David Mackay (pilot)


David Mackay
Alma materUniversity of Glasgow
Space career
Commercial astronaut
US - FAA Astronaut Wings version 2.png
Current occupation
Chief Pilot, Virgin Galactic
SelectionVirgin Galactic
MissionsVSS Unity VF-01
Unity 21
Unity 22
Mission insignia
Virgin Galactic logo.svg

David William Donald Mackay AFC (born 1957) is the Chief Pilot of Virgin Galactic, a commercial astronaut and a former RAF test pilot. He is the first native-born Scot to visit space.[1]

Early life

David Mackay was born in Scotland, and lived in Helmsdale, Highland.[2] David's father was a police officer. He would see aircraft flying (low) from RAF Lossiemouth.

David studied Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Glasgow.[3] He first piloted an aircraft in 1977.


Royal Air Force

He joined the RAF in 1979. He flew the Harrier GR3 in Germany and the Falklands.

Test pilot

In 1986 he was selected for test pilot training. In 1988 he graduated from the French test pilots' school, École du personnel navigant d'essais et de réception - EPNER, through an exchange with the RAF's Empire Test Pilots' School. He became Commanding Officer of the RAF's Fast Jet Test Flight in 1992 at RAF Boscombe Down. The fastest speed he reached was Mach 1.4 in a French Mirage. He conducted trials on the Harrier GR7, the Sea Harrier FA.2, and the Tucano. He flew with the Fixed Wing Test Squadron. He was awarded the Air Force Cross in 1992.[4]

Virgin Atlantic

He joined Virgin Atlantic in 1995, flying Boeing 747s as a Captain from 1999; he also flew the Airbus A340 from 2002. He finished his flying career with over 11,000 hours flying.

Virgin Galactic

SpaceShip Two

He joined Virgin Galactic in 2009, and is now the Chief Pilot. The suborbital spacecraft, SpaceShipTwo (SS2), will reach a height of 360,000 feet. On its journey into space, the SS2 spacecraft will reach Mach 3.5. The first SS2 spacecraft to fly, of which he was one of the pilots, was the VSS Enterprise; the second SS2 spacecraft is called VSS Unity. On 22 February 2019 Mackay became the 569th person, and first Scot, to visit space. He piloted the VSS Unity VF-01 flight above 50 mi (80 km), qualifying him as an FAA commercial astronaut. He has since piloted the Unity 21 and Unity 22 flights, also above 50 mi (80 km).


  1. ^ Crae, Ross. "Updated: Highland pilot David Mackay becomes the first Scots-born astronaut on latest Virgin Galactic test flight". The Sunday Post. Retrieved 3 May 2021.
  2. ^ Northern Times July 2011
  3. ^ Aeronautical Engineering
  4. ^ Engineering Careers

External links

  • BBC July 2011
  • Telegraph August 2011
  • Telegraph October 2010

Audio clips

Video clips

  • Interview in July 2012 with Flightglobal on YouTube