NASA Johnson Space Center
Oral History Project
Edited Oral History Transcript
Interviewed by Jennifer Ross-Nazzal
Chantilly, Virginia – 22 March 2012
Today is March 22, 2012. This interview with Ed Mautner is being conducted
at the [Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum] Steven Udvar-Hazy
Center in Chantilly, Virginia, for the JSC Oral History Project. Interviewer
is Jennifer Ross-Nazzal, assisted by Rebecca Wright. Thanks again
for taking time out of your schedule.
You’re welcome, it’s my pleasure to do it.
If you would, tell us about the state of [OV (orbiter vehicle)-101]
Enterprise in 2003 before she was restored.
My familiarity with Enterprise was quite limited before I began work
on it. When we received it, it had been stored both outdoors and in
a non-climate-controlled hangar since the mid-80s, and a lot of deterioration
of the surface coatings—the paint, the markings—had taken
place. Woodpeckers had gotten up onto the vertical stabilizer and
pecked a lot of holes into the polyurethane foam that they used as
a mockup for tiles. I don’t recall the number of holes, but
there were quite a few of them.
And then just about every form of creature had made the Enterprise
their habitat and playground. Birds had gotten into it; bugs had gotten
into it. Hornets or wasps had made their little mud nests in the landing
gear wells. They made it out of this beautiful red Virginia clay dirt
that surrounds the area. In fact, when we started to clean them it
almost seemed as if the aircraft was bleeding, the soil they made
those nests out of was so red.
It had basically suffered a lot of inattention. It hadn’t been
cleaned or worked on to any great degree. I believe it was outside
for about two years prior to them building the hangar for it, and
it had been rained on. There were many ports of entries for water,
and so water had pooled inside the bottom of the fuselage and it had
left a lot of staining from dirt, waterlines, etc. and also had caused
some minor pitting and corrosion. Nothing that would weaken the structure
of the aircraft but certainly had caused some deterioration.
Tell us about that move, when you decided to move her from that hangar
into this facility.
Until I walked in March 1st of 2004, I had never touched Enterprise
and I had really nothing to do with it. I recall being in the hangar
the day they moved it in, and just about all the employees who were
out here took a break to watch them tug it down the tow way from the
airport and into the building.
What was noteworthy at the time was that they had cut a notch in the
back wall of the space hangar in order to permit the vertical [stabilizer]
to come through. It was the only way to get Enterprise into that building
without taking the vertical off, which would have been a prohibitively
difficult task. I came back the next day and the blanking plate had
been restored as if the building had never changed at all, so that
was pretty neat. It was a well-prepared move.
That took place in the early fall of 2003, and while I was aware that
it was in the building, it was sometime after January 2004 that I
was notified that I would be working on it in preparation for the
opening of the space hall [James S. McDonnell Space Hangar].
What was your expertise prior to working on Enterprise? Were you working
on aircraft restoration?
My background is—the British would describe it as checkered.
I did a whole lot of things before I got directly involved in airplanes.
I started out as a kid building model airplanes, and I never gave
that up. I always built model airplanes, and I continue to do so.
And I was always a museum rat, an airplane museum rat. Whenever we
traveled, wherever we went, there was always a stop at an airplane
Somewhere around the late 80s, my wife and I had moved our children
to southern California, and I began to volunteer in some aircraft
museums out there. Planes of Fame in [Air Museum] Chino, and later
at the Command Museum at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, which
was right in the town I lived in so it was convenient to work there.
I started doing structures work.
In January of 1989 I left a former career and made a great midlife
career change whereby I wanted to work in an aircraft museum. I had
enjoyed volunteering on Saturdays so much, I went to Cal [California]
State University, San Bernardino, for a Museum Studies certificate
program. My background was in auto mechanics, and I needed to create
a resume to get into working on aircraft, especially in museums. I
enjoyed it immensely but had a problem with the hours of class.
By great good fortune, McDonnell Douglas [Corporation] was hiring
mechanics in the summer of 1989. Actually they’d been hiring
prior to that, but that’s when I found out. I went and I applied,
and they hired me immediately because of my automotive experience.
I became a structures mechanic on the C-17 [aircraft] program in Long
Beach, California. That was my first real hands-on experience with
real aircraft manufacturing.
I worked at McDonnell Douglas from August of 1989 until June of 1994,
when there were massive layoffs. They were losing their contracts
for MD-80s [airliners], and the MD-11 [airliner] never took off. The
C-17 was in a state of flux because Congress and the Air Force were
at loggerheads, so I and tens of thousands of others were laid off
during that year.
