership as a way to make money while flying something that will be as much fun to fly as the Hornet. “Think of the number of people who went to all the NFL football games in 2006,” he says. “Now double that and you have the number of people who went to an airshow in 2006.” Bridenstine sees huge sponsorship potential in the combination of the largest on-site audience with the large television audience for motor sports. (According to Nielsen ratings, NASCAR is second only to the National Football League in television sports viewership.) “This could be the most viewed sporting event in history,” says Bridenstine, “once it gets going.”
It’s not too difficult to imagine the Olympics-style video profiles of the racers, interspersed with segments in which announcers describe the mood of the crowd on race day…once there is a race day. The first Thunderhawk was to have flown in 2006; racing was supposed to have begun this year.
The Rocket Racing League now plans to begin with demonstrations this year and races in 2008. Plans include piping data over the Internet to home systems that will re-create what is happening on the course and selling video games and home gaming consoles. Finally the plans require the not-so-minor detail of producing operational rocket-powered racing craft. Can they do it?
The fact that the Rocket Racing League has missed a series of deadlines doesn’t mean its plans won’t be fully realized. Projects of greater complexity—the U.S. space program, for instance—have foundered in their initial stages only to come from behind and win.