What is better than a classic Boeing 747-100? One that carries a frek’n space shuttle. This is an epic video, but at the same time it is sad. This documents N905NA’s final flight as a Shuttle Carrier from LAX to Dryden Flight Research Facility completed on September 24, 2012. The second Shuttle Carrier (N911NA) was retired on February 8, 2012.
NASA will continue to use N905NA to research reducing turbulence produced by larger aircraft.
From NASA’s website about the video: For the first time ever, NASA’s two highly modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft briefly flew in formation over the Edwards Air Force Base test range Aug. 2. Both aircraft were scheduled to be in the air on the same day, NASA 911 (foreground) on a flight crew proficiency flight, NASA 905 (rear) on a functional check flight following maintenance operations. Since both aircraft were scheduled to be in the air at the same time, SCA pilot Jeff Moultrie of Johnson Space Center’s Aircraft Operations Directorate took the opportunity to have both SCA’s fly in formation for about 20 minutes while NASA photographer Carla Thomas captured still and video imagery from a NASA Dryden F/A-18.
There are only two specially modified Boeing 747-100s that were used to transport the Space Shuttle from their landing location back to the Kennedy Space Center. The first 747-100 (N905NA) was originally built for American Airlines and acquired in 1974. The aircraft wore American’s livery (minus titles) until it was repainted in 1983 with a NASA livery. In 1988, NASA purchased a second 747-100, this time an SR model, from Japan Airlines (JAL – N911NA). The second started operations with NASA in 1991.
So what will happen to the 747s now? Most likely they are going to be retired or end up as a show piece in a museum. Zach Rosenberg, with Flight Global, pointed out via email that, “Boeing recently borrowed one to fly their Phantom Ray from St. Louis to Edwards AFB.” However, Rosenberg does not feel that NASA has enough projects to keep either of the aircraft.
If you know anyone looking for a Boeing 747-100 with low hours and a unique look, I am guessing NASA might have a deal for you.