"It was devastating," Binnie, a 51-year-old father of three, recalls. "But Burt was the first to get to me. He dusted me off, looked at the ship, and said, 'That's no problem. It's a plastic airplane! We can fix that in a few weeks.' He tried to lift my spirits at a time when they really needed lifting." Rutan's reassuring words were true--the damage was minimal, requiring just a few weeks for Scaled Composites, Rutan's company, to repair--but in the race to pilot the key X Prize spaceflights, Binnie lost points that day. While the event was downplayed publicly, its effect on the program was tremendous. First, it caused tension among the pilots. Most of them, and many engineers at Scaled, felt that the accident resulted from an understandable misinterpretation of new flying qualities, generated by modifications made to the vehicle prior to the flight. Melvill, though, was vocal with his opinion that Binnie's landing trouble was pure pilot error. "He flat didn't fly the airplane," he says. "He just flew it straight into the ground, like what you would do when flying an F-18 onto the deck."