Meanwhile I had gone from my certificate program at Cal State, San
Bernardino, to a Master’s program at Cal State, Dominguez Hills
in Historic Preservation. Because John [F.] McDonnell of the McDonnell
Douglas Corporation was interested in an educated workforce, they
paid for almost all of my Master’s program, everything but my
research courses and my thesis.
I had early on decided that my thesis was going to be in aircraft
preservation at the National Air and Space Museum. I thought that
they were the best. They were the ones that were writing about aircraft
preservation, and I really wanted to write about how they did it,
because that seemed to be the benchmark.
In June of 1994 I was laid off, and I immediately contacted the museum
to do an internship back here so that I could do further research
for my thesis. In August and September of ’94 I did a 60-day
volunteer internship. I was outside of their regular program, so there
was no stipend; I just came in and volunteered. I worked in the restoration
shop during the day until about 3:30 [p.m.]. I’d then go across
the river, downtown to the main museum and I would work in the archives.
The people in the archives—I don’t know why, I was a total
stranger to them—they let me stay after hours. In fact, at five
o’clock when they left, they issued me instructions on what
lights to turn off and how to shut down the computers. I would stay
there till 8:30 so I’d get all my research. I had one other
paper and I had my thesis to do, so I spent almost every weekday night
at the museum doing that.
They said, “Stay in touch; we’re going to be hiring.”
The hiring was going to ramp up for this facility, this new Udvar-Hazy
Center, so I stayed in touch. Every month I contacted somebody associated
with the restoration facility, and finally in 1997 they said, “Something’s
going to happen. Get back here; be nearby.” So I stayed with
relatives and I hung out and I volunteered, and finally in February
of 1998 they hired me. They did it because I had the academic background,
but I also had, from McDonnell Douglas and my volunteer efforts, the
mechanical background as well. I was very fortunate that the timing
My background is chiefly in aircraft structures, which would be the
main metal pieces that form the basis of the aircraft upon which everything
else is hung. After I get through with my work, then the hydraulics
people and the fuel people and the electrical people and the power
plant people take over.
What sort of planes have you worked on since you began working here?
The first one that I started working on was a Japanese single-engine
floatplane bomber, [the Aichi M6A1 Seiran]. It looks more like a fighter
with floats, but it was in fact a strategic bomber that the Japanese
designed to fold up into an 11-foot diameter circle and fit into the
tube on a submarine. This submarine was an aircraft carrier, literally,
and it carried three of these. Very significant aircraft, because
it was designed to bomb the Panama Canal locks.
The submarine was probably more technologically advanced than the
aircraft. It was designed to go 27,000 miles without refueling, and
they actually did have plans to use these small bombers to bomb New
York [City, New York] and possibly even Boston [Massachusetts]. It
was a metal airplane, and my sheet metal experience came to good use
After that, they put me on a World War I bomber, a twin-engine fabric-and-wood
bomber. That airplane was a Caudron G.4, a French bomber that the
United States tested but never purchased. Because we had no combat
aircraft in World War I, we had to go to the French and the British
and the Italians. That was an excellent experience because that broadened
out my sheet metal and structures experience to wood and fabric. That
airplane is also currently on display here.
The next aircraft is one I’m still working on. We have a limited
number of people here, so we get shifted off of whatever project we’re
on to take care of other things in the museum, such as creating a
display or working on the Enterprise for nine months in 2004. From
about 2000 until this year, I’m still working on a World War
II German night fighter, the Heinkel 219, a huge metal twin-engine
aircraft, where again my airframe and sheet metal experience has come
Tell us what lessons you learned from working on those aircraft that
you applied to the Enterprise.
In my case, precious few. It was a great departure from what we call
restoration, where you actually have to fabricate or replicate or
repair structural pieces of an aircraft. This was largely a massive
clean-up and painting effort, so it falls under the role of preservation.
That’s really our role here, preservation. Everybody talks about
restoration, but restoration is the court of last resort when everything
has pretty much gone to pot and needs to be drastically repaired or
What we did on Enterprise fell under the heading of preservation,
but we called it a refurbishment because we didn’t do anything
to repair it. It was still considered to be NASA’s aircraft,
and it came to us in such good structural condition that there really
was nothing to repair on it except for the paint work.
Would you tell us about working with NASA and USA [United Space Alliance]
on this project? I understand they were involved.
Yes, they were. When we first began on March 1, 2004, we were pretty
much on our own. There were just three of us: myself, Anne [C.] McCombs,
and Steve Kautner. We walked into this big empty hangar. The only
thing that was in it at the time was Enterprise, and it didn’t
even have a barrier around it because the public wasn’t allowed
in that building yet. We just kind of stood there and wondered, “Where
the heck are we going to start on this thing?”
