Shuttle Carrier 747 to be Displayed in Palmdale

Space shuttle Atlantis being mated to shuttle carrier aircraft at NASA Dryden. (Credit: NASA)
Space shuttle Atlantis being mated to shuttle carrier aircraft at NASA Dryden. (Credit: NASA)

One of the modified 747 aircraft used to transport space shuttles will be going on display at the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark in Palmdale, Calif., in about a month.

NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center Director David McBride revealed the plan during a press event on Tuesday to mark the dismantling of the space shuttle mate-demate device, which was used to mount the orbiters on their carrier aircraft after they landed at Edwards Air Force Base.

The 747, registration number N911NA, is now being stored at a NASA facility near the Davies Airpark. McBride said officials are working on a plan to safely tow it over to the display area. He expects the move to occur within the next three to four weeks.

The shuttle carrier will go on display alongside a B-52, F-104, C-46 and other retired military aircraft. McBride said the 747 will be the largest aircraft displayed there.

McBride said the aircraft will remain available to NASA for spare parts to support the SOFIA program, which uses a 747 as a flying observatory. That aircraft is based out of Palmdale.

He added that although NASA does not plan any ceremony to mark the arrival of 747 at the airpark, McBride expects the city of Palmdale to hold an event.

NASA procured the surplus 747-100SR from Japan Airlines in 1988. After modifications,  it was used for the first time to ferry the space shuttle Endeavour from its manufacturing facility in Palmdale to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA’s other 747 carrier aircraft has been moved to Space Center Houston, where it is on display along with a space shuttle mockup mounted on top of it.

The Joe Davies Heritage Airpark is located on P Street adjacent to Blackbird Airpark, which has SR-71 and A-12 aircraft on display. Both facilities are open and free to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., excluding major holidays.