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10 Jun 03. On 9 June, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., newest prop-jet aircraft, ALTAIR, made its maiden flight from the company’s El Mirage flight operations facility in California. ALTAIR was developed in conjunction with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), to conduct high altitude scientific research and to perform flight operations in national air space.

ALTAIR, a variant of the U.S. Air Force Predator B aircraft, also carries the designation of Predator B-ER. With a wingspan of 86 feet, ALTAIR is designed for operations well above 50,000 feet. In addition to its scientific research missions, this variant of the proven Predator series, is also planned for extensive use by the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard for maritime surveillance and Homeland Defense missions because of its long endurance of up to 44 hours and large payload capacity.

“ALTAIR’s first flight today is a culmination of ten years of experience in building reliable unmanned aircraft based on a common design philosophy. I am very proud of our design, manufacturing and flight-readiness teams for their dedication to a high performance level of excellence,” stated Mr. Thomas J. Cassidy, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer.

Marked as the first remotely piloted aircraft that will eventually meet aviation authority requirements for flights in National Air Space, ALTAIR is configured with a fault-tolerant dual-architecture flight control system and triple redundant avionics to increase reliability. The aircraft will be integrated with an automated collision and avoidance system as well as an air traffic control voice relay that will be incorporated for National Airspace missions.

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