NASA's DC-8 Flying Lab (817NA) sits outside the new Dryden
Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, CA 11/8/07
Photo: NASA / Tony Landis
1/21/2008 - Some changes are in the works at the NASA Dryden
FRC. Numerous aircraft will have their base of operations moved
to the new NASA Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility, located
in Palmdale, CA. One noteworthy aircraft will also be leaving
the NASA fleet altogether.
In late 2007 NASA announced that it had leased the former Rockwell
International / North American B-1 production facility at Air
Force Plant #42 in Palmdale, CA. What's known as Building #703
at Site 9, will now become NASA Dryden's "Aircraft Operations
Facility". The facility consists of 210,000 square feet
of hangar floor space on 16.2 acres of land. The hangar door
height is over 71 feet, allowing even the largest aircraft to
be stored inside. Two 25 ton overhead cranes are available in
the hangar as well. The facility will also offer office, lab,
conference and storage spaces to staff and visitors.
Gulfstream III (502NA) is seen on the Dryden ramp with
the Synthetic Aperture Radar pod mounted 1/22/07
Photo: NASA / Tom Tschida
Not all of the Dryden aircraft will be relocated to the new
location... For the time being, the facility's primary tenant
is NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The specific aircraft
to be based at Palmdale for now are the 747SP 'SOFIA' (747NA),
DC-8 "Flying Lab" (817NA), Gulfstream 3 (502) and
both ER-2 aircraft, #806 and #809 (806NA and 809NA). Dryden's
F/A-18 Hornets, T-38B Talons and other various aircraft, will
all remain at their Edwards AFB facilities. Moving some of the
aircraft from Dryden and basing them at Palmdale will also free
up hangar space at the Edwards AFB facilities, which will be
needed for new arrivals, such as the two RQ-4 Global Hawks recently
acquired from the USAF 452nd Flight test Squadron.
NASA B-52H #61-0025 is displayed at the 2005 Edwards Air
Photo: The North Spin
On a sad note, it's been reported that NASA's B-52H #025 will
be departing Dryden for good. USAF B-52H #61-0025 had been obtained
by NASA in mid 2002 as a replacement for the famous NB-52B #008
"Mother Ship". #008 was retired in 2004 after decades
of supporting everything from the X-15 program to the X-43A
program. #025 had been painted up in a striking new white paint
scheme, in preparation for what looked to be the continuation
of the captive carry mission at NASA Dryden. But in early 2007,
it was rumored that the new B-52 might be returned to the USAF.
It's now been confirmed that #025 is due to go back to the Air
Force in February of 2008. The plan is to take it to Sheppard
AFB where it will be utilized as a ground maintenance trainer.
Exact details of why the aircraft is being returned have not
been made public. It's believed that the decision to transfer
the X-37 program from NASA to DARPA and contract Scaled Composites'
"White Knight" as the captive carry aircraft, most
likely spelled the end of a need for the B-52 captive carry
ability at NASA.
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