- Virgin Galactic appointed tech executive Alistair Burns as CIO at the aerospace and space travel company, according to an announcement Monday. The executive brings 25 years of IT experience to the newly created role.
- Burns will lead technology strategy and oversee its IT infrastructure, supporting operations as the company pursues the goal of becoming the first commercial spaceline.
- A self-professed aviation enthusiast and pilot, the executive most recently held the roles of SVP and CIO at electronic systems company OSI Systems. He also spent 16 years overseeing IT at Thomson Reuters.
The global race to commercialize space travel has accelerated innovation at companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic.
No matter the business vertical, the role of the CIO is inching closer to the core of the business. As IT sheds its reputation as a back-office function, CIOs play key roles in how products and services are conceived and delivered.
"[Burns's] appointment demonstrates the growing scale of our operations," said Michael Colglazier, CEO at Virgin Galactic, in the announcement. Colglazier tasked the executive with "equipping our team with the best technology as we progress towards commercial service."
Virgin Galactic plans to launch its first spaceflight from Spaceport America in New Mexico later this month, between Nov. 19 and 23. The flight will include the delivery of revenue-generating payloads, as part of the NASA flight opportunities program.
With the inaugural flight nearing, the company reported $742 million of cash and cash equivalents as of September 30, 2020, though it posted a net loss of $77 million for the third quarter of 2020. Net losses are down from $63 million in the second quarter of 2020.
In responding to heated competition, CIOs sit in an ideal position to help business leaders differentiate products and services, said Daryl Plummer, distinguished research VP and Gartner Fellow, speaking at the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo Americas in October.
Burns will also leverage his industry-specific knowledge in aerospace as CIO. The executive held a number of senior leadership positions at manufacturing company Meggitt Plc, which specializes in components and subsystems for aerospace, defense and energy markets.