We had no high-lift equipment—all we had access to were ladders—so
we decided to start working on the landing gear. We had no contact
with NASA outside of certain parameters that they gave us in cleaning
and painting it, that we were given by the curator, Valerie Neal.
Without anything else but ourselves, we began the cleaning process
at the lowest part of the Space Shuttle, areas that were accessible
initially to us.
Our experience with NASA and USA came a little bit later, and [their]
big project was the removal of all of the cockpit windscreens, the
front ones. I believe that there were three panels in them, and there
were some engineering discussions as to whether they could get away
with just two panels. The challenge for us was to provide them with
the platforms to get up there and work off of.
Anne and I were involved, and at that point we had a lot of mechanics
from United Airlines [Inc.] come in to assist us. Their bosses permitted
them to give us some high-lift platforms that were attached to trucks.
We could maneuver a truck in and then raise a platform and extend
it out over the nose of Enterprise in order for the USA guys to remove
those windshields. The other problem was these windscreens were very,
very heavy. They required quite a bit of effort to crane off of the
At that point, I began to get to meet some of the guys, most specifically
from USA. One of them was a fellow named Tom [Thomas W.] Roberts,
and Tom’s my friend now. He was back here for the last visit.
There were several other mechanics that came up from KSC [NASA Kennedy
Space Center, Florida] who I would count as really good acquaintances,
friends, who we worked with. Got to meet Kevin [C.] Templin. He was
always there, very personable fellow, and always a go-to guy for information
Whenever they came back, we dropped what we were doing and became
assistants to them, to the point where in this last visit we were
almost considered more one of their group than as a separate entity,
which was kind of neat. The things I saw from everybody in NASA and
USA was enthusiasm, expertise, positive attitude, and great great
teamwork. The first thing we noticed is how well they worked as a
Many times we didn’t know that these guys had never worked together
before, and yet it was a seamless effort. You got to talking to them,
you got to know them, and you realized, this guy never worked on the
back end of the aircraft. He always worked on the front and didn’t
even know the guys that they were working with. That was inspiring
to us to see that kind of effort that they used to put in.
Some of my recollection of my efforts with NASA and USA get a little
bit confused, because some of their efforts were during that nine-month
period when we worked on preparing Enterprise for the opening of the
space hangar, but several of them came later. They would ask Anne
or myself or others from the previous team to come back and assist
them. I believe that the windshield effort was made during that nine
months we were there, but our other efforts with them came later,
so they’d be outside the parameters of my work on the Enterprise.
I also read that you had to replace the OMS [orbital maneuvering system]
pods because they had rotted.
Yes, we did. One of the first things we did was to remove those. Tony
[Anthony W.] Carp was the team lead for the lifting of the OMS pods.
They were a large aluminum plate that mated up to the surface of the
Shuttle, but everything above that aluminum plate was basically wood.
Plywood flooring, then 2 x 4 and 4 x 4 framework, and then they put
a fiberglass cover over the top of that.
We discovered how weak the structure was when we started to tighten
up the fittings for the lifting rings. We’d gotten a guy inside
to tighten the nuts up inside because they seemed loose, and he kept
tightening and tightening and tightening. We suddenly realized that
wood was so soft from moisture that he was just tightening the nut
and the washer right into the wood. We had to be very, very careful
lifting those OMS pods off.
The OMS pods were never planned to be on the Shuttle when the space
hall opened. That was something that we were going to install later,
so our job now was to focus just on the Shuttle, and guys back in
the shop worked on the OMS pods.
Are they on there now, have they been replaced?
They were put on I think in 2005, 2006 time range, and before the
last visit to get Enterprise ready we removed them. They’re
out in the shop, on the floor. The guys from USA put the ALTA [Approach
and Landing Test Article] pods on. Those are the travel pods. They
look like OMS pods, but they’re real metal. They’re real
structural, flightworthy, and the tail cone fits up to those components.
Tell us about cleaning and painting the vehicle. That sounded like
a very large chore.
Yes, it really was. I started on March 1st to clean the right main
landing gear bay and ultimately the landing gear and tires. Steve
Kautner took the left bay and did the same, and Anne McCombs worked
on the nose gear and the nose gear bay. It wasn’t until March
22nd that Tony [Carp] came on the team, and his job was to clean the
entire vertical surface with the ultimate purpose of coring or filling
the holes that the woodpeckers had made.
