One of NASA’s two specially strengthened Boeing 747-100 series aircraft, dubbed Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (tailcode NASA N905NA), has been landed at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas, after being flown from Edwards Air Force Base in California. The aircraft is one of the two NASA owned Boeing 747s used to ferry the Space Shuttle from landing to launch sites and were used on their final flights to their museum resting places. The aircraft is now publically displayed by NASA in Houston.
Endeavour on its Boeing 747 carrier aircraft (NASA N905NA) flying back to Kennedy Space Centre. Sadly, Houston only gets the bottom vehicle. Courtesy: NASA
According to the Collectspace website, the specially strengthened Boeing 747-100 series aircraft, dubbed Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (tailcode NASA N905NA), was flown to Houston after initial plans to cannibalise parts for the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) 747 aircraft were, in the end, rejected. The other NASA 747 (tailcode NASA N911NA) remains at the Dryden Flight Research Centre at Edwards.
The award of the Boeing 747 to the city is seen as very much the “booby prize” for Houston. There was disdain at NASA’s Johnston manned space flight centre when it lost its fight to gain one of the three surviving space-capable Space Shuttle orbiters for museum use. In the end, the three “real” space shuttles ended up at the Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, and in museums in Washington DC,and Los Angeles (with the non-spaceworthy Enterprise going to New York).