(Photos by Christopher Boffoli for WSB unless credited otherwise)
Every year during the Blue Angels‘ visit, the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field becomes a virtual honorary West Seattle annex. Today, it’s even more so, not just because NASA‘s distinctive Super Guppy brought the crew-cabin section of the space-shuttle trainer that’s being assembled at MoF for display, but because it was piloted by a West Seattle High School alum, from the clas of 1972, astronaut Greg Johnson (cool onboard feature here).
Our partner The Seattle Times has more on the exhibit-in-the-works; today, you still have time to get over to be part of the festivities surrounding the arrival (till about 5 pm), which was delayed a bit from the original schedule. WSB contributor Christopher Boffoli is there for WSB and just sent this view as they begin to open the plane:
(Click photo for larger view)
And from JayDee – his view as it flew over the 4th Avenue Costco lot (a popular place for viewing Boeing Field-bound aircraft):
More later! We should also note that the Super Guppy is scheduled to stay at the MoF till Monday morning, so you can see it if you go there Sunday, too.
ADDED 11:20 PM: More views – and info – from Christopher Boffoli’s coverage at the MoF for WSB:
The Super Guppy is the only aircraft of its kind still flying, cruising at about 200 knots, with four Allison T-56 501-D22C engines like those that power C-130s such as the Blue Angels’ Fat Albert.
It was preceded by a T-38 Talon, the standard NASA chase plane you might remember from shuttle landings, and accompanied to Boeing Field by a Lear Jet chase plane, flying over the airport around 10 till noon.
Capt. Johnson (U.S. Navy, Retired) says they went up over the city, over the Ballard Locks and part of Lake Washington, then flew an approach to Paine Field in Snohomish County, before landing at Boeing Field, with a crowd there to watch:
The plane taxied in and then shut down just at the edge of the taxiway where a tug pulled it to an unloading area set up just off the back parking lot of the Museum of Flight. They loaded the plane with fuel and then opened the nose of the aircraft, which is hinged on its port side.
Then they brought in an Air Force “Tunner 60K loader.”
Its deck elevates from 3.25 feet to 18.5 feet and has a power conveyor built into the top. The Tunner is about 50 feet long, with a maximum payload of 60,000 pounds.
The cargo compartment is 25 feet tall and 111 feet long. The plane can carry a maximum payload of more than 26 tons. There is 39,000 cubic feet of usable volume within the aircraft.
As for the shuttle crew compartment that it carried, it is 28.75′ long and weighs about 28,000 pounds, almost half the 60,000 pound capacity of the SG.
It was cradled in a steel truss system adding weight to the cargo. The steel truss system will return to the Johnson Space Center in Houston inside the Superguppy when it departs on Monday morning. Once the crew cabin was out of the cargo bay, the Tunner lowered it down and then took it across East Marginal Way to the new Charles Simonyi Space Gallery.
Cranes lifted the crew compartment off the Tunner and rolled it into the gallery through an enormous door on the back wall.
The next part of the Shuttle Trainer to arrive will be the payload bay, in the second of three planned Super Guppy flights to bring the trainer components here. Museum officials said they hope to have the exhibit complete and open by this November.