Mojave Air and Space Port

Mojave Air and Space Port
Mojave Air and Space Port
Kluft-photo-aerial-Mojave-Spaceport-Sept-2009-Img 0227.jpg
in 2009
Airport type Public
Operator Kern County
Serves Mojave, California
Elevation AMSL 2,791 ft / 851 m
Coordinates 35°03′34″N 118°09′06″W / 35.05944°N 118.15167°W / 35.05944; -118.15167
MHV - FAA airport diagram
Mojave Air and Space Port Layout
Direction Length Surface
ft m
12/30 12,503 3,811 Asphalt/Concrete
08/26 7,050 2,149 Asphalt
04/22 4,743 1,446 Asphalt
Mojave spaceport
Administration offices, restaurant and old tower
Mojave Airport, storage location for commercial airliners.
SpaceShipOne landing at Mojave after June 21, 2004 space flight
A retired Boeing 767-200 that flew for Ansett Australia being cut open for scrap at Mojave Airport

The Mojave Air and Space Port (IATA: MHVICAO: KMHV), also known as the Civilian Aerospace Test Center, is located in Mojave, California, at an elevation of 2,791 feet (851 m).[1] 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.



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.

Air racing

The airport has a rich history in air racing. In 1970, a 1000-mile 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 airliner, which 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.[2] The following year the race was shortened to 1000-km, 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 km closed-course speed record at 517 mph at Mojave in the P-51 Dago Red. Over the years, several notable teams have been based out of Mojave. The two active race teams currently based at Mojave are Nemesis Air Racing (Sharp Nemesis NXT), and Wasabi Air Racing. In 1990 Scaled Composites rolled out the radical Pond Racer - built and tested on-site. During the mid-90's, the Museum of Flying based its two racers Dago Red and Stiletto out of Mojave as well. And since the early '80's, the oft-talked about, 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, were designed and built at Mojave. The GT 400 Quicksilver ultralight program is also based out of Mojave airport.[citation needed]

Flight testing

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 the 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 and Scaled Composites.

Space industry development

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 XCOR Aerospace, Masten Space Systems, and Firestar Technologies[3] Other companies at Mojave include Orbital Sciences Corporation and Interorbital Systems.[citation needed]

The East Kern Airport District has been given spaceport status by the Federal Aviation Administration for the Mojave Air and Spaceport through June 16, 2014.[4]

Aircraft heavy maintenance and storage

The Mojave airport is also known as a storage location for commercial airliners, due to the vast area and dry desert conditions.[5] Numerous large Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, Lockheed, and Airbus aircraft owned by major 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 Mojave Airport was first opened in 1935 as a small, rural airfield serving the local gold and silver mining industry.

In July 1942, the U.S. Marine Corps took over the field and vastly expanded it as the Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Station (MCAAS) Mojave. Many of the Corps' World War II aces received their gunnery training at Mojave. With the end of World War II, MCAAS was disestablished in 1946, and became instead a U.S. Navy airfield. At the end of 1953, the USMC reopened MCAAS Mojave as an auxiliary field to MCAS El Toro.

In 1961, after the USMC transferred operations to MCAS El Centro, Kern County obtained title to the airport. In February 1972, the East Kern Airport District was formed to administer the airport; EKAD maintains the airport to this day. To a great extent EKAD was the brainchild of Dan Sabovich who heavily lobbied the state for the airport district's creation and ran EKAD until 2002.

