WILLCOX — The community came out to ask questions and learn about the Boeing spacecraft.
On Wednesday night, Willcox and the surrounding areas caught space fever as a crowd filled the presentation room at the Willcox Community Center to hear about Boeing’s spacecraft, the Starliner. Boeing Technical Lead Marty Linde gave a presentation on the Starliner, its possible landing area in the Willcox Playa and what it entails. During the presentation, Linde told the community that Boeing had removed the radio towers from the playa bed and scanned the bed with radar from above to be sure there were no residual bombs or hazards left over from the 1940s. After the presentation, the audience was given the chance to ask questions regarding the situation.
Lisa Glenn stood in the audience and asked in detail regarding the hazmat hazards of a possible leak of rocket fuel on the playa from the Starliner.
“This is the most mild form of hydrazine. If you were dealing with monomethyl hydrazine like the shuttle had or nitrous tetroxide, that was really nasty stuff. Hydrazine is a simple compound that is used to produce fuel like a catalytic converter to produce energy. We will land with approximately 55 pounds, and it will be in a sealed container,” Linde said.
Other questions included whether or not there will be enough viewing room with increased traffic. Gabe Levine, with Cochise County Emergency Services, told the audience that in the event of a landing there will be assigned viewing areas specifically laid out previously.
Linde explained that Willcox is unique in the fact that Boeing and Nasa have to incorporate the staff of Cochise County in the event of an emergency landing. If an emergency unplanned landing occurs in the Willcox Playa, Cochise County personnel will retrieve the astronauts from the spacecraft and the cover of the spacecraft, and then wait for Boeing and NASA to retrieve both crew and spacecraft.
According to Linde, economic benefits of the landing include increased usage of local restaurants and hotels due to traveling Boeing and Nasa teams, as well as hiring off-duty police officers to assist in securing the area if a landing occurs. Also, Linde told those attending the meeting that should there be any damages made by Boeing materials such as parachutes, or parachute lids, Boeing will be financially responsible.
“I’m excited about it. I think it’s great for the community. They’re talking about doing it a couple of times a year; this could be something that people look forward to and come here and see. I like adventure. I think it’s interesting, and I’m excited,” said Debra Nelson, who lives near the playa.
This is the only community presentation made by Boeing regarding a landing site since all of the other potential landing areas for the spacecraft are located in military installations. The Willcox Playa is the only possible landing location surrounded by a civilian community.