Seattle’s Museum of Flight is preparing a celebration for the Saturday morning arrival of the cockpit section of the Space Shuttle Trainer at Boeing Field.
The trainer’s transport from NASA’s astronaut training center in Houston won’t be a dramatic and visible as the recent appearances of Space Shuttles being carried bareback on a Boeing 747 to museums in New York and Washington, D.C., but it will generate its own kind of excitement.
NASA Super Guppy loading Shuttle Trainer cockpit
The cockpit section of the trainer will be carried aboard an unusual aircraft, NASA’s Super Guppy. That aircraft is an adaptation of Boeing’s 377 Stratocruiser, a double-decked ’50s passenger plane.
The plane carrying the Shuttle Trainer cockpit is due to arrive at Boeing Field after a multi-stop flight at about 11 a.m. or earlier Saturday.
The Super Guppy’s fuselage has been greatly enlarged and lengthened to carry oversized aircraft assemblies. The plane has been converted to fly with turboprop engines.
European aircraft maker Airbus used Super Guppies to move large assemblies from plant to plant in Europe for years until they were replaced by a jet called the Beluga.
The Space Shuttle Trainer is a wingless mockup of the Space Shuttle used for Shuttle crews in training. It will be housed in the museum’s Charles Simonyi Space Gallery, a building expressly constructed to house the Shuttle.
The Museum of Flight along with two dozen other museums had bid for one of the four remaining Space Shuttles, but NASA awarded those shuttles to museums in New York, Washington, D.C., Florida and Los Angeles.
The space agency said those cities would have a larger audience than Seattle to view the Space Shuttles. The Museum of Flight, however, did receive the Space Shuttle Trainer as a kind of consolation prize.
The trainer isn’t made of the same materials as the actual Shuttles, but otherwise replicates their exterior and interior form.
One advantage Museum of Flight visitors will have over the four museums that receive the actual space craft is that the Seattle-based museum will allow visitors to clamber inside the trainer and see the cockpit, the living quarters and the cargo bay.
The real Shuttles will only be available to be viewed from afar.