Virgin Galactic Taps USAF Veteran to be Pilot

Keith Colmer, a former U.S. Air Force test pilot, has been selected as a pilot for Virgin Galactic. Photo Credit: Virgin Galactic

He has “The Right Stuff” – or at least Virgin Galactic thinks so. The NewSpace firm chose from a pool of hundreds of candidates, some of the greatest pilots the world has to offer to work to be a pilot for their company. U.S. Air Force test pilot Keith Colmer was selected by Virgin Galactic to join the team that is working to provide private citizens a flight into space. 

Virgin Galactic announced Colmer’s addition to the company’s space flight team on Oct. 26. He will join Virgin Galactic’s Pilot David Mackay as they work to get the company’s carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo and its spacecraft SpaceShipTwo into service. They will be joined by more pilots as the company works to begin operations in 2013. 

Virgin Galactic has been making steady progress toward beginning operations in 2013. Photo Credit: Clay Center Observatory/Virgin Galactic

 “Keith brings the kind of tremendous multi-dimensional talent and skill set that we are looking for in our astronaut pilots,” said Virgin Galactic’s President and CEO George Whitesides. “But equally important to us are his impeccable character and his outstanding record of high caliber performance in highly demanding environments. He sets the bar very high for others to come.”

Colmer is a veteran pilot, with 12 years worth of experience in testing experimental aircraft. He has over 5,000 hours logged in more than 90 different types of aircraft. 

SpaceShipTwo, seen here, is carried aloft by the carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo where it then activates its primary engine and ferries passengers to sub-orbit. Photo Credit: Virgin Galactic/Mark Greenberg

 “This team in Mojave is second to none,” said Mackay about Scaled Composite’s test pilots.  “Keith and I are indeed fortunate to have their expertise and body of work to build on as we enter the final phases of the test program and prepare to open space to all.” 

Former NASA Space Shuttle Manager Mike Moses recently left NASA to work as Virgin Galactic’s Vice President of Operations. Virgin Galactic is working to begin powered test flights, and after that the company will try to begin commercial operations. 

 “I am extremely honored to have been the first astronaut pilot selected through competition to join the team,” said Colmer. “Virgin Galactic is truly revolutionizing the way we go to space and I am looking forward to being a part of that.”   

Colmer has served as a combat pilot, flying an F-16 in two tours in Iraq with the Colorado Air National Guard. According to information provided in a Virgin Galactic press release he is the first Air National Guard pilot to ever be selected to attend the USAF Test Pilot School, at Edwards Air Force Base.

Virgin Galactic recently hired on former space shuttle program manager Mike Moses as its Vice-President of Operations. Photo Credit: Virgin Galactic/Jeffrey Vock

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