Somebody might at this point ask, why would woodpeckers go after polyurethane
foam? The explanation we got—I’m not an ornithologist—is
that woodpeckers make the noise they do as a mating call, not just
to get to bugs inside of the tree. Once they got through that polyurethane
foam, they were banging on an aluminum surface. It made quite a noise,
and it was far-reaching. There were about 75 holes ranging from very
small, smaller than your pinky, to much bigger than your thumb.
We were using, on NASA’s recommendation, Amway LOC [liquid organic
cleaner] cut, one part LOC to ten parts water, to wash everything.
It’s a mild organic detergent, and it’s biodegradable.
This was what USA used, so this was what we used. And this is where,
in the wheel wells, I found most of the hornet nests. Once you got
the water into them they just started running down the beautiful epoxy
white paint panels inside.
At that point, once Steve had finished his wheel well, he started
working on the bottom. He started up at the nose where he could reach,
because you couldn’t get a ladder under there. He’s all
scrunched up, just scrubbing away—and he was a bear of a guy.
He had a lot of strength, and he just kept working down the bottom
of the aircraft, all of the black-painted area of the aircraft.
At that point we started using some lift equipment, JLG [Industries,
Inc.] lifts and scissor lifts, to get up on the wing. We began cleaning
the wing while Tony is cleaning the vertical, and we did this day
after day after day. Then sometime in the summer, I believe in July,
we began prepping the center fuselage for paint. The center fuselage
does not have polyurethane foam on it, and that center fuselage extends
from just behind the cockpit to back underneath the OMS pods. We also
had to clean the payload bay doors. At this point we finally were
able to get scaffolding in. We had a local company contracted to put
scaffolding all up the sides and then bridge the top of the Shuttle.
This is where things kind of got interesting. Initially it was doing
just a lot of sanding on the side. Apparently the aircraft had been
painted with aerospace quality polyurethane or epoxy paint and primer,
but when it went on tour in 1984 it had started to look a little bit
secondhand. They used a latex house paint to give it a quick repaint
to make it appear better at the [New Orleans, Louisiana] World’s
Fair here in the United States, and then they went to the Paris Air
Show with it. This was all prior to delivering it to us.
This paint over the years had become very brittle and very hard and
would be quite a challenge to remove. Taking it off the sides was
pretty easy. We were able to use electric sanders or pneumatic sanding
devices, hand-held devices, and literally sand all of that down to
the original paint. The sanding gave the surface a real good surface
for paint to adhere to once we finished it and cleaned it up, but
the real challenge came with the payload bay doors. We were instructed
by NASA to not use any metal tools, any caustic chemicals, or any
abrasives to remove the paint.
We got up there, and they thought it would be really easy because
a lot of the paint on the payload bay doors had flaked off, and some
of it was literally sitting up. They said, “Just use duct tape
and press it down real hard and pull it off, and that paint will pull
up.” Well, that didn’t work at all.
All of our communications with them were through Valerie Neal, the
curator. The other thing we weren’t supposed to use was heat,
so we went to Valerie and said, “The duct tape just isn’t
cutting it.” They said, “Use plexiglas scrapers.”
Plexiglas is a real hard plastic. We would cut up sections of it,
rectangles of it, and then make a sharp edge at one end with a grinding
wheel. That wasn’t cutting it either.
One day I’m sitting on the scaffolding, trying to get this stuff
off, and I see to my left this movement from about chest height over
the curvature of the door. I look over, and it’s Steve Kautner
with a metal scraper and a heat gun. I’m going, “Steve,
what are you doing?” He goes, “This is the only way it’s
coming off.” I said, “Okay, stop. Let’s talk about
We went back to our conservator, and I asked him, “Do you have
a surface temperature gauge?” We went back and attached this
temperature surface gauge to the area that we were putting the heat
on, and we got some heat parameters. We were getting heat in the range
of about 175 degrees [Fahrenheit] if we kept the heat gun moving,
so we went back to NASA and they said, “Okay, you can do that,
but no temperatures over 200,” or 250.
All of a sudden this became easy, but we now found out very quickly
why they didn’t want heat up there. The doors are made of carbon
graphite, or carbon–carbon. It’s skinned with an almost
aluminum-foil thickness coating of aluminum. It’s not like sheet
metal, it’s more like a foil, and if you left the heat on there
too much it would blister. We got a couple of thumb-sized blisters;
we damaged the door. This concerned us, and we kept talking to each
other. We’d just make sure we’d keep that heat gun moving
and don’t overheat one spot.
