Sometimes an aircraft or spacecraft is ferried on top of a carrier aircraft. Do these "piggy back riders" have their flight surfaces controlled (possibly remotely) during the flight? If not, how are they trimmed?

Endeavour hitching a ride Buran hitching a ride

  • $\begingroup$ I suspect the only reason why that works is that the Space Shuttle flies and steers like a brick. It's normal turn radius is 22 nm. I expect severe control problems if you tried to carry a 737 on top of something. $\endgroup$
    – user71659
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 23:35
  • $\begingroup$ Has this ever been done on something other than the space shuttle? $\endgroup$
    – Ben
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 2:05
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Ben Although not ferrying, the Air Force used to air-launch all the time testing things like the Bell X-1/X-2. Most aircraft though are usually under-slung instead of piggy-backed mostly because they are meant to be launched in flight. I haven't heard of one being ferried though, Airbus and Boeing have aircraft specifically to haul parts of airliners internally. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 3:09
  • $\begingroup$ Some information in Could the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft do a transatlantic flight with a Space Shuttle orbiter on its back? $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 9:29
  • $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer - as I recall, the shuttle was air-launched as well for glide testing. A sort-of "throw" maneuver where the shuttle was released at the top of a climb and the 747 made a steepish dive to get out of the way. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 13:29

1 Answer 1


In case of the Short Mayo Composite, controls of the payload aircraft were locked in neutral position until separation from the carrying aircraft in the air.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, this is very interesting. The related wikipedia article even mentions the Space Shuttle ferrying. $\endgroup$
    – dotancohen
    Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 10:34

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