Dummy Space Shuttle Gliding Past Manchester Airport (1983?)

TheLeeds

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Do you ever question your own sanity ?
Inspired by the 'False Memories' thread, I decided to post this here in case anyone else can confirm whether this really happened or not.

In 1983 a mate of mine lived in spitting distance of Manchester Airport. Back in the day before the terror threat put a stop to a lot of this, plane spotters used to gather at the runway boundary fences at weekends and watch the planes taking off and landing. One day, I was visiting him and we went along the road to watch a dummy space shuttle glide past the airport.
As far as I can ascertain, this was a dummy version of the shuttle, with no engines. It was launched from the top of a Boeing 747 and allowed to glide over Manchester airport on it's way to RAF Fairford. Someone said it was a practice run so if the real space shuttle had to make an emergency landing when it came back to earth, it could go there due to that airfield having a runway long enough.

There was an eerie quiet when this space shuttle passed over us, and indeed, quite an odd atmosphere amongst the crowd of people who gathered there to see it. Now the thing is, I've tried to look up details about this online, but all I could find were reports of a similar exercise where the 747 flew overhead with the dummy space shuttle attached to it.

Does anyone here remember this event ?

OV-101_first_flight.jpg
 

BeardSprite

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Best I could come up with was this link, dated 2010, but otherwise of unknown provenance, purporting to show a couple of pictures taken from a spot near manchester Airport on 7th June 1983, of Enterprise piggy-backing on her 747 carrier:

Enterprise over Manchester 1983 web page.

The author of the page states the shuttle and carrier made one low and slow fly-by, and did not land.

There is a Kennedy Space Center page which makes passing mention of the shuttle Enterprise being on a European tour through May and June 1983:

Kennedy Space Center page about Enterprise(OV-101)

Buried in there is this line:

"From May 16th to June 12, 1983, Enterprise was ferried on a 28 day European goodwill tour. During that time it remained bolted to the top of the Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft."

The page mentions 5 manned 'free' flights launched from the 747 carrier, but they are all noted as taking place in the US in 1977, and Enterprise appears to have only made those 5 free flights.

Sadly nothing about a test launch-flight-landing in the UK.

I remember watching the first launch from Kennedy Space Center back in '81 on the TV in Mr Stephensons 'Craft Design and Technology' class way back when I was 10, but don't recall ever hearing about it making a flight and/or landing in the UK.

Hope it helps.
 

Lord Lucan

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Whilst it's not my intention to deflect from the original topic of this post, as a small aside, the Enterprise in now homed in NYC aboard the decommissioned air craft carrier the USS Intrepid.

I visited there 3 years ago and found it jaw dropping. It was hard to get the entire craft into one photograph as it was so immense but I was able to walk all around it and underneath it. The landing gear themselves are gigantic.

The first pic is of the Enterprise herself, the second is part of her tile structure used for ballistics testing after the Challenger disaster and the third is of one of the landing gears. And yes, she was named after the Starship Enterprise.

enterprise.jpg


enterprise2.jpg


enterprise3.jpg
 

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I hope to see one some day. I was pretty sure a typical North American city transit type bus would fit in the cargo bay, but I looked it up and apparently this one would fit. The empty weight of the bus would not have been a problem, so they could have put one of these in orbit. Amazing.

Screenshot_2021-09-14 Venture Tours Prevost H5-60 Bus.png
 

EnolaGaia

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The shuttle Enterprise indeed visited RAF Fairford in 1983, but it didn't glide in for a landing on its own. It landed atop its 747 carrier on 20 May, 1983, while in transit to the Paris Air Show.
When The Space Shuttle Visited RAF Fairford

This week we're looking back 36 years to a time when RAF Fairford hosted the Space Shutte Enterprise. ...

On the 20 May 1983, the Shuttle did land at RAF Fairford, on its way to the Paris Air Show. Arriving on the back of a Boeing 747-100 known as the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), the Space Shuttle Enterprise was a huge draw and people flocked to Fairford from far away. Another Air Tattoo team member Melanie Blackwell was a youngster at the time and remembers seeing it depart, shown in the photo above.

We were also sent photos by Andrew Smith who came to watch the arrival. His photos below show the scale of the Shuttle on the back of the 747 and the fuselage mounting brackets.