It became very evident very quickly why they didn’t want heat
up there. They had done the same thing at some time in the past, only
their blisters were much bigger than ours. That told us a) it’s
been done this way before, and b) there’s a repair for it. We
did make a few more blisters, an inevitable result of what we were
doing, but we knew that if they needed those doors, they could be
Then, because there was still a lot of paint residue clinging to the
surface, we got down and used acetone. We were all garbed up with
double-canister air masks. There’s terrific pictures of us all
down on our hands and knees on the door, all tied off because we’re
high up on the top of the Shuttle, scrubbing with Scotch-Brite scrubbers
and acetone to get the surface completely clean and ready for paint.
That was another thing they told us, “You can’t stand
on the doors.” So we had these four bridges across, and we’re
all leaning off these bridges and working off of them. Again, Steve
Kautner’s the first one to step off right on the doors. There’s
no other way to get out there, there was no way. I said, “Okay,
stop. Let’s talk this over.” We went down inside the Shuttle,
and we looked up at the doors and we could see the latching system.
We knew that those doors in zero gravity could open without any support,
but we knew that they had big supports on them when they opened them
in the hangar down in KSC. We looked at those supports, and we looked
at how the doors fit together. It’s built like a bridge as long
as they’re closed and locked, so four, five, six of us all were
out on our hands and knees on the doors, scrubbing away to get the
last residue and make a really good surface for paint.
That brings up another aspect for me. I couldn’t wait every
single day to come in. I’m not a space guy, I’m an airplane
guy. In truth, the Shuttle is probably more like an aircraft than
a spacecraft, and that one [Enterprise] never did go into space so
it really was just an aircraft. I never followed space, I never got
excited about it, but I got excited by this project. I couldn’t
wait to get in every single day. Every day was interesting and exciting,
and we were making progress—slow—but we were making progress.
When they put the scaffolding up in July, we now had to climb this
scaffolding. We had our harnesses on and we had our tethers, but we
couldn’t tether off anywhere on the way up. We’re climbing
30, 35, almost 40 feet in the air every morning, every break time,
every time you had to leave, and then when we got up there we would
tie off and secure ourselves. But that little element of danger made
it exciting, and we talked about that a lot too.
We had two injuries, but only one on Enterprise. One of our guys did
abrade his hand, but working on something else while we were out there,
nothing to do with the Shuttle. One injury, very minor, on the Shuttle.
One of our members fell off the payload bay doors, but he was tethered
and it stopped him, and all he did was bang up his knee. I think we
lost him one day, but that was it. The fact that we talked almost
every day about the safety issue, that he was tethered off—we
didn’t have more issues.
The other thing that made it interesting and fun is that we were on
this huge, very obvious artifact in the middle of this totally empty
hall, and the public could come in to the front of the hall—there’s
an overlook up above—and watch us. I think the element of being
on stage made it exciting and interesting, too.
There were some stresses. We always seemed short of personnel. At
one point I realized there were a whole bunch of guys working on the
OMS pods, and I had to convince my management that the OMS pods aren’t
needed by October 19th, but the Shuttle is, so can I have more guys?
And I got more guys.
Once we had sanded down the sides and had removed the paint from the
doors, it was time for a final prep and primer and paint. We had four
guys do that, and we had a couple of issues that we had to deal with.
One, it had to be an aerospace quality paint. PPG, Pittsburgh Paint
and Glass, has always supplied us with our paint system that we’ve
used exclusively for 20 years back at the [Paul E.] Garber [Preservation,
Restoration, and Storage Facility, Suitland, Maryland], our restoration
shop. Dave Wilson got in touch with them, and they turned him over
to their aerospace division. They donated what amounted to about $15,000
worth of white polyurethane aerospace paint and primer.
Our next challenge was we could not spray in the building because
the building had an open port, and some of the ventilation systems
functioned with the aircraft hangar. Also, the filters in the ventilation
system would get clogged up with any paint residue and dust, so we
had to either brush or roll it. Dave talked with the people from PPG,
and they had an additive that allowed the paint to flow so that it
would not appear to be rolled-out paint. It wouldn’t be textured,
it would be nice and smooth.
We got the paint on September 17th—keeping in mind that this
hall is supposed to open on October 19th of 2004. They had to rest
assured that all the fumes would have dissipated by 10 o’clock
opening the next day, so we painted at night. It was Tony, Dave, myself,
and a fellow by the name of Bob Weihrauch who did it. We would come
in, and that hall was completely black except for the Klieg lights
that we worked under. We rolled out the primer, and then we rolled
out the white. [We rolled out two coats of primer and two coats of
I love working here at night because there’s no people here,
the lighting is all dim, and it’s like going into a great cathedral
at night when nobody’s around. It’s just beautiful. It’s
quiet. You’ve got all these objects that you love, many of which
you’ve worked on, and there’s just a neat thing about
working here at night. We had a really good time. We had a really
good crew. I don’t recollect ever having any arguments or disagreements
or problems, we just really had a good time.
