Graduated in Aerospace Engineering from Houston university. He has more than 4500 hours of flight experience, mostly in flight testing high performance aircraft, on more than 50 different types of aircraft and approximately 360 hours of space flight.
He joined the Italian Air Force in 1978 and after pilot training in the USA he became an operational pilot on F-104G while stationed at 3rd Wing near Verona. In 1987 he was transferred to the Italian Air Force flight test centre and in 1988 he became a test pilot after graduating from the Empire Test Pilot's School, Boscombe Down (UK) as first of his class.
In 1992 he was selected by the European Space Agency and sent to NASA's Johnson Space Centre where in 1993 he became an astronaut. In 1996 he flew as STS-75 Mission Specialist aboard the Space Shuttle. The same year he joined Alenia Aeronautica and in 1998 he became Chief Test Pilot and worked in the development of the Eurofighter Typhoon.
During the World Air Games in 2009 recorded a world record for speed with an experimental aircraft with electric propulsion (SkySpark).