The X-31A aircraft performed its first extremely short takeoff and landing (ESTOL) maneuvers Nov. 18 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Patuxent River, Md., landing twice on a "virtual runway" in the sky at 5,000 feet. During an ESTOL landing, the aircraft approaches the runway at relatively slow speeds with its nose pointed sharply upward. It then executes a precise, computer-controlled derotation maneuver two feet above the runway to come in for a safe landing. The X-31A ...

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