One outstanding recollection is this facility is used by organizations—police
organizations, FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation], the MWAA, Metropolitan
Washington Airport Authority. They have their own SWAT [special weapons
and tactics] team and security forces. They do a lot of work in here
at night, but we didn’t know that. One night three of us are
up on this scaffolding, and Dave Wilson is on a scissor lift bringing
paint up to us, and all the sudden there’s movement in the hangar.
Keep in mind that outside of this cone of light that we’re in,
everything’s dark out there, but there’s movement. We
look down, and there’s 20 or 30 guys in black helmets, black
outfits carrying guns, and they’re swarming like ants through
our hangar. Well, I immediately was not concerned because none of
them are looking at us or pointing the gun at us. We’re in white
bunny suits, paper coveralls, and the Klieg lights are on us. We’re
out there, very obvious.
One guy kind of moved up to Dave, and he goes, “Have you seen
her?” And Dave goes, “Seen who?” He goes, “Have
you seen her?” and then he had to move, because you’re
not supposed to look for hints. Apparently they were on an exercise,
and one of their supervisors came in two hours ahead of time and hid
herself somewhere in the museum, and they had to find her. Nobody
told us; our security had not advised us that this was going to happen.
Another time, during the day, I was working on the Shuttle and nobody
else was around. Security came up to me and said, “We have a
congressman or a senator here with his daughter back from college,
and he’s got his office manager and his security detail. Would
you come down and talk to them?” So I walk inside of this circle
of Secret Service people, and they’ve got their radios and they
all look very, very official, and I started to talk to them. I said,
“What state do you represent, sir?” He goes, “Oh,
one of your neighbors.” Meanwhile, his handler, his office guy,
did all the talking.
I went back that night and I looked all over the Internet for our
neighboring senators and congressmen, and I did not find him—because
you can get the photos of all of them. I went back to security the
next day and I said, “What was that all about?” He says,
“Oh, it’s just a test.” It was Secret Service in
a practice run, and these guys were just members of the Secret Service
that were playing a role to make it seem realistic. There are a lot
of activities that go on here that are very interesting. But again,
I was not forewarned of that.
The other two events that were really interesting—Joe [H.] Engle,
one of the test pilots for Enterprise, came back and spent a day with
us. He is just a prince of a guy, just a super guy. We got to tour
him around and show him what we were doing, and he was just the friendliest
guy and was very very grateful to us restoring “his” bird
back to its original condition. A couple weeks later, we all got an
8 x 10 of him standing by Enterprise out at Palmdale [California]
back in’77, ’78, with a beautiful handwritten note and
one of the original patches from his missions. It was just neat, a
The other very very interesting visitor to us was Colonel Pamela Ann
Melroy. She’s a two mission pilot and one mission command pilot
[commander]. She was also on the Columbia [STS-107 accident] investigation
team, and she led the cockpit reconstruction area. My recollection,
she was about five-foot-five, five-foot-six. I immediately made a
connection, because she was a test pilot on the C-17 program. As I
had worked on it, we had some things to talk about.
I got to tour her around, and the thing I recollect so well is that
she made a comment when we were in the cockpit. The cockpit of Enterprise
is for the most part empty. The dashboard is there, but there’s
only about three instruments, and they’re all old analog instruments.
The seats are not there. She looked at that dashboard and marveled
at the fact that it was the first time she’d seen one in a long
time that wasn’t bits and pieces, because she had been looking
and reviewing and trying to reassemble pieces of Columbia’s
This diminutive colonel in the Air Force—always at the end the
photographer comes in and takes a picture of us with the VIP [very
important person]. Anne and I were there at that time, and we’re
all standing off to the side, a foot away or something. She says,
“Hey, we’ve been together all day. Come here!” She
pulled us in right next to her to take the picture. We also got an
8x10 from her, signed, with a thank you and mission patches. Those
are two of my favorite treasures from that whole time there.
Nice recollections of that time period.
Yes, it really was. We got it done. Everything seemed late—getting
personnel, the scaffolding came late, the paint came late—but
we got it done. We got it done on October 18th, and October 19th was
the day the media and the museum VIPs and everybody showed up to see
it. It was a moment of pride because it really looked good.
Tony and I stayed after October 19th. Tony had some more work up on
the vertical to do, and the one area that we hadn’t really addressed
was the propulsion bay. I would work in the propulsion bay; he’d
work up top. We did this at night because the gallery was open to
the public, so we did a lot of night work from October until we went
away on Christmas vacation.
