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How The Boeing 747 Carried The Space Shuttle

The Boeing 747 is a great aircraft and has been a ‘piggyback’ aircraft for the NASA Space Shuttle. ( More...

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Paul Gedge 14
It was an amazing site seeing one of the 747 & shuttles flying.

Article left out out where to see them in person today.

Additional details taken from NASA's fact sheet:

NASA 905, a Boeing 747-123 model built in 1970, was the first and only SCA used by the space shuttle program until November 1990, when NASA 911 was delivered as an SCA. Along with ferrying Enterprise and the flight-rated shuttle orbiters between the launch and landing sites and other locations, NASA 905 also ferried Enterprise to Europe for display in England and at the Paris Air Show and the 1984 World's Fair in New Orleans.

NASA 905 flew 70 of the 87 ferry missions during the operational phase of the shuttle program, including 46 of the 54 post-mission ferry flights from Dryden to the Kennedy Space Center. After the orbiters were retired, NASA 905 flew three ferry missions to deliver the shuttles Discovery, Enterprise, and Endeavour to museums where they are currently on display. Upon its retirement in late 2012, it had flown 11,018 flight hours over 42 years, both as a commercial jetliner and as a NASA space shuttle carrier, and had made 6,335 takeoffs and landings. It is being incorporated into a historical and educational exhibit at Space Center Houston, the Johnson Space Center's visitor center.

NASA 911 was the second SCA, a Boeing 747-100SR-46 version. It was built in 1973 and entered service with Japan Air Lines. The aircraft was obtained by NASA from the airline in 1989, modified by The Boeing Co. in the shuttle carrier aircraft configuration, and delivered to NASA on Nov. 20, 1990. Upon its retirement on Feb. 8, 2012, it had amassed 33,004 flight hours over its 38-year flight career, including 386 flights as a NASA shuttle carrier aircraft, 66 of which were flights with a space shuttle mounted atop the fuselage. It flew 17 of the post-shuttle-landing ferry flights from Edwards to Kennedy. NASA 911 is currently on public display at the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark in Palmdale, California, under a long-term loan agreement with NASA.

See also:
(includes photo of the N905NA on display with mockup Space Shuttle Independence)
bentwing60 12
On the right down wind for 4R goin' into ELP for freight the final controller called, 93RS, traffic to follow on a 3 mile final, caution wake turbulence, cleared to land, and you don't see this every day. Looked over at the 2 o'clock, and sure enough, there was a shuttle with a Big Boeing stuck to its butt. Still an Awesome memory and sight to this day!
Jeff Steiner 6
I think the best part of the whole article is the "black side down" placard on the hard points! Looks like it's real, and has some history, even going back to a very early days when the placard also included "lefty loosy, righty tighty"!
My wife and I had the Shell and Beaver gas stations during the eighties in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. We saw the 747 with the shuttle piggybacked fly directly over our location at a relatively low altitude. What a sight and accomplishment! I remember it to this day. I can picture it perfectly as I write this. Thanks to all of the brave people who took great risks to advance the space program.
Antoni Mazur 3
Saw one of these do a low pass over the city of Toronto in the 80’s.
ADXbear 5
Having worked on the program at Kennedy for 30 years, it was a real treat to go on a walk through of 905, the interior stripped out except the forward fist class seating.. it was loud inside, no insulation but very cool knowing the shuttle was mounted just above me.

The tour was given by Ken Mattingly famous Apollo astronaut.
Michael Bevan 2
One day when on a practice flight doing takeoffs and landings at TICO field, just across the river from KSC, I saw the SCA fly by with an orbiter on the back. I told the tower that I wanted to depart the traffic pattern heading upriver. Their reply was the frequency to contact NASA tower. When I contacted NASA tower they cleared me to fly just west of the runway at 500 feet, and that they would tell me when to turn. They timed the turn perfectly and I had the unique experience of watching the SCA land beside me as I paralleled the runway.
Gary Eldridge 2
When living in Dayton, Ohio in the early 1980's we heard on the news the piggy back flight of the shuttle (I think it was Enterprise) was flying a victory lap around the country and coming right over Dayton. A few of us jumped into a friends Cessna 172, got into the air and found the shuttle. We intercepted it and flew formation for a minute or two but of course could not keep up even with the throttle wide open. We were probably about a 1/2 mile away at our closest distance.
Patrick Smith 2
I clearly remember the day of the first "test glide" of the Shuttle. It was a real spectacle at the time, covered by all the big news networks. I believe the year was 1977. I was eleven years old. I remember how you could still see the former "American" title on the side of the 747 -- the letters still visible in silver shadow.
Lanny Word 2
As a 6th grader living in Mid West City, OK, in 1981. I got the thrill of chasing it’s shadow as it came in for a landing at Tinker AFB. My school was just short of the main runway there. It was carrying Columbia back after its first launch. It was thrilling to have seen the launch on TV and then be running across my track field in it’s shadow. It was so close, with a tall ladder you could almost touch the wheels. The pilot waved at me as I ran towards it. Still a vivid memory today. It’s funny, I was watching a video on the old AWACS and how loud they are. Those things flew over or house on final, day and night, and I always loved the sound. But, little boys in love with flight, probably didn’t feel the same as the adults did about the noise.
Another proof of the versatility of the 747, probably the best commercial aircraft of all times !!
victorbravo77 1
"Black Side Down"

Ellen Hansen 1
Had the thrill of seeing the shuttle on its 747 fly over Manhattan in June of 1983. I'd heard that a flyover would take place and had the good luck of seeing it from my 9th floor office window.
Will Sutton 1
When I was still enlisted and working on a KC-135 Flt Simulator at Barksdale AFB, '76-'79, the four pilots picked to fly the Shuttle Enterprise tests off the back of the carrier 747 started a training program that used our simulator. Col Fuller, the lead pilot was an ex-tanker pilot and the only one of the group that had flown anything close to that size. They would fly in from Houston on a Thursday morning and fly sim missions most of the morning then hop out to Edwards and fly a NASA bird to practice the gliding approach the shuttles would later use. I forget how long this went on, but they were on our schedule every Thursday and it seemed liked months. At some point their routine was covered in an issue of "Airman" magazine in'79. The actual Enterprize tests didn't happen until I had left Barksdale and headed to OTS. I was able to see the Enterprise itself at the New Orleans World's Fair in '84.
Ron Magnus 2
I believe the Col Fuller that you comment about was in fact the late Col. Gordon Fullerton?
John Herbert 1
My mom worked QA for the shuttle program, as such she got us access to greet the return of the Columbia from her first flight. At the time they hadn't thought much about crowd control limits. When the mated pair turned to approach the mater-de-mater, the outboard engine was too close to the crowd & had to be shut down. We were so close the wing & engine you felt you could almost touch it.
mayeses 1
Ran across this a few years ago, a fantastic article about the SCA program.
Mike Glinzak 1
Years ago the Edwards AFB air show had one of these, don't know which one, on public display. Along with walking all around the outside, you got to go inside and see the massive struts angling through the cabin to support the mounting points. Impressive!
Brian Freeman -1
And in other late breaking news the Wright Brothers have taken flight...
Bandrunner 3
Nah. It will never catch on.


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