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Branson recalls meeting co-pilot

Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson, who yesterday claimed he had never met Michael Alsbury, has clarified his comments - recalling a brief meeting with the tragic co-pilot last year.

The business tycoon paid tribute to the man who died in Friday's test flight, and said he had previously spoken with him and shaken his hand following an earlier test flight.

Asked yesterday if he had ever met Mr Alsbury, Sir Richard said: "The pilot worked for Scaled and not for Virgin Galactic and I've actually, I haven't, I have never met him."

In a blog post today he said he was sad not to have known the 39-year-old.

" Sadly, I did not know him - because he worked for Scaled Composites - but I had had the privilege of shaking his hand briefly after he'd co-piloted SpaceShipTwo's first powered flight and on that exciting morning in Mojave I had congratulated him on the achievement."

A video of SpaceShipTwo's first rocket-powered test flight from last year, available on YouTube, shows Sir Richard posing for photographs with Mr Alsbury.

In the three-minute film Sir Richard introduces footage of SpaceShip Two reaching supersonic speed for the first time, also in Mojave, and is then seen applauding the successful test flight.

Writing today Sir Richard added: "Mike was an accomplished test pilot and had worked for Scaled Composites for 13 years.

"Beyond his skills as a pilot - including 1600 hours of flight time in research aircraft built by his colleagues at Scaled - Mike was a dear friend and inspiring colleague to the many many friends he left behind.

"My heart goes out to his parents, his wife and children, his sister and the rest of his family and friends."

Of injured pilot Peter Siebold, 43, Sir Richard said: "I do have the privilege of knowing Pete Siebold, Scaled's injured test pilot.

Pete is Scaled's director of flight operations and among the incredibly dedicated and talented team helping to realise so many people's dreams of reaching space. We all wish him a speedy recovery."


From Belfast Telegraph