Virgin Galactic Chief Pilot receives Honorary Doctorate

Test pilot – and soon to be astronaut – David Mackay is to be awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Glasgow tomorrow.

The pilot, an alumnus of the University of Glasgow, will be the first man to take passengers on commercial flights to space.

David Mackay joined the University to study aeronautical engineering in 1975 after being inspired by the Apollo programme’s astronauts. Noting that all of the Apollo programme’s astronauts were former military test pilots, David became determined that he too would be a test pilot - beginning his training with the RAF’s University of Glasgow Air Squadron whilst studying for his degree.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering, David served in the RAF and received numerous accolades and completed tours of duty in Belize and the Falkland Islands.

He later became a test pilot, working on a number of programmes including a low level night attack system; assessment tests of head up displays with NASA; the first ship trails of the Sea Harrier on HMS Ark Royal; and advanced flight control law testing at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Bedford.

In 1995, his career took a major change and he joined Virgin Atlantic Airways as a Captain, and, as well as piloting passenger aircraft, became the Company Technical Advisor for Global Flyer, making the first solo, un-refuelled non-stop flight around the world.

When Virgin Atlantic began work on a commercial spaceship in 2005, David was asked to join the company. He then moved to California to work on the project full-time, and it is hoped that David will pilot the first commercial space flight within a year.

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Captain David Mackay said: “I’m delighted to accept this honorary degree from the University of Glasgow. It’s an honour to be recognised for my contribution and I won’t forget the influence my time in the University’s engineering department has had in my career.”

Professor Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, said: “The University of Glasgow is delighted to award Captain David Mackay an honorary degree to recognise his outstanding achievements in the field of aeronautical engineering. He is a great example of the excellence of the University’s engineering department, and it is a privilege to acknowledge his achievements.”