Well, one day you’re a “God,” the next day you’re on the unemployment line.
Such was fate of Mark Stucky, who was Virgin Galactic’s lead pilot and director of flight test. On Tuesday, he announced on his Linkedin page that he had left the position. When asked why, he replied,
“Departing a company not on my own timeline was a first for me.”
Stucky, whose call sign is “Forger,” did not elaborate.
Stucky worked on the SpaceShipTwo program when it was at Scaled Composites. He joined Virgin Galactic after Richard Branson’s space tourism company took over the program after the crash of SpaceShipTwo VSS Enterprise on Oct. 31, 2014. Stucky’s friend and colleague, Mike Alsbury, was killed in the breakup of the vehicle during a powered flight test. Scaled pilot Pete Siebold parachuted to safety with serious injuries.
The Federal Aviation Administration awarded astronaut wings to Stucky after he and Frederick W. Sturckow flew SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity to an altitude of 82.72 km (51.40 miles) on Dec. 13, 2018. It was the program’s first flight above 50 miles (80.5 km), which the United States recognizes as the boundary of space. The Federation Aeronautique Internationale, which keeps aviation and space records, recognizes 100 km (62.1 miles) as the boundary of space.
Stucky is the main character in a recent book called “Test Gods” by a New Yorker journalist that chronicled Virgin Galactic’s recovery from the accident.