NASA Super Guppy brings Shuttle trainer to Seattle

We hustled out of the house this morning to Kite Hill at Magnuson Park in the hopes that we could catch a glimpse of NASA’s Super Guppy transport plane as it flew into Boeing Field, loaded with the nose and crew compartment of the Space Shuttle Full Fuselage Trainer (FFT). Though I’m disappointed that Seattle’s Museum of Flight won’t be getting one of the real shuttles, the wooden FFT mockup was used to train every shuttle astronaut, and the general public will be allowed inside it (unlike the real deals in the Smithsonian, Intrepid Museum in New York, and elsewhere).

After craning our necks at every sea plane overhead, the Guppy and its Learjet chase plane quietly flew north on the other side of Lake Washington:

NASA Super Guppy & chase plane over Lake Washington

If you squint just right, you can see the Super Guppy dwarfing its Learjet chase plane. This camera phone photo doesn’t really do the experience justice. With such a long history of aviation, the Seattle sky is full of interesting planes — I’ve seen a B-17 Flying Fortress and a B-25 Mitchell (twice) fly over in the last three weeks. But the Super Guppy carrying Space Shuttle history was something unique. Everyone at the park looked up, shouting for others to look and wondering (if they hadn’t read the paper this morning) what such an odd airplane could be.

Beneath the Guppy’s flight path, the experience was even more awe-inspiring. My friend Mark commented on the photo above, “That’s it going right over my house. It was an incredible thing. Windows rattled, dogs barked. Flying so low an Edgar Martinez pop fly could have hit it, it looked like.” Indeed.

Here’s a better view by The Seattle Times as it lands at Boeing Field:

NASA Super Guppy photo by The Seattle Times
Photo by Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times

I’m excited to see the FFT come together over the coming months at the Museum of Flight, and can’t wait to step through it later this year.

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