Mojave Air and Space Port
|Operator||East Kern Airport District, Mojave, California|
|Elevation AMSL||2,801 ft / 854 m|
|Coordinates||35°03′34″N 118°09′06″W / 35.05944°N 118.15167°W|
The Mojave Air and Space Port at Rutan Field (IATA: MHV, ICAO: KMHV) is in Mojave, California, United States, at an elevation of 2,801 feet (854 m). It is the first facility to be licensed in the United States for horizontal launches of reusable spacecraft, being certified as a spaceport by the Federal Aviation Administration on June 17, 2004. The facility covers 2,998 acres (1,213 ha) and has three runways.
In 1935, Kern County opened the Mojave Airport 0.5 miles (0.80 km) east of Mojave, California to serve the gold and silver mining industry in the area. The airport had two dirt runways, one oiled, but no fueling or servicing facilities. In 1941, the Civil Aeronautics Board began improvements to the airport for national defense purposes that included two 4,500 by 150 feet (1,372 m × 46 m) asphalt runways and a taxiway. Kern County agreed the airport could be taken over by the military in the event of war.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the United States Marine Corps took over the airport and expanded it into Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Station (MCAAS) Mojave. The two runways were extended and a third one added. Barracks were constructed to house 2,734 male and 376 female military personnel. The expansion of MCAAS Mojave was done by Vinson & Pringle and Del E. Webb Construction Company out of Phoenix, Arizona. Civilian employment at the base would peak at 176. The Marines would eventually spend more than $7 million on the base, which totaled 2,312 acres (936 ha).
Many of the Corps' World War II aces received their gunnery training at Mojave. During World War II, Mojave hosted 29 aircraft squadrons, four Carrier Aircraft Service Detachments, and three Air Warning Squadrons. At its peak, the air station had 145 training and other aircraft. Mojave also had a 75 x 156 foot swimming pool that was used to train aviators in emergency water egress and for recreation. The base's 900-seat auditorium hosted several USO shows that featured Bob Hope, Frances Langford and Marilyn Maxwell.
With the end of World War II, MCAAS was disestablished on February 7, 1946; a United States Navy Air Station (NAS) was established the same day. The Navy used the airport for drone operations for less than a year, closing it on January 1, 1947. The base remained closed for four years until the outbreak of the Korean War. Mojave was reactivated as an auxiliary landing field to MCAS El Toro.
In 1951, scenes from the movie The Las Vegas Story were filmed at the deserted airport. A helicopter chased a car around the base, at several points flying at speed through an open-ended hangar. The control tower shown on the RHS of this article was featured at the climax of the chase.
On 22 August 1951, the 11th Naval District announced the award to R. R. Hensler, of Sun Valley, of a $1.307 million contract for the extension and strengthening of the runway at the Marine Corps auxiliary airfield.
The airport was recommissioned as a MCAAS on December 31, 1953. Squadrons used Mojave for ordnance training when El Toro had bad weather. Marine Corps reserve units were temporarily deployed to Mojave for two-week periods. MCAAS Mojave personnel peaked at 400 military and 200 civilians during this period.
In 1961, after the Marine Corps transferred operations to MCAS El Centro, Kern County obtained title to the airport. In February 1972, the East Kern Airport District (EKAD) was formed to administer the airport; EKAD maintains the airport to this day. To a great extent EKAD was the brainchild of Kern County rancher and aviator Dan Sabovich, who heavily lobbied the state for the airport district's creation and ran EKAD until 2002.
From 1974 to 1979, Golden West Airlines scheduled flights on de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otters direct to Los Angeles (LAX).
On November 20, 2012, the EKAD Board of Directors voted to change the name of the district to the Mojave Air and Space Port. Officials said that the spaceport name is well known around the world, but EKAD is not. The change took effect on January 1, 2013.
In 2022, "Rutan Field" was added to the airport's name in honor of the Rutan brothers (Burt and Dick), its board stating that the Rutans' aviation achievements "have played a key role in the evolution of the aerospace industry and the success of the Mojave Air & Space Port organization."
Besides being a general-use public airport, Mojave has three main areas of activity: flight testing, space industry development, and aircraft heavy maintenance and storage.
