Remembrances of an old friend, getting back into space is expensive

Published 8:00 am Saturday, October 17, 2020

On Oct. 7, 2020, the aviation community lost a wonderful friend, Jimmy McCown.

He was not only a pilot and an aircraft mechanic, but also an accomplished musician.

His favorite music was old-time mountain music and bluegrass. He played the banjo, the fiddle and the guitar, even traveling to Australia to play at one time.

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I remember meeting him in the early 1980s.

One scene that comes to mind was Jimmy working on an airplane engine and George Carter keeping him entertained with playing music on a fiddle.

Jimmy died from an apparent heart attack while moving into a newly-purchased house at Chattaroy, West Virginia in Mingo County.

I have so many memories of Jimmy. He was a thinking philosopher and an interesting conversationalist and a great story teller. He was in the U.S. Air Force and was standing next to the plane when they were unloading President John F. Kennedy after his assassination.

He had flown everything from a Piper Cub to a Beech jet.

His hangar was always a good gathering spot to have hangar flying conversations. He has inspected and repaired my planes for more than 30 years.

He will be greatly missed.

One of our astronauts, Dr. Kathleen Rubins, has flown on the Russia Soyuz to the International Space Station (ISS) on a record breaking flight on Oct. 14. It was a two-orbit catchup and they arrived just three hours after launch.

This will perhaps be the last trip for one of our astronauts to fly the Soyuz.

The cost of the ticket was $90.2 million and I hope it was for a round trip.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon Crew capsule, scheduled to launch Oct. 31, has been delayed because there was a glitch in another Falcon 9 rocket that caused it to abort. The reason has to be sorted out before the Dragon will be launched. The projected liftoff will be in early November.

Jeff Bezos has this space company called Blue Origin that is competing with Space X.
Bezos is a majority owner of Amazon and has a net worth of more than $200 billion and the stock has been climbing lately in spite of or because of the pandemic.

Anyway, his favorite hobby is sending rockets into space.
The name Blue Origin originated because the earth looks blue from outer space.

The latest launch was the sending of an uncrewed capsule 66 miles into space. That was the 13th suborbital flight of the New Shepard rocket. The booster rocket made a powered landing just 7 1/2 minutes after launching, making it ahead of SpaceX reusing the boosters since SpaceX has only reused their booster six times.

The capsule with some scientific experiments on board made a gentle landing by parachute three minutes later.

After a couple more uncrewed flights, they hope to launch people into suborbital flights. The capsule has six seats and six windows and the time of weightless will just be a few minutes.

Don Lee, a pilot flying out of Lawrence County Airport since 1970, has been in charge of equipment and grounds maintenance for the last several years. He can be reached at