View Full Version : 747 plus Shuttle

Lightning Mate
21st May 2012, 17:32
Do you believe this:

747 Pilot comments about carrying the Shuttle

A quick "trip report" fromthe pilot of the 747 that flew the shuttle
back to Floridaafter the Hubble repair flight. Ahumorous and interesting
inside look at what it's like to fly twoaircraft at once . . .

Walt and all,

Well, it's been 48 hours since I landed the 747 with the shuttle Atlantis
on top and I am still buzzing from the experience. I have to say that my
whole mind, body and soul went into the professional mode just before enginestart in Mississippi, and stayed there, where it all needed to be,
until well after the flight...in fact, I am not sure if it is all back to
normal as I type this email. The experience was surreal. Seeing that
"thing" on top of an already overly huge aircraft boggles my mind.The
whole mission from takeoff to engine shutdown was unlike anything I had
ever done. It was like a dream...someone else's dream.

We took off from Columbus AFB on their 12,000 foot runway, of which I used11,999 1/2 feet to get the wheels off the ground. We were at 3,500
feet left to go of the runway, throttlesfull power, nose wheels still
hugging the ground, copilot calling outdecision speeds, the weight of
*Atlantis* now screaming through my fingers clinched tightly on the
controls, tires heating up to their near maximum temperature from the speed andthe weight, and not yet at rotation speed, the speed at which I
would be pulling on the controls to get the nose to rise. I just could notwait, and I mean I COULD NOT WAIT, and started pulling early. If I had waiteduntil rotation speed, we would not have rotated enough to get airborne by theend of the runway. So I pulled on the controls early and started our rotationto the takeoff attitude. The wheels finally lifted
off as we passed over the stripe marking the end of the runway and my nexthurdle (physically) was a line of trees 1,000 feet off the departure end ofRunway 16. All I knew was we were flying and so I directed the gear to beretracted and the flaps to be moved from Flaps 20 to Flaps 10 as I pulled evenharder on the controls. I must say, those trees were beginning to look a lotlike those brushes in the drive through car
washes so I pulled even harder yet! I think I saw a bird just fold its
wings and fall out of a tree as if to say "Oh just take me". Okay, we
cleared the trees, duh, but it was way too close for my laundry. As we
started to actually climb, at only 100 feet per minute, I smelled
something that reminded me of touring the Heineken Brewery in Europe

....I said "is that a skunk Ismell?" and the veterans of shuttle carrying looked at me and smiled andsaid "Tires"! I said "TIRES???
OURS???" They smiled and shook their heads as if to call their Captain
an amateur...okay, at that point I was. The tire s were so hot you
could smell them in the cockpit. My mind could not get over, from this
point on, that this was something I had never experienced. Where's your
mom when you REALLY need her?

The flight down to Florida was an eternity. We cruised at 250 knots indicated, giving us about 315knots of ground speed at 15,000'. The
miles didn't click by like I am use to them clicking by in a fighter jet
at MACH .94. We were burning fuel at a rate of 40,000 pounds per hour or 130pounds per mile, or one gallon every length of the fuselage. The
vibration in the cockpit was mild, compared to down below and to the rear
of the fuselage where it reminded me of that football game I had as a
child where you turned it on and the players vibrated around the board. I feltlike if I had plastic clips on my boots I could have vibrated to any spot inthe fuselage I wanted to go without moving my legs...and the noise wasdeafening. The 747 flies with its nose 5 degrees up in the air to stay level,and when you bank, it feels like the shuttle is trying to say "hey, let'sroll completely over on our back"..not a good thing I kept telling myself.SO I limited my bank angle to 15 degrees and even though a 180 degree coursechange took a full zip code to complete, it was the safe way to turn this monster.

Airliners and even a flight of two F-16s deviated from their flight plans
to catch a glimpse of us along the way. We dodged what was in reality
very few clouds and storms, despite what everyone thought, and arrived in
Florida with 51,000 pounds of fuel too much to land with. We can't land
heavier than 600,000 pounds total weight and so we had to do something
with that fuel. I had an idea...let's fly low and slow and show this
beast off to all the taxpayers in Floridalucky enough to be outside on
that Tuesday afternoon. So at Ormond Beach we let down to 1,000 feet
above the ground/water and flew just east of the beach out over the water

Then, once we reached the NASA airspace of the Kennedy Space Center, we
cut over to the Banana/Indian Rivers and flew down the middle of them to
show the people of Titusville, Port St.Johns and Melbourne just what a
747 with a shuttle on it looked like. We stayed at 1,000 feet and since
we were dragging our flaps at "Flaps 5", our speed was down to around190
to 210 knots. We could see traffic stopping in the middle of roads to
take a look. We heard later that a Little League Baseball game stop to look andeveryone cheered as we became their 7th inning stretch. Oh say
can you see...

After reaching Vero Beach , we turned north to follow the coast line back
up to the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF). There was not one person
laying on the beach...they were all standing and waving! "What asight"
I thought...and figured they were thinking the same thing. All this time
I was bugging the engineers, all three of them, to re-compute our fuel
and tell me when it was time to land. They kept saying "Not yet Triple,keep showing this thing off" which was not a bad thing to be doing.However, all this time the thought that the landing, the muscling of this
600,000 pound beast, was getting closer and closer to my reality. I was
pumped up! We got back to the SLF and were still 10,000 pounds too heavy
to land so I said I was going to do a low approach over the SLF going the
opposite direction of landing traffic that day. So at 300 feet, we flew
down the runway, rocking our wings like a whale rolling on its side to say"hello" to the people looking on! One turn out of traffic and back
to the runway to land...still 3,000 pounds over gross weight limit. But
the engineers agreed that if the landing were smooth, there would be no
problem. "Oh thanks guys, a little extra pressure is just what I
needed!" So we landed at 603,000 pounds and very smoothly if I have to
say so myself. The landing was so totally controlled and on speed, that
it was fun. There were a few surprises that I dealt with, like the 747
falls like a rock with the orbiter on it if you pull the throttles off at
the "normal" point in a landing and secondly, if you thought youcould hold the nose off the ground after the mains touch down, think again...IT
IS COMING DOWN!!! So I "flew it down" to the ground and saved what Ihave seen in videos of a nose slap after landing. Bob's video supports

Then I turned on my phone after coming to a full stop only to find 50
bazillion emails and phone messages from all of you who were so super to
be watching and cheering us on! What a treat, I can't thank y'all
enough. For those who watched, you wondered why we sat there so long.
Well, the shuttle had very hazardous chemicals on board and we had to be
"sniffed" to determine if any had leaked or were leaking. They checked
for Monomethylhydrazine (N2H4 for Charlie Hudson) and nitrogen tetroxide
(N2O4). Even though we were "clean", it took way too long for them to
tow us in to the mate-demate area. Sorry for those who stuck it out and
even waited until we exited the jet.

I am sure I will wake up in the middle of the night here soon, screaming
and standing straight up dripping wet with sweat from the realization of
what had happened. It was a thrill of a lifetime. Again I want to thank
everyone for your interest and support. It felt good to bring Atlantis
home in one piece after she had worked so hard getting to the Hubble
Space Telescope and back.

Triple Nickel
NASA Pilot
Captain Henri D. (pianoman)

21st May 2012, 23:44
Do you believe this:


22nd May 2012, 03:29
there I was in my C87 about to hit the taj mahal so I put in full flaps and ...