Interview: Virgin Galactic Pilot...Space Pilot

Rich Dancaster has flown commercial jets for a long time. He's got 16,000 flight hours under his belt, which is more than some of us have in cars. When Virgin America and Galactic announced a plan to work together, he figured it was sheer marketing. Then he got the call that he'd be going through an intense training program to pilot a spaceship. You'd never believe a man who looks like a cross between Chuck Yeager and Clint Eastwood and who dresses like Johnny Cash would ever experience something like giddiness, but that's what I detected when interviewing him at today's WhiteKnightTwo unveiling.

What's the training like?

The program has yet to be announced, but we know it's a combination of real flight, simulated flight and centrifuge training.

What's the difference between your Virgin Galactic and Virgin America rides?

The different flight profile of each, but in some ways it flies like any jet...although some portions of the launch of SpaceShipTwo's reentry is glider-like. These planes also do +6Gs.

Is it like a Rollercoaster?

Well, a rollercoaster is more of an inverse G. [So, it's not similar]

What qualification did you need to become a Galactic pilot?

3,000 hours of flight time, and a variety of plane experience, since we also have to fly Gulfstreams to sometimes take customers to and from the spaceports.

Rich, you are a lucky bastard.

[Giz at Virgin Galactic Launch]