First flights and significant events

  • July 1, 1942 – Construction begins on Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Station at Mojave.[6]
  • July 31, 1944 – USMC Capt. Edward Shaw, a decorated World War II ace, was killed while test-flying an F4U Corsair[7][8]
  • February 7, 1946 – MCAAS disestablished.[6]
  • December 31, 1953 – MCAAS Mojave re-established.[6]
  • May 21, 1975 – First flight of the Rutan VariEze
  • June 30, 1978 – First flight of the Rutan Defiant
  • June 12, 1979 – First flight of the prototype of the Rutan Long-EZ
  • April 3, 1980 – First prototype Bombardier Challenger 600 crashed in the Mojave desert, killing one of the pilots; flight test program was operating from Mojave at the time.
  • September 25, 1981 – National Test Pilot School opens
  • August 23, 1983 – First flight of the Boeing Skyfox
  • August 29, 1983 - First flight of Beech/Scaled Composites Model 115 Starship
  • January 7, 1986 – Voyager homecoming, after round-the-world record flight.[9]
  • July 12, 1988 – First flight of the Scaled Composites Triumph
  • February 19, 1990 – First flight of the Scaled Composites ARES
  • July 26, 1998 – First flight of the Scaled Composites Proteus
  • March 1, 1999 – Rollout of the Rotary Rocket Roton ATV.
  • July 28, 1999 - First flight of the Roton ATV.
  • October 12, 1999 - third, final and longest flight of Roton ATV.
  • October 8, 2000 – First firing of an XCOR Aerospace LOX-powered rocket engine.[10]
  • July 21, 2001 – First flight of the XCOR EZ-Rocket, flown by Dick Rutan (single-engine configuration).[10]
  • October 6, 2001 - First flight of a twin engine rocket plane, again the XCOR EZ-rocket.[10]
  • May 31, 2002 – First flight of the Toyota TAA-1, built by Scaled Composites.[11]
  • July 24, 2002 - First touch-and-go of a rocket-powered aircraft, the XCOR EZ-Rocket (world record).[10]
  • August 1, 2002 - First flight of Scaled Composites White Knight
  • September 18, 2002 - First flight of world's largest jet engine, GE90-115B on GE's Boeing 747 testbed aircraft.[11]
  • May 20, 2003 – First captive flight, unmanned, of SpaceShipOne
  • July 29, 2003 - First manned captive flight of SpaceShipOne
  • August 7, 2003 - First free-flight of SpaceShipOne
  • December 17, 2003 - First powered flight of SpaceShipOne, on 100th anniversary of powered flight by the Wright Brothers.
  • March 5, 2004 – First flight of the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer[12]
  • June 17, 2004 - Mojave designated a Spaceport by the FAA.
  • June 21, 2004 - SpaceShipOne flight 15P, the first spaceflight of SpaceShipOne.
  • September 29, 2004 - First Ansari X Prize flight of SpaceShipOne.
  • October 4, 2004 - X-Prize-winning flight of SpaceShipOne.
  • June 21, 2005 – First captive flight of Boeing X-37 under Scaled Composites White Knight
  • December 3, 2005 - First departure of a rocket-powered aircraft on a point-to-point flight (XCOR EZ-Rocket, departed MHV for California City, flown by Dick Rutan).[13]
  • December 15, 2005 - First arrival of a rocket-powered aircraft on a flight originating at another airport (XCOR EZ-Rocket return flight from California City, piloted by Rick Searfoss).[13]
  • April 7, 2006 – First free flight of Boeing X-37 (take-off from Mojave, landing at Edwards)[14]
  • January 23, 2007 – First flight of the Lockheed CATBird[15]
  • July 26, 2007 – Explosion with at least three fatalities at Scaled Composites facility.[16]
  • January, 2008 - Arrival of Gimli Glider for retirement.[17][18]
  • December 21, 2008 - First flight of Scaled Composites WhiteKnightTwo[19]
  • October 7, 2009 - Lunar Lander Challenge flight by Masten Space Systems wins second place for Level 1 of the NASA competition[20][21]
  • October 30, 2009 - Lunar Lander Challenge flight by Masten Space Systems wins first place for Level 2 of the NASA competition[20][21]
  • January 16, 2010 AOPA president Craig Fuller came to speak at MHV.
  • May 26, 2010 Masten Space Systems completes the first ever flight of vertical take-off, vertical landing (VTVL) vehicle with successfully re-light the rocket engine.

Civilian Aerospace Test Center test programs

World records set

  • FAI Class C-1, unlimited weight
    • Group 1, internal combustion engine
      • Speed over a straight 15/25 km course: P-51 Mustang N5410V piloted by Frank Taylor, 832.12 km/h, July 30, 1983.[27]
    • Group 3, turbojet
      • Speed over Recognised Course: Mojave to Gander, Newfoundland, Canadair Challenger CL601 N601TG piloted by Aziz Ojjeh, 816.48 km/h July 24, 1984.[27]
    • Group 4, rocket engine
      • Altitude Gain, Airplane Launched from a Carrier Aircraft: 85,743 meters, SpaceShipOne piloted by Mike Melvill, June 21, 2004.[27]
      • Distance: 16 km, XCOR EZRocket piloted by Dick Rutan, December 3, 2005[27]
  • FAI Class C-1a, Landplanes: take off weight 300 to 500 kg
    • Group 1, internal combustion engine
      • Distance, Rutan VariEze piloted by Frank Hertzler, Mojave to Martinsburg, West Virginia, 3,563.02 km, July 15, 1984.
      • Speed over 3 km course with restricted altitude: DR90 Nemesis piloted by Jon Sharp, 466.83 km/h, November 15, 1998 (aircraft now on display at the National Air & Space Museum)[27]
      • Speed over straight 15/25 km course: DR90 Nemesis piloted by Jon Sharp, 454.77 km/h, October 31, 1998.[27]
  • FAI Class C-1b, Landplanes: take off weight 500 to 1000 kg
    • Group 1, internal combustion engine
      • Distance over a closed course: Rutan Long-EZ N79RA piloted by Dick Rutan, 7,725.3 km, December 15, 1979.[27]
      • Speed over a closed circuit of 2,000 km without payload. Rutan Catbird N187RA piloted by Dick Rutan, 401.46 km/h, January 29, 1994.[27]
    • Group 4, Rocket engine
      • Distance: 16 km, XCOR EZRocket piloted by Dick Rutan, December 3, 2005[27]
  • FAI Class C-1c, Landplanes: take off weight 1000 to 1750 kg
    • Group 1, internal combustion engine
      • Speed over a closed circuit of 2,000 km without payload. Rutan Catbird N187RA piloted by Mike Melvill, 413.78 km/h, March 2, 1994.[27]
  • FAI Class C-1d, Landplanes: take off weight 1750 to 3000 kg
    • Group 1, internal combustion engine
      • Distance over a closed course, Voyager N269VA, piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, Vandenburg, California to Mojave, 18,658.16 km, July 15, 1986.[27]
    • Group 4, rocket engine
      • Altitude Gain, Airplane Launched from a Carrier Aircraft: 85,743 meters, SpaceShipOne piloted by Mike Melvill, June 21, 2004.[27]
  • FAI Class C-1e, Landplanes: take off weight 3,000 to 6,000 kg
    • Group 2, turbojet
      • Altitude: Scaled Composites Proteus N281PR, piloted by Mike Melvill and Robert Waldmiller, 19,277 m, October 25, 2000.[27]
      • Altitude in horizontal flight: Scaled Composites Proteus N281PR, piloted by Mike Melvill and Robert Waldmiller, 19,015 m, October 25, 2000.[27]
      • Altitude with 1,000 kg payload: Scaled Composites Proteus N281PR, piloted by Mike Melvill and Robert Waldmiller, 17,067 m, October 27, 2000.[27]

