Virgin Galactic selects Nicola Pecile as new pilot
Virgin Galactic has announced that it has selected Nicola Pecile as the company’s new pilot. Currently a flight instructor at the National Test Pilot School (NTPS) in Mojave, California, Pecile will be Virgin Galactic’s test pilot and a future astronaut with the SpaceShipTwo program. He will be transitioning from NTPS to Virgin Galactic in the autumn of this year.
“I am really honored to be selected as a pilot to join this amazing group of talented people at Virgin Galactic, and I cannot wait to provide my contribution to this revolutionizing program!” Pecile said.
An Italian native, Pecile served for 20 years in the Italian Air Force, initially as a fighter pilot and later as an experimental test pilot. He worked at the Italian Air Force Test Center as a “dual” test pilot, performing testing and research activities on fixed and rotary wing prototypes and test aircraft. At the Italian Test Center, he was involved in civilian certification programs for the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). He retired from military service in 2011 as Chief of Operations of the Italian Air Force Experimental Flight Test Wing (RSV) and other roles within the 311th Flight Test Squadron of that Wing.
“Since a young age, I have been very passionate about aviation in general and spaceflight in particular. Virgin Galactic is transforming the overall concept of accessing space, by enhancing space flight capabilities and operations and by projecting humanity to become a truly spacefaring civilization,” Pecile said.
The appointment of Pecile comes nearly ten months after the fatal SpaceShipTwo crash in the Mojave Desert which left the co-pilot Michael Alsbury dead and the pilot Peter Siebold seriously injured. The spacecraft broke up into multiple pieces during a rocket-powered test flight, and it then impacted terrain. Siebold, who survived the accident with serious injuries, was transported to a nearby hospital.
Pecile is an award-winning graduate of the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot School, as well as an Associate Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP) and serves as Treasurer of SETP Board of Directors. He is also a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the National Space Society (NSS), and the Planetary Society.
“Nicola is a great representative of the cutting edge aerospace development that exists in Mojave and the Antelope Valley. His extensive experience with high-performance vehicles, excellent engineering skills, and career as a test pilot instructor, in addition to his teamwork abilities and passion for our mission, make him a natural fit for Virgin Galactic. Virgin Galactic continues to grow and attract top talent like Nicola, and we couldn’t be more proud of our distinguished pilot corps,“ said Mike Moses, Virgin Galactic’s Senior Vice President of Operations.
Pecile has logged more than 5,400 flight hours in 132 types of aircraft including general aviation aircraft, military jet trainers, high-performance tactical fighters, and helicopters. He will now join Virgin Galactic’s growing commercial flight team led by Chief Pilot Dave Mackay.
“While we are sad to see Nicola depart the school, we are excited for him as he strives to fulfill a childhood dream of going to space. I think his selection also says a lot about the caliber of instructors that we have here at NTPS,” said Al Peterson, NTPS President and CEO.
Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.