It didn’t help all that much seeing our payload for this leg of the Guppy’s three-day trip to Seattle sitting in the cargo hold. Inside the plane was a space shuttle. To be clear, it was just the 16,000-pound (7,300 kilograms), 28-foot (8.5 m) nose section of a shuttle mockup. Part of the Full Fuselage Trainer (FFT), the crew compartment was used to train every person who flew on the real shuttles over the span of three decades.
Now it was the FFT’s turn to fly — and mine.
I was shown to my chair, a two-seat couch in the rear of the Guppy’s cockpit. These seats, and the seats to my left, are where the aircraft’s mechanics sit. In front of me was the flight engineer’s station and in front of that, the pilots’ seats. What really caught my eye, though, was what was in front of them: windows, and a lot of them.
From outside, the sheer size and dimensions of the Super Guppy grab your attention. But inside, the panoramic, 180-degree view out the forward floor-length windows are the star attraction. The only way to get a better view of the ground would be to swing open the nose of the Guppy, which can rotate 105 degrees to load its large payloads.
From my seat at the rear of the cockpit, I had to crane my neck to see just a sliver of the action. But any thought of unbuckling my seat belt and standing up to get a better view was erased when the crew powered up the Guppy’s four turboprop engines for takeoff.