Virgin Galactic, the privately-funded space company owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi's aabar Investments PJS, announced today that Todd 'Leif' Ericson, former Operations and Maintenance Group Commander for the United States Air Force (USAF) has joined the company's cadre of space pilots.
In his new role, Todd will be working with Galactic's chief pilot Dave Mackay and pilots Frederick 'CJ' Sturckow and Michael 'Sooch' Masucci as they prepare to fly Virgin Galactic's first customers to space. Ericson will report to Mackay and Vice President of Operations Mike Moses at Virgin Galactic's Mojave, California location, before relocating to Spaceport America in New Mexico for commercial operations.
Todd has 23 years military experience logging more than 8,500 flight hours in over 90 diverse aircraft types. As Operations and Maintenance Group Commander for the USAF, Ericson directed performance and safety for over 600 personnel engaged in flight operations and maintenance for 21 diverse aircraft types. He also previously served as the Chief of Safety for the Air Force Test Center, responsible for test, ground, and flight safety – experience he will apply in his role at Virgin Galactic.
"Virgin Galactic is at the epicenter of a momentous point in human history, creating a spaceline that will change the way we see the world," Ericson said. "I am thrilled to be part of this and I look forward to contributing to the first commercial spaceline, opening up opportunities that are truly limitless."
A 1991 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, he earned both a Bachelor's Degree and the Langley Award as the Outstanding Cadet in Aeronautical Engineering prior to receiving a Master's Degree in Aerospace Engineering from University of Maryland. Todd was a distinguished graduate of every flying program he attended, including winning both the Air Training Command Commander's Trophy as the top graduate of Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Class 92-07 and the McKenna Trophy as the top graduate of the Empire Test Pilots School's 60th Fixed Wing Course. He amassed over 230 combat hours in the F-16 during Operation Allied Force where he also earned seven Air Medals. In 2011, Ericson was a distinguished graduate from USAF Air War College where he was awarded Master's Degree in Strategic Studies and won the General Charles Horner Award.
"Todd's world-class experience and leadership in various demanding environments make him an exceptional addition to the Galactic team," said CEO George Whitesides. "We are honored that distinguished aerospace professionals like Todd are joining the Galactic team as we prepare for the start of commercial spaceflight operations."