Most of cleanup in the propulsion bay—there was some FOD [Foreign
Object Debris], there was old hardware. It went back to when it was
delivered to us. There were some sections of insulating aluminum,
nuts, bolts, washers, things like that. A lot of water had been back
there, and the floor panel structure was a huge, thick piece of aluminum
that they had milled out to look almost like a waffle. The floor looked
like a large waffle pattern, so there’s all these thousands
of little pockets that had held water, and I had to clean them.
We had some nights where we had events, and the events usually allowed
people to roam into the space hangar, so I would take my knapsack
and my coffee and my lunch, my snacks, up into the propulsion bay.
Something you don’t normally do around artifacts, but I didn’t
think I could come out because of the events they had going on. I’d
stay up there for eight hours. Well, there’d be a potty break.
We finished before our Christmas break, and then both of us reported
back to the Garber Facility the first week in January 2005. It was
rewarding every day, but they also rewarded our team with the Museum’s
Peer Award. The [museum] gives two Peer Awards every year, and the
Enterprise Preservation Team was awarded [one of them] for 2004. It
was a great experience.
What are you working on now that Enterprise is getting ready to take
a new journey in its history to go to the Intrepid [Sea, Air &
Space Museum in New York City]? Are you working on that?
I did work on it. I don’t know what my role will be in April
when they come back, but the whole month of February I was assigned
out here, along with Anne and one or two other folks, to escort NASA,
USA, and some folks from [the] Boeing [Company]. “Escort”
has a kind of static sound to it. We were essentially here to open
doors that they couldn’t get into, including getting to the
restrooms, and we were able to get them discounts in our shop and
And then pretty soon it was, “Oh my gosh. We don’t have
this; do you have this tool?” So we’re running for tools.
Later, as our professional relationship evolved, we were forklifting
equipment for them. They had forklifts, but we were able to help them
with that. We had a JLG man lift that we were able to take them and
some of their equipment up to different places on the Shuttle, and
also on the tail cone, which they assembled right out here in this
shop. As to my role when they come back on the 19th, I have not been
told what that is yet. I hope [I] do, I have some friends I’d
like to hang out with again.
Are you preparing in any way to accept [OV-103] Discovery, or are
you primarily working with the Enterprise?
I’m not. My responsibility is to work on this German night fighter.
We still have a wing to complete. The airframe fuselage is out in
the museum right here now, but the wing has to be done and a lot of
other details. Between escort duties and whatnot, I’m working
on that. We’re told that with everything else that’s going
on, we’re going to be moving our shop from Maryland out here.
I don’t know how that’s going to work out with the Discovery–Enterprise
exchange, that’s yet to be determined.
It must have been rewarding to receive that from your peers, that’s
Very, yes. I think Valerie Neal, former NASA and our curator, was
probably instrumental in getting that for us. It was pretty neat.
Rebecca, did you have any questions for Ed?
Just one, and I think you might have already answered it. Did you
ever come back and do anything else with Enterprise?
I have once or twice, but it was generally just escort duty. Those
were times where it was just sit around and wait for whatever the
folks, predominately USA, needed. I did come back, and we did reinstall
the OMS pods. That was pretty much the original team again that did
that, and we brought a couple of other people in to assist because
you need spotters and tag line holders.
You mentioned that you would escort for whatever they needed. What
were the types of things that they would be coming back for?
Every time USA came here, they had a lot of supplies. Rather than
transport them back, they would leave them out and we would store
them in our barn, which is out in the back corner of the property.
So the first thing we’d have to do is get their supplies, and
that ran anywhere from tape to paints to epoxy glues.
Recently, within the past year, they came back and we took them up
on a JLG man lift. They did the work, and I would just maneuver it
around to a position that helped them. Like I said, “escort”
sounds very static, and sometimes it is, but a lot of times there’s
a dynamic component, which is the most fun of all. That’s how
you get to know these guys and get to see what they do.
Were they doing types of restoration themselves?
Yes, about last April they came back to begin the process of making
Enterprise airworthy. That involved making an assessment of all systems,
and they also did the [landing gear] retracts. The main job was to
get the hydraulic system working so they could retract the landing
gear. Part of our position as escort was to shut down areas of that
hall to keep the public away, because the machine, what they call
the mule, fires up the hydraulics system, makes a lot of noise. Also
there’s part of the retract that there’s noise involved
We did a lot of work stanchioning off. Moving stanchions back, and
then when it was all done, moving the stanchions closer. We were trying
to do this juggle between making sure people were safe and USA had
enough room to work in, and also still keeping the hall open to the
public. Our whole purpose is to let them get as close to this stuff
as we can.
