We all know that Albert Whitted Airport has an incredible history, as well as an important role in tourism, business, and medicine. 

But did you know that Albert Whitted Airport recently had a very important visitor? 

There was huge excitement at Albert Whitted Airport this month, as a SpaceX helicopter, the Airbus H225 Super Puma, stopped for fuel and a bite to eat before flying off to the Gulf to recover the SpaceX science data.

It sounds like science fiction, but April 15 2023 truly was a day to remember here at Love4AWA.

Dragon’s Mission for SpaceX

The ‘Dragon’ is a spacecraft capable of carrying up to 7 passengers to and from Earth orbit, and beyond. It is the only spacecraft currently flying that is capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth and is the first private spacecraft to take humans to the space station.

Falcon 9 launched the Dragon spacecraft to the orbiting space station laboratory on Tuesday, March 14 at 8:30 p.m. ET from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Dragon then automatically docked with the Space Station on March 16.

After 30 days docked to the International Space Station, SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft completed its 27th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-27) mission to and from the space station for NASA, successfully returning to Earth and splashing down off the coast of Florida on Saturday, April 15 at 4:58 p.m. ET.

When the Dragon pod landed in the water, the helicopter (which had landed on a ship off the West coast of Florida) took the critical science experiments from inside the Dragon to the Kennedy Space Center where it was unloaded and handed to scientists for studying. 

SpaceX took to Twitter with an update:

“Once Dragon has been retrieved by SpaceX’s recovery team, the critical science aboard the spacecraft will be transported via helicopter to @NasaKennedy and provided to the researchers.”

Patrick O’Brien of the Albert Whitted Airport Advisory Committee shared the moment the Airbus stopped at Albert Whitted Airport to prepare for the recovery of the SpaceX Dragon. 

What kind of helicopter does SpaceX use for recovery missions?

SpaceX used an Airbus H225 Super Puma on April 15 for the Dragon recovery mission. It’s a long-range passenger transport helicopter. It is a twin-engine aircraft that can carry up to 24 passengers along with 2 crew and a cabin attendant if required.

This type of helicopter is often used for offshore support and VIP passenger transport duties, as well as public service missions.

In August 2020, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were transported to land aboard an Airbus H225 helicopter after their 18-hour flight from the International Space Station inside a SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule, which landed in the Gulf of Mexico.

One small step for SpaceX, one giant leap for Albert Whitted Airport

Bravo to the helicopter pilot involved in such an important mission and all of the SpaceX personnel. SpaceX knew that Albert Whitted Airport was the ideal fuelling base for this important job. The airport was much easier for them to fly in and out of due to air traffic, and the access to downtown St. Pete for food and supplies was within walking distance.

We are so proud to play a small part in the SpaceX mission. We see the support for SpaceX as just another reason why Albert Whitted Airport is such a valuable asset to the community. For almost 100 years, Albert Whitted Airport has been an important landmark in downtown St. Pete. Our mission is to keep it that way and spread the love for this St. Pete gem.

In fact, you could say that Albert Whitted Airport is out of this world!