• Jameel Janjua Virgin Galactic pilot

    Jameel Janjua to become the first Canadian commercial space pilot. (Photo: Courtesy Virgin Galactic)

Canada has its first commercial rocket man. On Oct. 27, 2020, former Royal Canadian Air Force pilot Jameel Janjua became one of the two newest pilot corps members for Virgin Galactic, the commercial space travel company that plans to fly people to space as soon as 2021. 

Janjua tweeted, hoping it wasn't a dream, after the announcement.

Janjua, a 20-year RCAF veteran who has more than 4,000 flying hours in over 45 aircraft, did exchange tours with both the Royal Air Force and the U.S Air Force and is a board member for the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, was joined by American pilot Patrick Moran, bringing the total number of pilots in Virgin Galactic's commerical space flight team to eight. They will be based at Spaceport America, New Mexico, and will start a thorough training program before navigating SpaceShipTwo

“Helping to democratize space travel is a unique honor, and I am thrilled to be joining the Virgin Galactic Pilot Corps,” says Janjua. “With society on the cusp of opening space to all humankind, I cannot think of a more privileged role than to be a small part of the amazing team guiding people to their dreams and beyond. I am excited to join our Future Astronauts on their personal and insightful journeys and I’m looking forward to witnessing, firsthand, the variety of reactions these life-changing experiences will evoke.”

Virgin Galactic pilots also train to fly the spaceship's carrier aircraft, VMS Eve. It allows pilots to simulate elements of SpaceShipTwo's flight path. The company's pilots also work with other support aircraft, work mission control, plan flights and help with various engineering tasks. Janjua will begin his Virgin career as a test pilot, before becoming one of the world's first commercial spaceship pilots, flying future space tourists. 

“Our pilots serve an essential role in the flight experience of our Future Astronauts,” wrote the company in a statement annoucing its newest crew members. “The pilots will join the Future Astronauts at various points in their training program, helping emphasize and provide details about various key elements of their upcoming spaceflight. All pilots are ambassadors of the Virgin Galactic brand and will work to provide Future Astronauts with an out of this world adventure.”

One of the Canadian Space Agency's two newest astronaunts, Joshua Kutryk, was quick to congratulate his former RCAF colleague, tweeting that he was proud to see another Canadian in the space industry.