I was honored last Wednesday to join the hands-down best airline, Virgin America, in San Francisco to celebrate the opening of SFO's new terminal "T2".
While I didn't know much about what to expect, I did know that I would be getting to follow KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) Students throughout the day as they're given a tour of the all new Gensler designed, LEED Certified, green terminal and that Virgin Galactic would be present.
Amongst those in attendance were Buzz Aldrin, actress Rachel Hunter, Lt Governor Gavin Newson, Galactic astronauts, donors and of course Sir Richard Branson.
"We're just going to take a little joyride around San Francisco with the Virgin Galactic spaceship, WhiteKnightTwo, flying next to us."
Sure. No big deal.
Shortly after Richard finished up a call with The Elders, we took off. Champagne was distributed and Branson was surrounded with media while we all waited in anticipation to see the vessel that will be taking anyone with $200,000 lying around into space.
A few minutes later we were all speechless as this beautiful piece of machinery accompanied our plane flying just past the left wing.
Just as we're all dumbfounded by what we're witnessing, Branson takes the empty seat next to me to watch his vision in action for the first time -- pure magic. And although I didn't feel right disturbing the moment, it would've been irresponsible of me to not ask a question, right?
So, as someone who looks to create incentives that spur social action for a living, I had a thought a few weeks prior: How do you beat a free trip to space?
Watch this video of Branson describing what's going through his head as he watches WhiteKnightTwo, and at about 1:40 I had an opportunity to loosely run the idea by the man himself:
Between having started a record label and now owning a private island, multiple airlines, a film company, submarine, and a space program to name a few, Richard Branson is a visionary in the truest form and has an opportunity to engage the planet in ways that no one else could. Fortunately, he knows it.
Think about it -- Mr. Branson is a real-life Willy Wonka and everyone wants to win his golden ticket to space.
Involve all of Virgin's different assets and you have the pieces to assemble a campaign so big we can't possibly turn our heads. Call it cause marketing, call it whatever you want, but this is just something that should be done. It's too cool.
A leader, one of the richest men in the world and a complete badass -- Richard Branson will ignite the world.
It's through this type of forward thinking that the Virgin logo has become a symbol of a new era. One that's based on the recognition that things can be done better, and that we no longer have to accept reality the way it has been demonstrated to us previously.
Over $400,000 was raised for Virgin Unite's space and aviation K-12 education program by donors on board. These continuous opportunities that Virgin provides to the KIPP Students date back to the 2008 inauguration when they sent Malik Brown, one of the students who joined us in San Francisco, to D.C., which inspired him to want to pursue a career as a commercial pilot.
I'm sure Virgin's ongoing commitment to science, technology, engineering and math such as the Student Launch Program will only grow as Galactic prepares to lift-off in the next 12-18 months.
I'm blown away and inspired by this company time and time again. What a day and what a great reminder of how amazing it is to be living in these exciting times.
Special thanks to Virgin America pilots Vince Jandrisch and Steve Randall, as well as Ken Bieler and Jill Fletcher for giving a fantastic tour of the operations. Below are some more pictures from the day.
Buzz Aldrin with his wife and Virgin America's VP of Marketing, Porter Gale:
Sir Richard Branson and Gavin Newsom upon arrival to T2:
KIPP Students checking out the Virgin Galactic model during the T2 tour:
Look closely, this mural is also a xylophone:
The butterly wall:
On the runway:
Learning to fly: