Virgin Galactic put out a call for pilot-astronaut applicants this week, as the company ramps up to offer tourism flights into space. Virgin is ready to select three candidates, one to start now and the others to come on board as needed. The pilots will participate in the ongoing test-flight program for WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo in Mojave and later will help launch commercial operations and train new pilots at Spaceport America in New Mexico. Virgin is looking for graduates of test-pilot school with experience flying high-performance jets and large multi-engine aircraft as well as “low lift-to-drag ratio glide experience (e.g. simulated flameout landings) in complex aircraft.” Their ideal candidate would have spaceflight experience as well — a criterion that might not be so hard to meet as NASA winds down its shuttle program, leaving their astronaut corps grounded.
Essential qualifications for the pilot-astronauts include an FAA commercial certificate and a current medical, a degree in a relevant field, and at least 3,000 hours of flight experience. Pilots will also need good communication skills as they will be helping to train passengers to participate in space flight. In its posting, Virgin emphasized that the space program is not just a lark, but an important part of the company’s future. “It will remain a very high profile part of the Virgin Group and has the potential to become its global, flagship company,” according to the Web site. For more details about Virgin Galactic’s job posting or to apply, click here.