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Willcox eyed as one of two landing areas for Boeing spacecraft

WILLCOX — The Willcox Playa is one of the two best choices for a Boeing spacecraft landing site.

That’s according to officials with Boeing as they look for a landing site for their Starliner spacecraft in December.

The Range News sat down and discussed the possibility of a Willcox Playa landing in depth with Boeing Technical Lead Marty Linde. In previous interactions with Boeing, it was known that there were five potential landing sites for the Boeing’s spacecraft Starliner.

However, as of last Wednesday night, the number of potential functional landing sites has been narrowed to two.

The Range News asked Linde what the odds were that the Willcox Playa would be used as a landing site, and Linde replied that the odds were very good.

“We will have two sites for each mission, a primary and a backup. Right now, we only have three sites. There were five; we haven’t brought Edwards online yet. So that brings us down to four. I talked to Dugway Proving Ground and they’re wet still. They’re the ones that flood from the ground up. We haven’t brought up the northern White Sands Missile Range. It’s the one in the North. So what does that leave us with? It leaves us with White Sands Space Harbor and Willcox,” Linde said.

“If Dugway dried up all of a sudden, then it would get back in the mix. But the meeting that we had this afternoon said we only have two to choose from right now. Now the orbital trajectory has to fall into place so that we have those two available.”

Linde said that if the playa is wet from a storm, or if the surface winds were 13 to 23 miles an hour strong, the playa would not be suitable for a landing. At 30 days before the landing, Boeing will have a calculated area of landing depending on weather, and the trajectory of the International Space Station.

“There’s a good probability that if we indeed launch in December, that may be the combination that we’re looking at. Hopefully everything stays well here; hopefully you don’t get a freak wind or rainstorm that floods the playa because then we can’t land,” Linde said. “It will depend on orbital trajectory. We need a primary site; and then 24 hours later, we need a backup site. We’re going to have to move some equipment. What we’re ideally looking for is orbital trajectory that provides you one landing opportunity here, and then 24 hours later you can land at one of the other sites.”

Willcox City Manager Caleb Blaschke told the Range News that the community of Willcox is excited about the possibility of the Boeing and NASA teams landing the Starliner spacecraft in the Willcox Playa.

“A big reason Willcox is excited about the possibility of landing is that Willcox is a patriotic city. We’re excited to be part of the space program and support the United States in that endeavor. I think a couple other reasons from the city standpoint is we’re very excited because of the economic development this can bring. This can really showcase our city and show people what there’s to do in Willcox,” Blaschke said. “I think we have a great community, and people will be able to see that firsthand. Especially if we’re selected, the staff members from Boeing and the people that are visiting and coming to see it will be able to stay in our town for a little bit and experience that. We’re excited that hopefully the visitors will come and eat at our restaurants and stay at our hotels.”

Blaschke also told the Range News that as a parent he is excited because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the kids to witness. Also, Boeing is very interactive with local schools and communities and has already offered to visit Willcox schools and give presentations. Aside from presentations, Boeing has already expressed interest in local STEAM programs.


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Willcox High School awarded ‘B’ grade

WILLCOX — After years of work and dedication, Willcox High School has received a “B” letter grade from the Arizona State Board of Education.

At the Willcox School Board meeting last Tuesday, Willcox Schools Superintendent Kevin Davis informed the board of the newest letter grade.

“For the first year since I’ve been here, in six years, the high school earned a grade of ‘B.’ It’s been a long time coming and they’ve put in a lot of work to accomplish that. On our other schools, we’re still disputing the grades they received. So we’ve appealed and waiting for a response on that mainly because of the computer issues that we had at the time,” Davis said.

Willcox Elementary School and Willcox Middle School both received “C” letter grades for this year.

What are the schools graded on?

The system measures year-to-year student academic growth, proficiency on English language arts, math and science, the proficiency and academic growth of English language learners, indicators that an elementary student is ready for success in high school and that high school students are ready to succeed in a career or higher education and high school graduation rates.-azsbe.az.gov

What do the grades mean?

A: Excellent performance, significant growth, high graduation rates and higher performance than the state average.

B: High performance on the statewide assessment. This grade includes significant student educational growth as well as higher graduation rates and proficiency than the state average.

C: Performing. This grade is given to the schools that are adequate but need improvement in growth, graduation rate and proficiency.

D: Performing minimally. This grade is given to schools performing inadequately in proficiency, graduation rates and growth.

F: This grade is a failing grade, which means the school is below 67-percent performance, and the performance in graduation rates and growth is in the bottom 5 percent of the state.