Virgin Galactic has selected former USAF test pilot Keith Colmer from more than 500 applicants as the first astronaut pilot to join the commercial spaceline’s flight team.
Along with Chief Pilot David Mackay, Colmer will begin flight training and testing, leading to operational missions to space with Virgin Galactic’s revolutionary vehicles, WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo. More selections will be made as the company gets closer to commercial operations.
George Whitesides, president and CEO, said, “Keith brings the kind of tremendous multi-dimensional talent and skill set that we are looking for in our astronaut pilots. 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’s experience includes 12 years of operational, developmental and experimental aircraft test flight experience, as well as more than 10 years of combined military experience in USAF spacecraft operations and flying. He has served as a combat F-16 pilot in the Colorado Air National Guard, with two combat tours to Iraq, followed by a position as an operational test pilot at the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve Command Test Center (AATC) in Tucson, Arizona. He then became the first Air National Guard pilot selected to attend the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California, and eventually finished his active duty tour as a Combined Test Force Director and Squadron Commander for a classified program. He has also received numerous awards, including the Order of Daedalians Orville Wright Achievement Award, as the outstanding pilot training graduate in 1989, and the Aaron C. George Award from the USAF Test Pilot School.
Colmer will join an elite team in Mojave, CA, where Mackay and Scaled Composite’s test pilots have been putting WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo through an exhaustive series of test flights.
According to Keith Colmer, “I am extremely honored to have been the first astronaut pilot selected through competition to join the team. Virgin Galactic is truly revolutionizing the way we go to space, and I am looking forward to being a part of that.”
Virgin Galactic is owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Aabar Investments PJS and is on track to be the world’s first commercial spaceline. The spaceships are being designed to carry six customers on sub-orbital space flights.