Former USAF Test Pilot Gets The Slot Following Competition
A little over fifty years ago, an historic competition for the
first pilots to fly into space yielded the Mercury Seven
astronauts. After an intense selection process with more than
500 applicants including some of the best pilots in the world,
Virgin Galactic has selected former USAF test pilot Keith Colmer as
the first astronaut pilot to join the commercial spaceline's flight
team. Colmer will join Chief Pilot David Mackay to begin flight
training and testing, leading to operational missions to space with
Virgin Galactic's revolutionary vehicles, WhiteKnightTwo and
SpaceShipTwo. Additional selections will be made as the company
nears commercial operations.
Image Courtesy Virgin Galactic
Colmer (pictured) brings 12 years of operational,
developmental and experimental aircraft test flight experience plus
more than 10 years of combined military experience in USAF
spacecraft operations and flying. He has logged over 5000 hours in
over 90 different types of aircraft. He will report to Mackay and
Vice President of Operations, Mike Moses, as Virgin Galactic
prepares to undertake powered test flights, leading soon thereafter
to commercial operations.
"Keith brings the kind of tremendous multi-dimensional talent
and skill set that we are looking for in our astronaut pilots,"
said 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
Following completion of USAF pilot training, Colmer served as a
combat F-16 pilot in the Colorado Air National Guard, with two
combat tours to Iraq. He was then selected as an operational test
pilot, managing various sensor and electronic warfare flight test
programs for the F-16, at the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve
Command Test Center (AATC) in Tucson, Arizona.
He then became the first Air National Guard pilot ever selected
to attend the USAF Test Pilot School, at Edwards Air Force Base,
California. He served as Operations Officer for the 416th Flight
Test Squadron at Edwards AFB, where he led F-16, F-15 and T-38C
flight test operations, specializing in high angle of attack flight
test and training on the F-16. Keith then completed two classified
assignments, finishing his active duty tour as a Combined Test
Force Director and Squadron Commander for a classified program.
Colmer is the recipient of the Order of Daedalians Orville
Wright Achievement Award, as the outstanding pilot training
graduate in 1989, the Aaron C. George Award from the USAF Test
Pilot School, the Lieutenant General Bobby Bond Memorial Aviator
Award and the Lieutenant General Howard Leaf "Test Team of the Year
Award" for the United States Air Force.
Colmer, whose aviator call sign is "Coma," joins an elite team
in Mojave, CA, where Scaled Composite's test pilots and Mackay have
been putting WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo through an exhaustive
series of test flights to fully explore and quantify the
performance profiles of the two revolutionary vehicles. "This team
in Mojave is second to none," said Mackay about Scaled Composite's
test pilots. "Keith and I are indeed fortunate to have their
expertise and body of work to build on as we enter the final phases
of the test program and prepare to open space to all."
"I am extremely honored to have been the first astronaut pilot
selected through competition to join the team," said Colmer.
"Virgin Galactic is truly revolutionizing the way we go to space,
and I am looking forward to being a part of that."
Colmer has a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics
from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has both a
Masters degree in Aerospace Engineering and a Masters degree in
Telecommunications from the University of Colorado, Boulder.
He is a graduate of the USAF Undergraduate Space Training program,
the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program and USAF Test Pilot
School, Class 02A.