Shuttle aircraft to arrive at WPAFB Wed.

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Shuttle aircraft to arrive at WPAFB Wed.

A whale-shaped aircraft will soar through the skies of Dayton this week when NASA flies in a long-awaited space shuttle crew compartment trainer to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

The public can watch the 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 22, landing of NASA’s Super Guppy at the museum’s runway, officials said.

“The Guppy is a unique aircraft,” said David C. Elliott, a Super Guppy flight engineer and a project manager for the mission. “There’s only one of them flying in the world.”

Depending on weather and wind conditions, the arrival could be delayed to later Wednesday afternoon or 9 a.m. Thursday morning, officials said.

“It’s all very weather dependent,” said Diana Bachert, museum spokeswoman.

Mission leaders will make a final call at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday and share any delays or changes on the trip’s arrival on the museum’s Web site at www.nationalmuseum.af.mil.

People who want to see the arrival should enter through the museum’s Springfield Street gate.

The historic flight will take off from Ellington Field near Johnson Space Center in Texas, stop to refuel at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., and head to Wright-Patterson for the final leg of the trip.

If the plane lands Wednesday, the oversized, 23,000-pound crew compartment trainer, a mockup of the nose and cockpit of the shuttle, won’t be unloaded until Thursday morning, mission officials said.

The trainer once used to hone astronauts skills is the heaviest shuttle artifact the aircraft has carried, Elliott said. The total weight of the cargo with a pallet will reach 35,000 pounds.

In the last two months, the crew took three trips to haul a full-sized mock-up of the space shuttle to the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Wash.

The turboprop plane, which once hauled large jet parts to Airbus factories in Europe, has ferried major parts of the International Space Station and the shuttle, Elliott said.

NASA started flying the Super Guppy in 1996, replacing a 1950s version that carried giant Saturn V booster rockets for flights to the moon, he said.

The crew compartment trainer is a consolation prize of sorts for the Air Force museum. It lost out on attempts to land one of three retiring shuttle orbiters. Museum officials say a payload bay and a tail assembly will be built for the new display. Congress has set aside $3 million for the project.

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