The SCA was limited to around 1,000 nautical miles of range with the Shuttle payload, so stops were made in Goose Bay, Canada, Keflavik, Iceland and Fairford, enroute to Paris. ...
FULL STORY (With Photos): https://www.airtattoo.com/news/2019/may/17/space-shuttle-visits-raf-fairford
 

EnolaGaia

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This Gloucestershire Live article clearly states the 20 May 1983 visit was the only time Enterprise (or any shuttle) visited RAF Fairford or anywhere else in the UK (on-ground).
The day the Space Shuttle landed in Gloucestershire

Air crew in Gloucestershire were primed and ready to give the NASA Space Shuttle a safe landing spot in case of emergency for decades – but it only visited the county once.

It landed at RAF Fairford in May 1983 en route from the Paris Air Show – although it was on the back of a Jumbo Jet at the time. ...
FULL STORY (With Photo): https://www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk/news/history/day-space-shuttle-landed-gloucestershire-4116312
 

maximus otter

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Do you ever question your own sanity ?
Inspired by the 'False Memories' thread, I decided to post this here in case anyone else can confirm whether this really happened or not.

In 1983 a mate of mine lived in spitting distance of Manchester Airport. Back in the day before the terror threat put a stop to a lot of this, plane spotters used to gather at the runway boundary fences at weekends and watch the planes taking off and landing. One day, I was visiting him and we went along the road to watch a dummy space shuttle glide past the airport.
As far as I can ascertain, this was a dummy version of the shuttle, with no engines. It was launched from the top of a Boeing 747 and allowed to glide over Manchester airport on it's way to RAF Fairford. Someone said it was a practice run so if the real space shuttle had to make an emergency landing when it came back to earth, it could go there due to that airfield having a runway long enough.

There was an eerie quiet when this space shuttle passed over us, and indeed, quite an odd atmosphere amongst the crowd of people who gathered there to see it. Now the thing is, I've tried to look up details about this online, but all I could find were reports of a similar exercise where the 747 flew overhead with the dummy space shuttle attached to it.

Does anyone here remember this event ?

OV-101_first_flight.jpg

The straight-line distance from Manchester to Fairford is 84 miles.

The Shuttle was designed to be a poor glider, as it has to lose massive amounts of speed, rapidly. (Descending from orbit, its initial velocity was Mach 25, yet its landing speed was well below Mach 1.)

Although l can’t discover its point-to-point glide range in five minutes’ Googling, the idea that a craft described as having the glide characteristics of a house brick could travel 84 miles after being launched from a Boeing 747 (top speed 490 knots/Mach 0.85) at low altitude, is highly implausible.

maximus otter
 
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Nosmo King

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And yes, she was named after the Starship Enterprise
Which, in turn was named after the first nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.

"When the original Star Trek debuted in 1966, the show's creator Gene Roddenberry was inspired to name the starship USS Enterprise after the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier CVN 65, commissioned five years earlier in 1961. USS Enterprise (CVN 80) will continue that legacy of inspiring the imagination."

https://www.thefordclass.com/cvn-80...Star Trek,legacy of inspiring the imagination.
 

DrPaulLee

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The shuttles glide capabilities were dictated by two requirements:
Firstly, the design was of a delta wing aircraft, which is great for hypersonic velocities, less so for subsonic:
And the craft had to have a large (1000 miles if I recall) cross range capability to appease the Pentagon - and they also demanded the 60 foot long cargo bay for their own military payloads.
 

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BBC VFX designer Mat Irvine took photos and they appeared in the short lived "Voyager" magazine.
 

PeteS

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Do you ever question your own sanity ?
Inspired by the 'False Memories' thread, I decided to post this here in case anyone else can confirm whether this really happened or not.

In 1983 a mate of mine lived in spitting distance of Manchester Airport. Back in the day before the terror threat put a stop to a lot of this, plane spotters used to gather at the runway boundary fences at weekends and watch the planes taking off and landing. One day, I was visiting him and we went along the road to watch a dummy space shuttle glide past the airport.
As far as I can ascertain, this was a dummy version of the shuttle, with no engines. It was launched from the top of a Boeing 747 and allowed to glide over Manchester airport on it's way to RAF Fairford. Someone said it was a practice run so if the real space shuttle had to make an emergency landing when it came back to earth, it could go there due to that airfield having a runway long enough.

There was an eerie quiet when this space shuttle passed over us, and indeed, quite an odd atmosphere amongst the crowd of people who gathered there to see it. Now the thing is, I've tried to look up details about this online, but all I could find were reports of a similar exercise where the 747 flew overhead with the dummy space shuttle attached to it.