There were a couple of times where, yes, it was pretty static, but
other times we were pretty involved in helping them. And everything
back here is secured. You can’t get into the restrooms without
our badge, so we were escorting to the restrooms. Eventually, and
especially in this last trip in February where they did the final
preparation for flight, the security office provided them with badges
that allowed them to open all the things they had to get into. They
had the same access employees had.
I think that speaks of the type of relationship that we’ve always
felt we had with NASA, that they weren’t an alien organization
that comes in and invades our space but rather cohorts, colleagues
that we feel—not exactly one with, our roles are different—but
certainly very good friends with.
Is this a very unique exhibit here compared to all the rest? Do you
have any other kind of associations with other groups that come in
and work on their planes?
No, there’s no other organization that has the relationship
that NASA has with us. I think that’s historically because we’ve
been the repository of first choice for NASA, but also because Valerie
Neal, who came from NASA, has maintained a very, very good relationship
with all the leadership there. It’s been a very collegial relationship
from the very beginning. Because of that, your relationship personally
to these people is much more relaxed, so it’s much much easier
to make friends. I have a couple buddies that I email once in a while
back at the Cape [Canaveral, Florida]. It’s a good relationship.
Any other last thoughts?
I think I’ve covered the important aspects of my relationship
with the Shuttle Enterprise and with the folks from NASA and USA.
We had a good team. I think it was kind of neat because management
left us alone; they left us to make a lot of our own decisions. Everybody
worked with the goal in mind, and we reached the goal. We finished
Enterprise, it really looks beautiful. It took us nine months to get
it in the shape that it’s in right now, and I have to say I
am quite proud of how it came out.
I do recollect one of the stories that I’ll tell you. When we
began to strip all the paint off, we traced all of the markings—the
NASA worm, the “United States” on the side, the “Enterprise”
itself—so that after we painted it we could restore those. We
noted and photographed the fact that these had been hand-brushed.
Somebody had done a stencil, and then they hand-brushed in the black
color. As we began to strip the aircraft, we realized that there were
other markings, other NASA worms and another “Enterprise”
and another “United States” underneath that exterior coat
of latex house paint.
We traced those as well, and at that point the curator had to make
a decision. Are we going to restore it to when it was originally painted
and lettered, or are we going to paint it as it was presented to us
in 1985? The decision was made to paint it as it was delivered to
us. Those letters were all in black, and the letters we found underneath
were in lighter shades of dark gray.
At the time that we traced them back on the aircraft, the question
was asked, “Well, who feels comfortable painting them back on?”
I mean, none of us are professional sign painters. Out of the five
of us there, four chose to do it. So what you’ll see out there
is our hand-lettered letters, and they are letter perfect. They came
out really, really well. Three employees and one volunteer painted
them all in. That too raised our level of pride and involvement and
attachment to the Enterprise.
I have mixed feelings about it going. On the one hand, it’s
very important for us to have an orbiter, and Discovery is a much
more significant vehicle to have in our collection, so I’m happy
about that. On the other hand, all of our handwork is being sent off
to somebody else. I’m not going to lose sleep over it, but I
will think, how are they taking care of it? Is that beautiful paint
job still squeaky clean and nice, and are all those tiles in good
condition? So yes, I am concerned to some degree at it going off to
Any plans to go to New York and see her once she’s in her permanent
No plans at this time, no.
And will you be working on Discovery when it comes?
We’re not going to touch Discovery. This is another aspect that’s
pretty neat about getting Discovery. The ideal airplane or spacecraft
to get into our collection is the one that just went on its last mission.
If we could get a Boeing B-17 [aircraft] that flew a mission from
England in August or September of 1944, and then was transferred right
back into our hall out front, that’s the idea. You don’t
want to touch it. You want to mount it in such fashion that you preserve
the tires and take any other stresses out of it, but it would be great
if it had the gunpowder stains and the engine stains and the oil stains
and the rough-hewn patches that the mechanics put on the planes back
in those days.
And that’s how Discovery is coming to us. They haven’t
cleaned it, outside of taking out the toxic materials in all the tanks
and systems, so it’s not going to look like Enterprise at all.
In fact, one of the people from NASA commented that Enterprise looked
like a toy. I think what she meant was it looked like a model, and
Discovery looks like a real orbiter. So we’re happy about that.
Well, thank you.
Thank you for spending some time with us this morning. We appreciate
You’re very welcome. It’s my pleasure to do it.