Air Force: Stash These F-22s for Us? NASA: Yeah Sure We Got Room
On September 2, as then-tropical storm Hermine traveled up the East Coast, Dale Bowser of NASA’s Langley Research Center received a strange request. The Air Force base next door had a favor to ask.
Bowser is the NASA site’s hangar manager. Was there any room at his inn for a few F-22 Raptors, the Air Force asked him? No one wants F-22s, which cost many millions of dollars, to sustain storm damage. And NASA had built its hangar to withstand a Category 2 hurricane.
Come on over, NASA responded.
“Even though the hangar in Hampton already had a large visitor—a C-130 from the Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore—the hangar was able to carefully sandwich in more than a dozen Air Force fighters and offer them the protection of our hurricane-rated facility,” says Katherine Barnstoff, NASA Langley’s media relations specialist. (Hermine only ever reached Category 1, and had chilled into a tropical storm by the time it reached Virginia, where the Air Force base and the NASA center are.)
Fitting the planes together was like Tetris, with a prettier result than your most artful video-game moves. Barnstorff admits it: “Our hangar employees are quite adept at parking aircraft.”
The Air Force was so grateful they tweeted about it:
— Commander, 1 FW (@1fw_cc) September 2, 2016
Which NASA responded to with mutual love.
Happy to help out our neighbors! Your fighters look mighty nice in our hangar. Let’s all be safe this weekend. https://t.co/5mfk8iHR4m
— NASA_Langley (@NASA_Langley) September 2, 2016
NASA Langley’s hangar has 85,200 square feet for plane-stuffing. The building went up in the early 1950s, specced to hold a B-36 and substantial enough to fit the Super Guppy during its 2014 visit. Early astronauts also trained here, simulating the spaceship docking they’d have to do in a successful Moon mission.
In short, the hangar is huge. “That means we are willing to share some of it in emergencies with our neighbors at Langley Air Force Base,” says Barnstorff.
But again with the mutual love: NASA uses the base’s runways for their own aircraft. Share and share alike.
Except … at the low end of the F-22 cost estimate, those 13 parked planes are worth about $1.8 billion—that’s 10 percent of NASA’s total annual budget.
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