Virgin Galactic appoints Nicola Pecile as pilot


Virgin Galactic, the privately-funded space company owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments PJS, is pleased to announce the appointment of Nicola Pecile as pilot.

An Italian native from Udine and raised in Fagagna who is currently a US permanent resident, Pecile will join Virgin Galactic’s growing commercial flight team led by Chief Pilot Dave Mackay. 

Pecile joins Virgin Galactic after four years at the National Test Pilot School (NTPS) in Mojave, California, USA, where he served as Director of Operations and Experimental Test Pilot Instructor on fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. NTPS is the only civilian test pilot school out of the seven worldwide schools recognized by the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. 

Prior to joining the Mojave community, Pecile served for 20 years in the Italian Air Force, initially as a fighter pilot flying the Tornado FMk.3 ADV, and later as an experimental test pilot. A graduate of the French Test Pilot School EPNER, he worked within 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. 

Pecile has logged more than 5,400 flight hours in 132 types of aircraft including gliders, general aviation aircraft, multi-engine non centreline thrust aircraft, military jet trainers, tactical high performance fighters, and helicopters. 

Virgin Galactic’s senior vice-president of operations, Mike Moses, said, “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.” 

Pecile earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical science from the Italian Air Force Academy and a master’s degree in astronautics engineering – space missions from La Sapienza University of Rome. He is an award winning graduate of the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program and the top distinguished graduate pilot of his French Test Pilot School’s class. Pecile is an Associate Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP) and currently 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. 

Pecile said, “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. 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!”

September 3, 2015

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