Birmingham's first astronaut Trevor Beattie is preparing to take the plunge for his three-hour flight into space – by learning the butterfly stroke.

The advertising tycoon paid a $250,000 deposit for his place on the inaugural Virgin Galactic space flight nine years ago – and says swimming skills hold the key to an ultimately successful mission.

The Balsall Heath-born entrepreneur, best known for his French Connection, FCUK and Wonderbra ads, says mastering the butterfly could be vital for his once-in-a-lifetime journey.

Trevor, 53, suffered a broken toe in a zero gravity training flight over California last October when a fellow passenger fell on him, but said he was now fully recovered in preparation for the space mission.

He will take his place on board for the second Virgin Galactic flight following Richard Branson and his family – but does not know when the mission will take place.

“I had a lot of callers thinking that I was in intensive care following the toe incident but I am now fighting fit.

“The only proper training for this is swimming – you are weightless and you are controlling your breathing. If you can learn the butterfly, that is a good way to train. It is not about physical fitness, your body weight is immaterial.

“I have not swum since I was a kid – I have got to get back into it. I would like to think that I could do some of my training at Moseley Road Baths.”

The tycoon said yoga was also a useful training technique for space – but ruled it out for himself. “I am from Birmingham, I do not do yoga.”

Trevor said the flight would be the highlight of his life, despite his many memorable business achievements.

“It is the only thing I have ever really wanted to do. It’s my life, and it will be the high point. Why would you not want to go into space? I think about it every single day.

The Virgin Galactic hangar at Mojave Air and Space Port in California
The Virgin Galactic hangar at Mojave Air and Space Port in California
 

“This is not a recent obsession for me. I know that we will get there but you can’t rush it. When you have waited all your life, then it’s something that you can wait for a little bit longer.

“There are no dates. This is a flight development programme and, with each test flight, they learn different things. Richard Branson and his children will be on the first flight and I will be on the second one. But there could be six months between those events.

“I am not on a training programme yet but as soon as I know when I am going, I will start properly.”

He said he been captivated by space travel since he was a young child in the 1960s, growing up with the Apollo Moon Landings and the Gerry Anderson puppet series Fireball XL5.

“With Fireball XL5, fiction became reality. And I have since got to know Buzz Aldrin – I could never have imagined that one day I would be a friend of Buzz Aldrin.”

He will spend just three hours on the flight, climbing to 450,000 ft.

“Space starts at 62 miles," he said. "It’s the equivalent of London to Coventry. Space is near.

“There are concerns that it will just flash by and you will be back. You have to be aware of every single nuance – I will not be taking any selfies when I am up there.”

Recently Sir Richard Branson has insisted that he and his children will be on the inaugural flight.

He said: “Everybody who signs up knows this is the birth of a new space programme and understands the risks that go with that. But every person wants to go on the first flight.”

Sir Richard has also said that the long-delayed first flight will take place later this year. So far only three test flights have taken to the air, non reaching higher than 13 miles from the surface.

Almost 700 people, including Tom Hanks and Angelina Jolie, have paid between £125,000 and £155,000 to book the journey on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, which would include a planned five minutes of weightlessness.