Virgin Galactic's Chief Pilot on VSS Unity's first supersonic flight

Dave Mackay is chief pilot at Virgin Galactic. On April 5th 2018, he was one of the two pilots who took SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity to new heights, during its first rocket-powered supersonic test flight.

The Scottish -born pilot has been flying since 1977; he had a glittering career in the RAF as a pilot and test pilot and, before moving to Virgin Galactic, served as a Senior Captain for Virgin Atlantic. Dave explains that it takes a certain type of mentality to become a test pilot – a love of flying of course, but also a fascination for the engineering, design and technology which make an aircraft good….or bad. With more than 14,000 flying hours, and having qualified to fly 140 different planes – including those with paying passengers – Dave was the perfect candidate for Virgin Galactic.

Dave says that he often compares testing to a big sports game. “You’ve trained and you feel fit and ready and prepared,” he says, “and you know your tactics so you’re not scared but you’re not relaxed either. You’re keyed up and ready for it.”

The success of VSS Unity’s first powered test marks the beginning of the final phase of testing programme for Virgin Galactic’s spaceship. Visit the Virgin Galactic website for all the latest on test flights as they move closer to space.


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