NEW YORK, April 26, 2012
– For the second time in as many weeks, a space shuttle is set to take flight on top of a jumbo jet, offering an overhead spectacle as it flies past famous U.S. landmarks.
NASA's original prototype orbiter Enterprise will take off on Friday morning (April 27), weather permitting, from Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. and fly to New York City and John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport.
Mounted on the space agency's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, a modified Boeing 747 jetliner, the air- and spacecraft duo are expected to fly over the Hudson River near the Statue of Liberty and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, the latter Enterprise's eventual new home.
NASA's original prototype space shuttle, Enterprise has not flown since 1985 when it arrived in Washington, D.C. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Just as space shuttle Discovery was seen by thousands flying over Washington on its way to replacing Enterprise at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar- Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., Enterprise will take part in a rare sky show over the Big Apple.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is coordinating the ferry flight, which is scheduled to occur between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. EDT (1330 and 1530 GMT). The specific route and timing is dependent on weather and operational constraints.
Washingtonians hoping to get in a second sighting of an airborne space shuttle may be able to do so, if they are in the right place at the right time.
According to NASA, Enterprise will not be repeating the aerial flyover of the nation's capital as was done with Discovery. On April 17, NASA's most-flown space shuttle circled Washington twice, flying over the National Mall, the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building.
On April 27, Enterprise will bypass the scenic route for a fairly straightforward departure from Dulles. Depending on the runway chosen, the shuttle and carrier aircraft may be visible from the top level of parking garages at the airport.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) advised on its website that Daily Garage 1 offers the best view of Runway 1R/19L, while Daily Garage 2 has views of three other strips, Runways 1C/19C, 1L/19R, and 12/30. The public may go to either to try to view the departure, but normal parking rates apply.
Otherwise, no special viewing is planned in Washington. The airport will be operating normally and no stopping will be permitted along the surrounding roadways.
Big Apple arrival
NASA, nor the FAA, has or is expected to release details of Enterprise's flight path between Washington and New York City. Real time updates may be available on the day of by monitoring NASA's Twitter account as the ferry flight progresses.
Once in New York airspace, should all go as planned, the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft will fly Enterprise on relatively low altitude passes by the Statute of Liberty and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, a converted World War II aircraft carrier berthed along Pier 86 in Manhattan.
Space shuttle Enterprise, mated atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, flies over New York City on June 10, 1983. (New York Times/AP)
The Intrepid has invited the public to view the shuttle from its flight deck — where Enterprise will go on display later this summer. The museum and Pier 86 will open early at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT) for the flyover.
Those across the Hudson River on the New Jersey shore, including at Liberty State Park, should be able to see the shuttle flying above or set against the New York skyline.
NASA has invited the public who do the spot the shuttle to share their photos on Flickr.
When the flyover is over, Enterprise — still atop the 747 — will come in for a landing at JFK International Airport.
The Intrepid has invited 1,500 guests to see the landing, including New York state and local elected officials. Other than ticketed passengers who happen to be flying in and out of the airport that day, there will be no public viewing opportunity at the airport.
Instead, a public celebration is planned for June when the Intrepid will move Enterprise by barge from the airport to the museum to be craned onto the flight deck.
A month later, when the orbiter is enveloped inside a new climate-controlled pavilion, Enterprise will be on display for visitors.
This is not Enterprise's first time visiting New York City. Although it did not land, the prototype orbiter, which never flew in space but performed approach and landing tests in the late 1970s, passed over the Big Apple on its way back from the Paris Air Show on June 10, 1983.
Visit shuttles.collectspace.com for continuing coverage of the delivery and display of NASA's retired space shuttles.