A Lincolnshire RAF pilot will swap out the cockpit of a Typhoon to help launch satellites into space.
Flight Lieutenant Mathew ‘Stanny’ Stannard flies will join the ranks of Virgin Orbit’s space programme after a tough selection process.
The secondment from RAF Coningsby is expected to last three years and will see ‘Stanny’ pilot a modified Boeing 747-400 aircraft next year.
His appointment was made in California aboard the RMS Queen Mary ship, which was once the floating headquarters of Winston Churchill.
As part of the event, the RAF Red Arrows display team flew over the ship in a special formation with the Virgin Orbit plane called ‘Cosmic Girl.’
Flight Lieutenant Stannard said: “I’ve flown Tornado and Typhoon fighter jets in the RAF but being involved in Virgin Orbit’s space programme is a truly unique opportunity.
“This programme is pushing the boundaries of our understanding of space so it’s a real privilege to be part of it and I’m looking forward to bringing the skills and knowledge I gain back to the RAF.”
Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart added: “As an American Company with British ownership and a company guided by Sir Richard Branson, a truly legendary British entrepreneur, it is perhaps within our DNA to help the United Kingdom and the United States collaborate in space.
“As part of Team ARTEMIS, we’ve been working with the RAF and the U.S. Air Force to demonstrate the utility of small satellites and responsive, resilient space launch and operations.
“We are thrilled to welcome Flight Lt. Matthew Stannard to our team of hugely talented pilots where I know his presence will move us further, faster and to new heights.”