Future space tourists will have today’s guest, Chief Pilot David Mackay of Virgin Galactic, to thank for their adventures into the cosmos. This fit family man is working with entrepreneurial king, Sir Richard Branson, to make travel into space accessible to all. David recently completed a successful Virgin Galactic test flight where he traveled approximately 55 miles above the Earth’s surface and had with him the company’s first test passenger. In this episode, David shares the pain of a sobering tragedy that killed Pilot Michael Alsbury as Virgin Galactic prepared to launch its space program. David also gives listeners a vivid description of what Earth looks like from the vantage point of a pilot’s seat, and shares his thoughts on the upcoming transition of Virgin Galactic’s commercial space program from Mojave, California to Truth or Consequences, the location of Spaceport America.
David Mackay was born in Scotland and studied Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Glasgow. He joined the Royal Air Force in 1979 during which time he became a test pilot. After retiring from the Royal Air Force in 1995, David became a commercial pilot for Virgin Atlantic. A chance meeting led him to join Virgin Galactic in 1995 for which he has served as its Chief Pilot since 2011. On February 22, 2019, David piloted the SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity into space with a test passenger whose purpose was to evaluate the customer experience and cabin.