The forward section of NASA's Full Fuselage Trainer has begun its journey from Houston to Seattle, and will be greeted at a Saturday ceremony at the Museum of Flight. The FFT section is making the trip inside NASA's unusual-looking Super Guppy cargo plane.
NASA’s vintage Super Guppy cargo plane performed admirably Wednesday on the first leg of its 3-½-day journey from Houston to Seattle, carrying a piece of space-shuttle history.
But just how much of a show it can put on before it lands at Boeing Field Saturday could be up to Mother Nature.
“If there’s a low (cloud) ceiling, that may impact what we can do,” said Super Guppy pilot Greg Johnson, a Seattle-born astronaut.
Saturday’s forecast calls for clouds and a chance of showers.
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Inside the Super Guppy, shrouded, chained and crated, is the front end of NASA’s Full Fuselage Trainer (FFT), a life-size shuttle replica that’s headed for a permanent home at the Museum of Flight.
During its long career at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, the FFT was used in the training of every crew in the nation’s space-shuttle program, which ended last year after 135 missions.
Johnson said he doesn’t think the weather would prevent the Super Guppy from landing at Boeing Field at about 11 a.m. and being in place for an 11:45 a.m. welcoming ceremony with Gov. Chris Gregoire, five astronauts and other dignitaries.
But he may not know until Saturday whether the Guppy will be able to fulfill the hopes of Museum of Flight officials and turn a low loop or two around the Seattle area before it lands, to help call attention to the event.
Johnson was interviewed by phone Wednesday afternoon from Tucson, where the Guppy completed Wednesday’s 850-mile portion of the trip, refueling about halfway.
Johnson said the FFT section inside the Super Guppy raises the Guppy’s center of gravity, so turns have to be gradual, and not sharply banked, to keep the aircraft stable.
Plans call for it to make a 750-mile trip Thursday to Travis Air Force Base southwest of Sacramento. Then it is scheduled to wait a day before a flight of about 760 miles to Seattle Saturday morning.
The extra day was put in the schedule in case weather forces a delay, something crew members so far don’t foresee.
The turboprop Super Guppy, a bubble-headed throwback to the mid-20th century, travels low and slow. The amount of fuel is carries varies with its payload and it dependent on weight and balance.
Whether it announces its presence with a pre-landing loop, the Super Guppy is expected to be a big part of the draw Saturday at the Museum of Flight.
Officially NASA 941, this is the last flying member of a family of eight “Guppy” aircraft made, beginning in service in 1962, from the converted fuselage of Boeing Stratocruisers or related aircraft.
They were conceived as a way to create oversized, multipurpose cargo planes out of propeller-driven planes that airlines were parting with as they shifted to modern jetliners.
NASA’s David Elliott, Super Guppy project manager, said the current Guppy rolled off a Boeing production line in 1957, although many of its parts have been modified or replaced.
NASA uses the Super Guppy, which can hold objects up to 25 feet tall and 25 feet across, to haul a variety of aircraft and space-related gear.
As the space-shuttle program drew to a close last year, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden opted to give the Seattle museum the wooden FFT and send the four actual shuttles to museums in New York, Los Angeles, Florida and the Washington, D.C., area.
It’s expected to take until late September to reconstruct the FFT, with other pieces coming on later flights or by truck.
The public will be able to watch the rebuilding in the museum’s Space Gallery as long as safety allows
In addition to Johnson, whose father and stepmother live in Mukilteo, astronauts expected at the Saturday event are Bonnie Dunbar, a Yakima Valley native and former CEO of the Museum of Flight; Janet Kavandi, director of flight crew operations at the Johnson Space Center who earned a doctorate in analytical chemistry from the University of Washington; former astronaut Wendy Lawrence, of Ferndale; and astronaut Michael Foreman, a veteran of two shuttle flights.
Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or email@example.com