Most people think of their senior years as a time for relaxation and travel, if they can afford it. The more places you have been the more, in principle, you can say “been there, done that” (The Bucket List).
Earliest experience of flying was with the British Royal Air Force Reserve. Seen here planning a squadron exercise (1958)
Learning to drive a British A15 Crusader tank—Oops! I hope that wasn't my
Most of my adventures have involved the air and airplanes after learning to fly with the British Royal Air Force Reserves over 50 years ago.
Most recently I have enjoyed aerobatic flying as co-pilot of jet fighters (the Czech L39 and Russian MIG 25).
In the latter I managed to have a near death experience while completing an aerobatic maneuver at 80,000 feet and 2,200mph when the cockpit canopy cracked. I was one of a few pilots to escape such an experience unscathed.
While I was a professor one of my students commented that his scariest experience was his first skydive. My first skydive was at a more advanced
age-namely 57 and it was one of the most euphoric experiences of my life. Although I never learned to “solo,” my tandem skydives got more and more adventurous with advancing age with a (failed) attempt at the North Pole in 2004, and a record HALO (high altitude low opening) jump (29,650 ft) for my age at 71. (Although a serviceman and one older man are known to have exceeded this height, and he was eaten by a shark the year after he attained the record at 76.)
Warbird build around 1970
In the cockpit of the MiG 25 (in Moscow). Ready for takeoff (2004)
Tandum HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) skydive from 29,600 ft (2007)
After achieving a record civilian HALO jump on August 20, 2007 (Westport News, Friday, August 31, 2007)
Alan was a member of the first team of people to skydive over Mount Everest.
Everest, the highest peak in the world, in all its heavenly glory.
1st Everest Skydive 2008
Alan Walton with daughter Sherri and Richard Branson with X1 space rocket, Oshkosh 2005
But how to go higher and faster?
Based on the successful private launch of the X1 rocket plane in 2005, Sir Richard Branson founded Virgin Galactic with the objective of commercializing space travel for the public. The initial rocket plane launched from a carrier plane (the White Knight) was designed to travel into space (which is defined as greater than 62 miles) and return safely with two passengers (or their equivalent weight) and a live
Upon announcement of this ultimate adventure, Virgin Galactic received many enquires, now well in excess of 60,000, about reserving a place. Fewer than 100 “founders” have paid for a ticket and undergone training “Zero G” and simulated space flight (high stress, G-force disorientation training) at the new NASTAR facility in Philadelphia.
Model of the new X2 White Knight
(Eve) and Rocket ship set for trials, Summer 2008
Mock up of the rocket ship in atmospheric re-entry configuration.
Zero G Training 2008
NASTAR Centrifuge Space Flight Simulator 2007
Training for space under 6G's of pressure