Does anyone here remember this event ?

OV-101_first_flight.jpg
That's interesting. I was working all over Manchester at that time and don't recall hearing anything about it. As Maximus said above, it seems unlikely that the shuttle could glide that far at low level, but I'm no expert on space/aviation!
 

DrPaulLee

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Another thing that points against the Enterprise being deployed: when the shuttle has to be hoisted to/from the 747, special equipment was needed. This was based at Edwards AFB and also Florida, but for landings elsewhere, like the single White Sands landing, a portable version had to be carried to the site and erected. This seems like a complex operation for such a one off test in the UK.
There were also back up emergency landing sites in western Africa and the region in the case of a transatlantic abort and none of these had any shuttle landing tests.
 

PeteS

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The shuttles glide capabilities were dictated by two requirements:
Firstly, the design was of a delta wing aircraft, which is great for hypersonic velocities, less so for subsonic:
And the craft had to have a large (1000 miles if I recall) cross range capability to appease the Pentagon - and they also demanded the 60 foot long cargo bay for their own military payloads.
Sorry- could you clarify what is meant by the 1000 miles "cross range capability".
 

DrPaulLee

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Or was it 500? It was a huge number I remember that!
 

Tempest63

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I was on the Walworth Road in 1983 when the shuttle flew over London, piggybacked onto a Boeing.
At that time Labour Party HQ was also on the Walworth Road, bang opposite where I stood, and Michael Foot, the then leader of the party, came out with an entourage to witness it himself.
 

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The Enterprise was on display at Washington DC's Dulles airport in 1989. We were on holiday in that area of the US that year and I really wanted to see it but it was too far out of our way. Instead we saw the Smithsonian and surrounding buildings, and Arlington cemetery. One bonus was that our hotel was opposite the Watergate building so we saw that too.
 

WeirdExeter

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There is a shuttle hot air balloon:

https://www.wonderingwanderer.com/hot-air-balloon-festival-clark-pampanga/

But no idea if one was around in 1983 to pass over Manchester (and being so close to the airport seems unlikely).

Like others, I got to watch the space shuttle launch at school. I once saw a shuttle pass overhead just behind the ISS it had detached from. It was just a bright, steady light in the sky but I was thrilled :)
 

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Yeah, that must have been it.

Spaceship.jpg
 

DrPaulLee

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Was it the aborted launch attempt?
 

DrPaulLee

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Yes, April 10th, when there was an inability of the onboard computers to communicate.
The launch was 2 days later. A Sunday.
 

DrPaulLee

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I'm surprised as its so far north, and well off the usual launch trajectories. There are far more suitable abort landing sites at similar latitudes in Africa and the Mediterranean, and the weather conditions at these sites were checked before a lunch to ensure that a transatlantic abort landing was feasible. Just weeks before Challenger, the much delayed launch of Columbia could have proceeded on one of the scrubbed dates - if one of the abort sites hadn't succumbed to a sand storm from the desert.
 

DrPaulLee

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The runway is exceptionally short too. The runway at Kennedy was about 12500-15000 feet long, and even with 1000 foot long overspills, the runway was so short that the flight crew had to sometimes overstress the brakes to stop in time, sometimes shredding them and the tyres.
flight crews much preferred landing at Edwards AFB with 7-ish mile long runways on the dried lake beds which allowed more coasting room.

But NASA insisted the shuttle land at Kennedy because it reduces turn around times getting the shuttle back from California. A landing at Kennedy in 1985 where tires blew out put a suspension to landings there.

After flights resumed in 1988, landings were mandated to take place at Edwards. The shuttles new brakes were tougher but not as responsive as pre-Challenger. But after a while, landings at Kennedy resumed thanks to the introduction of a braking parachute which was deployed upon landing.

So I'm sceptical that a UK base was intended for shuttle landings. The only ones I've heard of were ones in Africa/mediterranean run by the US military.

(as a caveat, senior astronaut John Young stated an opinion at the Challenger inquiry that in a dire emergency, the shuttle might be able to land at Orlando airport in the event of a return to launch site. He knew first hand that the shuttle had been launched where weather conditions at the cape were so poor that the shuttle might not be able to get back to the launch site).
 

Nosmo King

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Yes, April 10th, when there was an inability of the onboard computers to communicate.
The launch was 2 days later. A Sunday.
Weird, maybe my memory is letting me down, maybe it was the aborted launch, it was 40 years ago and i was only 7
 
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