The airport has a rich history in air racing. In 1970, a 1,000-mile (1,600 km) Unlimited race was held—the first closed-course pylon race to include pit stops. The race was notable in that it featured a DC-7 that flew non-stop and finished sixth out of twenty aircraft. The race was won by Sherm Cooper in a highly modified Hawker Sea Fury which also flew non-stop. The following year the race was shortened to 1,000 kilometres (620 mi), and was again won by a Hawker Sea Fury, this time flown by Frank Sanders. From 1973 to 1979 Air Race Management (run by famed race pilots Clay Lacy and Lyle Shelton) organized a series of Reno-syle races at Mojave featuring Unlimiteds, T-6's, Formula-1's, and Biplanes. In 1973 and '74, the program also included jet races. Unlimited winners at Mojave included Lyle Shelton in 1973, Mac McClain in 1974 and 1976, Dr. Cliff Cummins in 1975, and Steve Hinton in 1978 and '79. The races at Mojave were hampered by constant winds, and extreme temperatures. In the 2000s, California HWY 58 was extended to bypass the town of Mojave, which cut directly across the race course—thus precluding any future racing events on the site. In 1983, Frank Taylor set the 15 kilometer (9.3 mile) closed-course speed record at 517 miles per hour (832 km/h) at Mojave in the P-51 Dago Red. Over the years, several notable teams have been based out of Mojave.
In 1990 Scaled Composites rolled out the radical Pond Racer, built and tested on-site. In the mid-1990s, the Museum of Flying based its two racers Dago Red and Stiletto out of Mojave as well. Since the early 1980s, the oft-talked about,[by whom?] but rarely seen, Wildfire (a custom-built Unlimited based around a T-6 airframe) has slowly been developed in a Mojave hangar. Ralph Wise's many air racing projects, including the Sport Class Legal GT400 and his V-8 powered unlimited, the GT500, both were designed and built at Mojave (the GT500 spent its early life at Camarillo). The GT 400 Quicksilver ultralight program is also based out of Mojave.
Flight testing activities have been centered at Mojave since the early 1970s, due to the lack of populated areas surrounding the airport. It is also favored for this purpose due to its proximity to Edwards Air Force Base, where the airspace is restricted from ground level to an unlimited height, and where there is a supersonic corridor. Mojave is also the home of the National Test Pilot School, Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic/The Spaceship Company.
Beginning with the Rotary Rocket program, Mojave became a focus for small companies seeking a place to develop space access technologies. Mojave Spaceport has been a test site for several teams in the Ansari X Prize, most notably the Scaled Composites SpaceShipOne, which conducted the first privately funded human sub-orbital flight on June 21, 2004. Other groups based at the Mojave Spaceport include or have included XCOR Aerospace, Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company, Stratolaunch Systems, and Firestar Technologies. Other companies with operations at Mojave include or have included Orbital Sciences Corporation, Vector Launch and Interorbital Systems.
The East Kern Airport District was given spaceport status by the Federal Aviation Administration for the Mojave Air and Spaceport through June 16, 2019.
The Mojave airport is also known as a storage location for commercial airliners, due to the vast area and dry desert conditions. Numerous Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, Lockheed, and Airbus jetliners including wide-body aircraft previously or currently owned by major domestic and international airlines are stored at Mojave. Some aircraft reach the end of their useful lifetime and are scrapped at the Mojave aircraft boneyard, while others are refurbished and returned to active service.
The airport refurbished an old United States Marine Corps hangar from the World War II era into a modern event center. It was previously used for water survival training then transformed into the Stuart O. Witt Event Center with over 23,000sf of multi-use space.
On July 26, 2007, there was a test stand accident at Scaled Composites that killed three employees and injured three others. The accident occurred during work on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo.
On February 4, 2009, Douglas DC-3-65/AR N834TP of the National Test Pilot School was substantially damaged in a take-off accident. Both sets of undercarriage and the port engine were ripped off. The aircraft was on a local training flight. The accident was caused by an incorrectly set rudder trim.
On Oct. 31, 2014, the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft VSS Enterprise broke up during a test flight after being dropped from the WhiteKnightTwo VMS Eve carrier aircraft. Scaled Composites co-pilot Michael Alsbury was killed. Scaled Composites pilot Peter Siebold parachuted to safety. SpaceShipTwo was being developed by Scaled Composites for Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic company. The accident occurred about 20 miles (32 km) north of the Mojave Air & Space Port, where the test flight originated.
Mojave Air and Spaceport is the epicentre of privately-funded commercial space flight research and development.
In 1991, to address a requirement to launch a booster heavier than 500,000 pounds, [Rutan] did the Model 205 and 206 preliminary designs. ... "About 10 years ago, to encourage innovation and design responsibility among the young engineers at Scaled, I took on the status of design advisor, while the title of Principal Configuration Designer went to a very talented team of designers, including Jim Tighe, Cory Bird, Bob Morgan and others. Except for the Bipod roadable aircraft, all the airplanes designed at Scaled after SpaceShipOne were not Burt Rutan designs."