NTSB Interviews SpaceShipTwo Pilot

  • Nov 7, 2014 11:43pm GMT

SpaceShipTwo test pilot, 43-year old Peter Siebold, told NTSB investigators he was not aware the tail booms had been unlocked moments before the aircraft broke apart shortly after being released from its carrier, WhiteKnightTwo on October 31.

The feathering system is a two-step process meant to be activated at speeds of Mach 1.4 or greater but investigators say video from the cockpit clearly shows the second pilot, 39-year old Michael Alsbury, unlocking the system before it reached Mach One. However, the second step appears to have activated uncommanded.

Siebold miraculously avoided the falling debris and plummeted to the earth still strapped in his seat. At some point, he told investigators his parachute automatically deployed and he regained consciousness when he reached a lower altitude.

He suffered frostbite and a broken shoulder. Emergency crews found Alsbury still strapped in his seat at the crash site.

The NTSB says it's reviewing safety documentation and the design of the feather system.

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One week after the shocking SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceliner accident, ATA has learned pilot Peter Siebold was spotted outside the hospital in Mojave incredibly walking with only a limp.

Siebold plummeted to earth from more than 42,000 feet when the space craft disintegrated two minutes after it separated from its carrier, WhiteKnightTwo.

The NTSB continues its investigation but reports the lock/unlock lever that holds the feather in position on SpaceShipTwo was manually moved into the unlocked position by the co-pilot during the powered phase of flight.

An earlier ATA story shares the NTSB press conference and explanation of the feathering system.

According to Scaled Composites, Siebold, 43-years old, has worked for the company since 1996 and has 17 years and more than 2,000 hours of flight experience. He's the current director of flight operations

Seibold reportedly suffered frostbite and a shoulder injury which is remarkable since he was not wearing a pressurized suit.

The second pilot, 39-year old Michael Alsbury, did not survive the accident. He had a degree in aeronautical engineering from California Polytechnic State University and had more than 1600 hours as a test pilot.

A memorial fund has been set up for his wife and two young children.

Seibold's survival is nothing short of miraculous by any standard. “It’s no minor miracle that he did survive and survive in relatively good shape,” Virgin Galactic chief executive George Whitesides told the Associated Press.