While idly browsing the BBC News website a few days ago, I came across an interesting article featuring Mr. Tim Peake, the first UK resident accepted into the European Space Agency (ESA) as an astronaut-trainee. A former Royal Army helicopter pilot, he has made a rather unusual jump into spaceflight, becoming part of new multinational European crew – currently undergoing microgravity and zero G training – slated to man the expected 2013-2014 mission to the International Space Station.
Alongside Mr. Peake’s fantastic personal achievement, the centerpiece of the article – posted here – was the unusual Airbus A300 used for the group’s training, getting a new lease on life as a zero G simulation platform. And having had the great privilege of visiting the said aircraft at last year’s Paris Air Show, I thought I could just as well do a short feature on it, to break my single-engine piston trend of late :).
Operated by the French company Novespace on behalf the government space agency Centre National d’ÉtudesSpatiales (CNES) and ESA, F-BUAD is a very interesting Airbus. A very rare first-generation A300B2-103 from 1973, it is the third A300 – and the third Airbus of any sort – ever produced. The first production-standard A300, it is also the oldest Airbus aircraft still flying, which is, given its current age and mission, a more than impressive testament to the design’s durability and reliability.
Since the BBC article explains its mission and flight profile in greater detail than I could achieve here – including a handy graph that says a thousand words 🙂 – I’ll skip that and head straight for the juicy bits: the photos :D.
And finally, to illustrate how all of this comes together, I’ve found three suitable YouTube videos – the first of which was played in the aircraft itself at Paris – that show what no amount of words can :):