AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 40

PILOT BRIEFING
PEOPLE |

ELON MUSK and Jared Isaacman recently announced

their joint venture of an all-civilian flight crew aboard
the SpaceX Dragon.

Jared Isaacman
First civilian spaceship commander
BY JIM MOORE

HE SPOTTED a business opportunity that
made him a billionaire. Jared Isaacman is
also an accomplished pilot who can afford
to fly anything that really moves him,
including a rocket ship.
Isaacman transformed credit card transactions into an electronic payment industry,
earning a fortune with the company he created that handles a huge slice of hotel and
restaurant credit card transactions.
From an early age, he has aspired to
become an astronaut. Along the way, he
leveraged the success of Shift4 Payments
to create another company, Draken
International, and built that into the world's
largest civilian-owned collection of military
surplus fighters, flown by a staff of military veterans hired as contractors to give
active-duty fighter pilots a chance to hone
their skills against a cunning, highly trained
adversary.
Isaacman has earned type ratings for
many turbine aircraft, including every

40 | AOPA PILOT May 2021

business jet in the Textron Aviation lineup,
along with various military aircraft. His
hangar in Montana is currently occupied
by a Mikoyan MiG-29 that he purchased
from the estate of Microsoft founder Paul
Allen. The Soviet-era twin-engine fighter
was developed to tangle with the General
Dynamics F-16 or McDonnell Douglas
F-15. Isaacman said he keeps his Soviet-era
" rocket ship " in Montana, and declared it
is " without a doubt the most amazing aircraft I've ever flown. "
Isaacman soloed in 2004 in a Cessna
182T, but did not wait long to jump into
every turbine aircraft he could get his
hands on, which was quite a large number.
Most of his favorite flights raised money
for charitable causes, including record-setting city-pair flights in 2008 and 2009 that
benefitted the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Isaacman, who credits a book about the
space shuttle with kindling his aerospace
interest when he was in elementary school,

has been following the work of fellow billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk with great
interest and enthusiasm. In February, the
duo announced that Isaacman would soon
combine his passions for philanthropy and
rocket ships by commanding the first allcivilian crew to reach orbital flight aboard
the SpaceX Dragon capsule, launched by a
Falcon 9 rocket.
Isaacman chose Hayley Arceneaux, a
childhood cancer survivor who now works
as a physician assistant at St. Jude Children's
Research Hospital (where she was treated),
for the second of four available seats; two
other crewmembers were to be chosen by
other means, one of them a fundraiser for
the hospital that Isaacman hoped would
raise more than $200 million. (These selections had not been announced at the time
of this writing, but please do let us know if
you're one of them.)
Isaacman's tone is serious and safetyminded when he considers the mission



AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021

Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Intro
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Cover1
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Cover2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 4
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 5
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Cover3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Cover4
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