Friday, September 2, 2011
By AZIZA MUSA
A space shuttle training aircraft once piloted by Rick Husband is taking one last flight — to Amarillo.
Because NASA has discontinued the shuttle program, the training aircraft is no longer needed, said Richard Clark, chief of aircraft operations at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The space agency had four training aircraft and gave one to the Texas Air & Space Museum, 10001 American Drive, near Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.
NASA officials are scheduled to deliver it Thursday from Houston, and a few days later the aircraft will be available for public viewing, museum operations manager Richard Warner said.
Warner said all shuttle pilots, including Husband, trained using the aircraft.
Husband, an Amarillo native, was commander of the space shuttle Columbia’s final mission. Husband and six other astronauts died Feb. 1, 2003, when the shuttle broke up while re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.
Museum Board President Ron Fernuik said the aircraft is a significant gift to the city because it is “bringing one of our own home.”
“This gives us a tangible part of the space program in Amarillo,” he said. “It allows us to be a part of what Rick Husband was and what he was trying to do.”
The aircraft was upgraded from its original production version — a Grumman Gulfstream II — to simulate the space shuttle, Fernuik said.
The pilot’s side of the cockpit was revamped to emulate the controls and visuals an astronaut would use, he said.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 10:54 AM