Jul 19 2006 Stirling Observer
A FORMER Stirling High School pupil has received an honorary degree for being the first Scot in space.
Brian Binnie (53) attended the school for his first year in 1966-67 before his family moved to the United States, where he has made a name for himself in piloting a privately-funded rocket plane which reached the edge of space.
The father-of-three was given the honorary award from Aberdeen University earlier this month in recognition of being the first Scot in space, as well as his family’s links to Aberdeen and the university, where his father was a physicist.
Mr Binnie is now an American citizen and is married to Bub.
Speaking exclusively to the Observer this week, he said he remembered Stirling High School and Stirling fondly, and had returned to the city a few times since.
“At school, I played rugby, cricket and track. A Mr Barr was the same coach for all three. He both terrified and inspired me.
“I was particularly successful at rugby and averaged better than three tries per game. We never lost a game. I loved that sport.
“I also was on the swimming team and played the clarinet. Football and golf were my other passions but Stirling didn’t have a football team.
“I remember that there was also a year book and it also included two poems I had written.
“I can remember people’s faces, but not necessarily their names, although I do recall Fred Cuthill and I think Fred Pirie, who were on the athletics team.”
He is also remembered by former Stirling High deputy head and geography teacher David Brown.
He said: “I vaguely remember a Binnie attending the school in the 1960s — a tall skinny guy as most secondary school pupils were, but I think he had gingery hair which made him stand out.
“It’s pleasing to know that he’s done so well.”
Mr Binnie used to live in Dunster Road in Causewayhead and still has family living in the Stirling area.
“My love of golf was developed at King’s Park where I played every chance I could get.
“My younger sister later returned to spend a year at Stirling University.
“My daughter is an excellent swimmer and when we were back there recently she was swimming with one of the swim clubs that utilises that wonderful facility at the university.”
Brian Binnie piloted Spaceship One in October 2004 to become only the second civilian space pilot in history and was the 434th human to have left our planet.
After leaving Scotland, he went on to graduate from Princeton University’s Flight Research Centre, then joined upwith the United States Navy and qualified for the elite test pilot corps.
He enjoyed a glittering career, flying more than 30 combat missions during Desert Storm, and retired with the rank of Commander.
When he flew into suborbital space for the second time in five days, securing the Ansari X Prize, the craft rocketed to 367,442 feet (69 miles), setting a new altitude record for the craft and proved that private industry could build a viable vehicle to send paying passengers to space.
He has 21 years’ flight test experience, including 20 years of Naval Service in the Strike-Fighter community.
He has logged over 4,600 hours of flight time in 59 different aircraft and is a licensed Airline Transport Pilot. Mr Binnie is currently working on the development of Spaceship 2 as part of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic commercial development of the prize-winning prototype.
He said he hopes to be the test pilot for this new space vehicle and even fly Sir Richard into space in late 2008.
His successes have given him a celebrity status and he starred in a beer commercial alongside Burt Reynolds, and other famous US personalities.
Mr Binnie added: “It is extremely rewarding for me to be recognised by the University of Aberdeen.
“To be able to return with my parents is a proud and fulfilling occasion that gives us all a strong sense of closure and accomplishment.”