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Virgin Galactic Hires USAF Pilot

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
July 24, 2014
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Todd Ericson (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Todd Ericson (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

MOJAVE, Calif., July 24th, 2014 (VG PR) – Virgin Galactic, the privately-funded space company owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s aabar Investments PJS, announced today that Todd ‘Leif’ Ericson, former Operations and Maintenance Group Commander for the United States Air Force (USAF) has joined the company’s cadre of space pilots.

In his new role, Todd will be working with Galactic’s chief pilot Dave Mackay and pilots Frederick ‘CJ’ Sturckow and Michael ‘Sooch’ Masucci as they prepare to fly Virgin Galactic’s first customers to space. Ericson will report to Mackay and Vice President of Operations Mike Moses at Virgin Galactic’s Mojave, California location, before relocating to Spaceport America in New Mexico for commercial operations.

Todd has 23 years military experience logging more than 8,500 flight hours in over 90 diverse aircraft types. As Operations and Maintenance Group Commander for the USAF, Ericson directed performance and safety for over 600 personnel engaged in flight operations and maintenance for 21 diverse aircraft types. He also previously served as the Chief of Safety for the Air Force Test Center, responsible for test, ground, and flight safety – experience he will apply in his role at Virgin Galactic.

“Virgin Galactic is at the epicenter of a momentous point in human history, creating a spaceline that will change the way we see the world,” Ericson said. “I am thrilled to be part of this and I look forward to contributing to the first commercial spaceline, opening up opportunities that are truly limitless.”

A 1991 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, he earned both a Bachelor’s Degree and the Langley Award as the Outstanding Cadet in Aeronautical Engineering prior to receiving a Master’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering from University of Maryland. Todd was a distinguished graduate of every flying program he attended, including winning both the Air Training Command Commander’s Trophy as the top graduate of Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Class 92-07 and the McKenna Trophy as the top graduate of the Empire Test Pilots School’s 60th Fixed Wing Course. He amassed over 230 combat hours in the F-16 during Operation Allied Force where he also earned seven Air Medals. In 2011, Ericson was a distinguished graduate from USAF Air War College where he was awarded Master’s Degree in Strategic Studies and won the General Charles Horner Award.

“Todd’s world-class experience and leadership in various demanding environments make him an exceptional addition to the Galactic team,” said CEO George Whitesides. “We are honored that distinguished aerospace professionals like Todd are joining the Galactic team as we prepare for the start of commercial spaceflight operations.”


Virgin Galactic, owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and aabar Investments PJS, is on track to be the world’s first commercial spaceline. To date, the company has accepted more than $80 million in deposits from approximately 700 individuals, which is 20% more than the total number of people who have ever gone to space. The new spaceship (SpaceShipTwo, VSS Enterprise) and carrier craft (WhiteKnightTwo, VMS Eve) have both been developed for Virgin Galactic’s vehicle fleet by Mojave-based Scaled Composites. Founded by Burt Rutan, Scaled developed SpaceShipOne, which in 2004 claimed the $10 million Ansari X Prize as the world’s first privately developed manned spacecraft. Virgin Galactic’s new reusable vehicles, which will be manufactured by The Spaceship Company in Mojave, Calif., share much of the same basic design, but are being built to carry six customers, or the equivalent scientific research payload to space. The vehicles will allow an out-of-the-seat, zero-gravity experience with astounding views of the planet from the black sky of space for tourist astronauts and a unique microgravity platform for researchers. The VSS Enterprise and VMS Eve test exhaustive test flight program is in its final stages leading to Virgin Galactic commercial operations, which will be based at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

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