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Stuart Witt is celebrating his 10th anniversary as CEO and General Manager of the Mojave Air and Space Port. He reminisced a bit about his decade as head of the desert facility and looked ahead during a meeting of East Kern Airport District on Tuesday.
Witt recalled his first board meeting where everyone was very concerned about the future of the airport. But, the airport is now thriving as an R&D and test flight center where multiple companies are building the world’s most advanced aircraft and spaceships.
Board Chairman Jim Balentine said that Witt had given the airport strong direction and led it well.
“It’s been the gift of my life to be part of it,” Witt said.
Witt credited board member Dick Rutan and his brother, Burt, for their pioneering work in composites, which are now being widely used in aircraft such as Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner. Their work put Mojave at the forefront of developments in aviation.
Witt said he wants to deepen ties with the three NASA centers in California: Ames, Dryden and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. These centers are doing much to support commercial spaceflight, an area in which Mojave is taking a leading role.
He noted that Sierra Nevada Corporation would be drop testing its Dream Chaser space shuttle prototype at Dryden later this year using the WhiteKnightTwo aircraft built in Mojave. SpaceX’s Elon Musk also wants to land advanced versions of his Dragon spaceship on the dry lake bed at nearby Edwards Air Force Base, Witt added.
NASA to re-embrace aviation and try out some radical new designs, including blended wing aircraft, he said.
Witt spoke out in favor of establishing a charter school in Mojave. He said that education system is failing and that radical changes are needed. Dick Rutan recently talked to a group this week that is interested in setting up a charter school in Mojave.