Notable pilots and engineers

Accidents and incidents

On February 4, 2010, 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.[28][29]

Movie/television location credits

Due to the Mojave Spaceport's unique location and facilities, a number of movies, TV shows and commercials have been filmed on location here. The Airport Administration actively promotes the facility as a set. The airport has facilities dedicated for filming, a large supply of aircraft to use as props and two large film pads that can be flooded for water scenes. Action movies and car commercials make up the bulk of the filming at the airport.

Movie credits include:

TV credits include:

Other credits:


  1. ^ "Mojave Airport". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2009-05-03. 
  2. ^ "Air Racing News". Sport Aviation. January 1971. 
  3. ^ Joiner, Stephen (2011-05-01). "The Mojave Launch Lab". Air & Space Smithsonian. Retrieved 2011-03-18 (online precedes the print edition date). 
  4. ^ "Active Commercial Space Licenses". FAA. February 18, 2009. Retrieved January 1, 2010. 
  5. ^ [1] Majave Air and Space Port - Aircraft Storage
  6. ^ a b c Hansen, Cathy; Settle, Glen A. (1996). Mojave: A Rich History of Rails, Flight, Mining. Kern-Antelope Historical Society. 
  7. ^ "Edward Shaw - VMF-213". Retrieved 2006-11-16. 
  8. ^ "AIRCRAFT WRECKS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA". Retrieved 2006-11-16. 
  9. ^ "Mojave Airport: Voyager". Mojave Virtual Museum. Retrieved 2006-11-16. 
  10. ^ a b c d "First Flights - XCOR Aerospace". Mojave Virtual Museum. Retrieved 2006-11-13. 
  11. ^ a b "Mojave First Flights". Mojave Virtual Museum. Retrieved 2006-11-13. 
  12. ^ "Virgin's GlobalFlyer Makes Successful First Flight!". Mojave Airport Weblog. Retrieved 2006-11-16. 
  13. ^ a b Deaver, Bill (2005-12-22). "XCOR EZ-Rocket makes more history at CalCity". Mojave Desert News. 
  14. ^ David, Leonard, "X-37 Flies At Mojave But Encounters Landing Problems", April 7, 2006
  15. ^ "CATBird transitions to Lockheed for final systems installation", Aerotech News and Review, 2007-03-09
  16. ^ "Third person dies in Mojave Airport explosion, names released". KGET. July 27, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-07-27. 
  17. ^ "Storied 'Gimli Glider' on final approach," The Globe and Mail
  18. ^ "The Gimli Glider retires to the desert" Air Canada: The Daily(internal employee newsletter), 22 January 2008
  19. ^ "WhiteKnightTwo Makes First Flight Aviation Week". Retrieved 2008-12-23. 
  20. ^ a b "NASA and X Prize Announce Winners of Lunar Lander Challenge" (Press release). NASA. 2009-11-02. Retrieved 2009-11-02. 
  21. ^ a b "X PRIZE Foundation and NASA Cap Amazing Lunar Lander Competition and Award $2 Million in Prizes" (Press release). X-Prize Foundation. 2009-11-02. Retrieved 2009-11-02. 
  22. ^ MD-90-30 flight test at The Mojave Virtual Museum Photo Library, Mojave Airport, Flight Test and Development
  23. ^ "Orenda Recip Engines performs final air tractor tests", Aerotech News and Review, 2001-01-26
  24. ^ "SinoSwearingen Tests SJ30-2 at Mojave". Retrieved 2006-11-21. 
  25. ^ Scott, William B, "Morphing Wings", Aviation Week & Space Technology, 2006-11-27
  26. ^ Scott, William B, "White Knight Back in Action", Aviation Week & Space Technology, 2006-11-27
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o FAI World Aviation Records Database, accessed June 26, 2011
  28. ^ "N834TP Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 21 June 2010. 
  29. ^ "WPR09LA108". National Transportation Safety Board. Retrieved 22 June 2010. 

External links

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