Updated: 2:05 p.m.
NASA’s bulbous Super Guppy cargo plane broke through the clouds north of Boeing Field at noon Saturday, to the cheers of more than 1,000 gathered at the Museum of Flight.
The plane flew a wide circle around the Seattle area before landing at Boeing Field at 12:30 p.m. for a welcome ceremony outside the museum.
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“We want the aerospace leaders of tomorrow to be inspired right here,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire, among speakers at thehalf-hour ceremony. Former governors Dan Evans and Mike Lowry were also present.
Inside the turboprop plane is the crew compartment of NASA’s Full Fuselage Shuttle Trainer, now owned by the museum.
The arrival of the crew compartment of NASA’s Full Fuselage Trainer is just one step in the process of creating what museum officials hope will be a world-class exbhibit.
It will be late September before the 121-foot FFT, which had never before left Houston’s Johnson Space Center, is completely reassembled in the Museum of Flight’s $12 million Charles Simonyi Space Gallery.
When finished, the trainer will look like a life-size but wingless space shuttle, its nose facing East Marginal Way South.
The delivery of the FFT’s 28-foot crew compartment is the first of three trips NASA’s Super Guppy cargo plane is scheduled to make on the project. Two more flights will bring sections of the trainer’s 61-foot cargo bay.
Other parts of the mock-up are being delivered by truck. The first to arrive were three engine bells, replicas of the shuttle’s mammoth exhaust cones, that came in mid April.
The Museum of Flight is paying NASA $2 million to deliver the FFT, which NASA Administrator Charles Bolden awarded the museum last year.
Seattle had been among more than 20 sites that sought to host one of NASA’s retiring space shuttles, which Bolden awarded to visitor centers in New York, Los Angeles, Florida and the Washington, D.C., area — places he said would maximize the number of people who see them
Museum of Flight officials hope to capitalize on the fact that visitors will be able to step inside the FFT, unlike the real shuttles, which must be displayed at a distance.
Chris Mailander, director of exhibits, envisions a display that will have patrons enter near one end of the cargo bay and exit the other, with interpretive material to see and experience along the way.
Access to the trainer’s crew compartment, which is more difficult to enter and move around in, is likely to be restricted to occasional guided tours.