Mark Stucky, former flight test director for Virgin Galactic, claims this is balderdash. The “facts are the pilots failed to trim to achieve the proper pitch rate, the winds were well within limits, they did nothing of substance to address the trajectory error, & entered Class A airspace without authorization,” as he tweeted on September 1. Stucky was fired shortly after the Unity 22 mission after publicly expressing concerns over Virgin Galactic’s safety practices.
And now we eagerly await the results of the FAA investigation. But I have to think, the FAA is probably not loving that the pilots blew past the warning lights and as a result wantonly ventured out of mandated airspace. That Virgin Galactic is taking paying customers to the edge of space will also likely factor into the FAA probe. As for the future of this space tourism offering, this incident, the ensuing investigation, and claims of a deteriorating safety culture at Virgin Galactic mean paying customers might want to think twice about taking a ride on a Richard Branson-built spaceship.