Virgin Galactic Pilot Speaks Out About Crash

Chief pilot of Virgin Galactic, Dave Mackay, gave his first media interview regarding the tragic crash of SpaceShipTwo last October. Mackay spoke about his experience, telling the BBC he was flying WhiteKnightTwo, which carried the small space airplane to 50,000 feet during the ill-fated mission.

While Mackay didn't see the accident itself, he was above the spaceship when the catastrophic failure happened. "We were listening on the radio and it became apparent fairly early that something had gone seriously wrong," he said. Circling over the accident scene, he then helped in the search and rescue efforts that followed.

Virgin Galactic is continuing the Space Ship program and hopes to take paying customers flying to space within two years, the BBC report said. Some slight changes have been made to the new space ship, which is currently being completed. Modifications were made to the part that unlocks the feathering system, the activation of which the NTSB investigation blamed for the structural failure.

The most difficult part is not getting the aircraft to space, said Virgin Galactic's chief executive, George Whitesides. The greatest challenge is getting to 70,000 feet and the speed of sound. Speaking of the challenges with the program, Mackay said: "It has turned out to be harder than we thought it would. But if it was easy, it would have been done a long time ago."

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Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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