HOUSTON — Friendswood resident Frank Marlow, 75, stood in the sun at Ellington Field on Monday and watched the fuselage of the Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft he flew for 18 years being hauled by a trailer en route to its final resting place at Space Center Houston.
The first time Marlow saw the plane years ago was on a dark, clear morning about 3 a.m. He said he walked around the hanger and saw the shuttle on top, lit up by lights.
“It just took my breath away to see that, and I didn’t even think I was going to be flying it,” he said. “It was beautiful.”
Marlow said the Boeing 747 flew well with and without the shuttle. The only difference with the shuttle, however, was the constant vibration during flight.
Even so, it was easy to land.
“Boeing built a beautiful plane,” he said.
That aircraft started to make its way to Highway 3 on Monday afternoon on its way to become part of an exhibit with the shuttle replica Independence at Space Center Houston. Utility lines, which had to be dismantled for the fuselage to exit Ellington Field, stalled the departure but didn’t diminish the high spirits of those watching.
“This is such a significant artifact,” said Richard Allen Jr., President and CEO of Space Center Houston. “It’s so iconic. It’s a great representation of the space program.”
The aircraft will make the almost 8-mile journey to the center, where it will be reassembled and coupled with Independence so visitors can experience what the Boeing 747 looked like during its more than 220 flights during the shuttle program.
Talks about turning the aircraft into an exhibit began in September 2012. However, the project will not be completed until 2015.
The aircraft, which stands more than eight stories tall, will include a hands-on educational section and an area about the history of the 747 in the first-class area in the front of the plane.
The center also will build a tower with two elevators so visitors will be able to see both the plane and the shuttle.
Former astronaut and shuttle pilot Kevin Kregel, a Seabrook resident, said he’s looking forward to seeing the interactive displays planned and hopes to bring his family and friends to the exhibit when it’s finished.
“It’s a pretty neat thing to have this part of history,” Kregel said.
To accommodate the transport of the Shuttle Aircraft Carrier to Space Center Houston, NASA Parkway will be closed from state Highway 3 to Saturn Lane from 9 p.m. today to 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.