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Branson goes Galactic with San Francisco launch

Sir Richard Branson at San Francisco International Airport

BY JAMES WILKINSON

Sir Richard Branson has taken a futuristic path for his latest launch stunt, by flying Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo alongside a Virgin America Airbus A320 over San Francisco’s famed Golden Gate Bridge to celebrate the opening of a new terminal at the city’s SFO airport.

Guests onboard the A320 – including Branson and space pioneer Buzz Aldrin – witnessed aviation history, by getting a birds-eye view of the new Virgin spaceship, which made its inaugural landing at an international airport.

They were also the first travelers to arrive at San Francisco International Airport’s (SFO) Terminal 2 (T2), Virgin America’s home base.

“Virgin is known around the world for product innovation that improves the customer experience,” Branson said. “I am proud to see Virgin America grow into a new home that allows them to extend that unique Virgin experience from the aircraft to the airport.

A Virgin America A320 with WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo

 “Thanks to the vision of SFO, T2 represents the evolution of the airport guest experience and serves as a model for sustainable design.

“Just as Virgin America now has guests who say ‘I wish my flight was longer,’ T2 is a place travellers will actually enjoy visiting and spending time in,” Branson said.

T2, occupied by Virgin America and American Airlines, is set to be one of the nation’s most popular, featuring sustainable design, mood lighting, living room-style gate areas, restaurants with locally-produced menus, laptop workstations and art installations.

The inaugural flight for Virgin Galactic, which will offer suborbital spaceflights to the paying public at $200,000 per ticket, is expected in 2011 or 2012.

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