...Pilots Needed

  • E-Mail this Article
  • View Printable Article
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

Think you've got the right stuff to fly a commercial spaceliner? Get in line. Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn said the company has received more than 4,000 applications for pilot jobs in its new enterprise and estimates it will need about 75 after the full flight schedule is in place. "We will be looking for pilots," he said. Of course Virgin has thousands of its own pilots to choose from in its three airlines and there have been applications from the U.S. as well -- mostly ex-military, ex-NASA, and test pilots. Qualifications are going to be tough and those with military, space and test flight backgrounds are likely to get priority. But not everyone will need a fat logbook to get a foot in the door. And some early passengers may only need a computer and $10. Whitehorn said the company would consider developing an internet "game of skill" that would allow players to fly SpaceShipTwos into space. The payments would enter the players into a raffle and once the requisite price (likely near $200,000 for early flights) was matched, a winner would be chosen. For pilots, the company has plans for a reality TV show in which contestants would go through a full training program to become commercial space pilots. There's no word yet on the selection process for the show. And while becoming a space pilot may be too much of a stretch for many people, Whitehorn emphasized that Virgin Galactic intends to "democratize" space travel by making it as easy as possible to get ordinary people to the black sky as passengers. He noted that 80 percent of people are physically capable of making the flight but not many are now financially equipped. The well-heeled will be the first commercial passengers (Whitehorn leaked that Victoria Principal is on the list) but Whitehorn said that as they gain experience and equipment (provided by the $200,000 fares put up by the first relative few) he said he expects the price to drop to about $50,000. "That's the cost of a cruise," he said. (We just looked at each other.)