Virgin Galactic Has New Vice President of Safety

Todd Ericson (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
Todd Ericson (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic has named one its pilots, Todd Ericson, as its new vice president of safety and test. The appointment comes about a year after the company’s previous vice president of safety retired from the company.

Ericson, who previously flew for the U.S. Air Force, joined Virgin Galactic as a pilot in July.  His biography on the company’s website reads:

With his experience as a former Safety Director and pilot in the US Air Force, he served in critical safety roles during ground and test flights. Today, Todd’s responsibilities extend across the full range of the company’s activities: the manufacture and testing of both the second SpaceShipTwo and LauncherOne satellite launch vehicle and flights of the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft.

Todd brings 23 years of military and aviation safety experience to the role including service as the Chief of Safety for the US Air Force Test Center, where he was responsible for test, ground, weapons and flight safety for all US Air Force experimental and developmental test programs. Todd also served as Operations and Maintenance Group Commander for the USAF, where he directed performance and safety for over 600 personnel engaged in flight operations and maintenance for 21 diverse aircraft types.

He is a 1991 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he earned both a bachelor’s degree and the Langley Award as the Outstanding Cadet in Aeronautical Engineering. He received a master’s degree in Aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland.

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, Todd amassed over 230 combat hours in the F-16 during Operation Allied Force where he earned seven Air Medals. He is a 2011 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 has logged more than 8,500 flight hours in over 90 diverse aircraft types.

Virgin’s previous vice president of safety, Jon Turnipseed, retired in December 2013. Virgin Galactic said he continued on in that role on a consulting basis after his retirement. However, sources cast doubt on that account, saying they had not seen him at the hangar since late 2013.

Turnipseed continued to be listed in that position on the company’s website right up until Oct. 31, the day SpaceShipTwo crashed in the Mojave Desert. The old website was taken down that day, and Turnipseed’s name and biography were missing from a revamped website that went live three weeks later.

After the crash, Turnipseed subsequently changes his LinkedIn profile to indicate he had retired in December 2013 and was living in Idaho.