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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- A group of five Airmen from the 62nd Aerial Port Squadron delivered the 29-foot long crew compartment of NASA's Full Fuselage Trainer to the Museum of Flight's new Charles Simonyi Space Gallery June 30.
The historical artifact arrived at Boeing Field in Seattle, Wash., and was so large no commercial organization could move it. So the Air Force did. A large crowd of national media, distinguished visitors and even a few astronauts gathered to see the compartment's arrival.
"It was very packed," said Airman 1st Class Luis Gomez Duque, who was a part of the APS team. "They were announcing everything everyone was doing. Definitely the pressure was on to make sure nothing went wrong."
The compartment arrived in a NASA Super Guppy aircraft and is the first of three shipments scheduled to arrive during the summer. The 62nd Airlift Wing's aerial port squadron is scheduled to participate in all three shipments.
A commercial option capable of moving the compartment from the Super Guppy to the final location in the museum was not available in the local area, so the museum contacted the Air Force. The 62nd APS Airmen here, who is used to loading unique cargo in unique situations, took on the task.
"From the aerial port perspective, we always like to do something different," said Capt. James Pruchnic, the operations officer for the 62 APS.
The Tunner cargo loader that was used had to be dismantled, which took more than three hours, transported to Boeing Field and then rebuilt in preparation for the arrival. The team rehearsed the download with the museum's staff to be prepared for the event that day.
"We selected the best Airmen that deserve to go up there," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Stoks, the team lead.
Stoks was accompanied by Tech. Sgt. Mark Robertson, Airman 1st Class Chris Culver, who drove the Tunner, Gomez Duque and Airman 1st Class Joseph Flores-Constancio.
In addition to the APS Airmen, a small team of 627th Logistics Readiness Squadron maintenance personnel were on standby at Boeing Field to handle any potential issues with the Tunner.
"Downloading a plane is something we do every day," Stoks said. "But cargo that tall required extra attention to make sure it went perfect."
All accounts of the event said it did.
"There are certain things you do in your career that you will remember," Stoks said. "This is one of them. I can bring my daughter here 20 years from now and show her that I put that (crew compartment) in here."