Flying wing to wing with a spaceship: Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo + SpaceShipTwo at Virgin America's new SFO Terminal

This morning I got up early, packed my bag and headed to the San Francisco International airport (SFO) to attend the opening of Virgin America's new Terminal 2 (T2). I was expecting Sir Richard Branson to be there, and I had been told to keep an eye out for some appearance from some element of Virgin's Galactic's program, but I had no idea what I was in for.

I pretty quickly found out I was in for this:

Shortly before boarding the plane, one of Virgin's PR people announced that we would be making a 20 minute flight over San Francisco, rendezvousing with White Knight 2 and Spaceship 2 inflight, then landing in parallel with the spacecraft.


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After that, I was just in shock. I did what I could to keep myself collected, which was not an easy task. This was just totally unexpected and amazing. At times, the spaceship was only a couple hundred feet away from us.


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A new Virgin America A320 named "My Other Ride is a Spaceship" flies beside the first commercial space flight system - Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) (and SpaceShipTwo) - over San Francisco on April 6, 2011. (photo: Mark Greenberg/Virgin America)



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Here's what greeted us when we arrived at the new terminal:

Sir Richard Branson and California lieutenant governor (and former San Francisco Mayor) Gavin Newsom entering the new terminal:

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin was a total character, sitting backwards in his seat as we prepared to take off so he could talk to Sir Richard. Here he is checking out the new terminal with some stewardess friends:

Virgin America has some photos of the flight and the new terminal up on their website.

[Editor's note: photos and video in this post, except where otherwise noted, shot by Dean Putney.]