Virgin Galactic chooses space pilot for passenger flights

November 4, 2011

Former U.S. Air Force test pilot Keith Colmer will be one of the astronaut pilots to carry tourists on suborbital space flights for Virgin Galactic, the company announced Oct. 27.

Colmer, who has combat and test flight experience as well as experience in spacecraft operations, was selected from more than 500 applicants to be the first to join the commercial spaceline’s flight team, Virgin Galactic said. He will begin flight training and testing with chief pilot David Mackay.

Colmer’s more than 5,000 hours in more than 90 types of aircraft include two combat tours in Iraq and flight testing in the F-16. He was the first Air National Guard pilot selected to attend the Air Force Test Pilot School, Virgin Galactic said. He led F-16, F-15, and T-38C flight test operations for the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base and completed two classified assignments, the company added.

“Keith brings the kind of tremendous multi-dimensional talent and skill set that we are looking for in our astronaut pilots,” said Virgin Galactic 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, whose call sign is “Coma,” is a graduate of the undergraduate space training program at Lowry Air Force Base and the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program.

The company plans to select more pilots as it nears commercial operations, which according to news reports may be 2013 or later.