Size of the Delta Flyer

How big is the Delta Flyer? The interior, taking into account the spacious cockpit and the aft compartment, appears to be almost runabout-sized. On the other hand, the Flyer still has to fit through Voyager's shuttlebay door and has to be stored somewhere inside the ship. After there has been some speculation among fans, Star Trek: The Magazine revealed the size of the Delta Flyer in the October 2000 issue where Rick Sternbach wrote about the design process:

"As sometimes happens with cinematic spacecraft (not to mention boats, aircraft, and cars), the Delta Flyer appeared appreciably larger inside than outside, necessitating a recalculation of the dimensions of the 'actual' Flyer from a length of about 15 meters (49 feet) to perhaps 21 meters (70 feet)."



Structural analysis

The Delta Flyer interior (image) is composed of a cockpit, a mid section and an aft section. The mid section that was never shown in detail probably serves to block the direct view from the cockpit to the aft compartment which are most likely two separate sets. When we try to fit the interior into the Delta Flyer (cutaway, floorplan) we obtain a length of about 20m indeed.

However, there is a problem with this assumption. We can assume that the floor of the cockpit section is below the red Starfleet stripe on the outer hull. But then the sloped aft hatch that is clearly visible in the side, bottom and rear views (image) would have to occupy most of the aft compartment, considering that its floor is a few steps lower. The aft compartment set doesn't have a sloped wall at its supposed aft end. The Delta Flyer may be about two meters longer to fit in the aft compartment in front of the hatch or the never-seen mid section may be smaller, but it still wouldn't make much sense to have a hatch, only to block it from the inside with a more or less solid wall.

Another question is where the Delta Flyer's escape pods (VOY: "Good Shepherd") may be located. The only suited place seems to be underneath the floor of the cockpit section. But there is no external feature on the ship's bottom that looks like a hatch (which is no surprise, since the original concept may not have involved lifeboats).

So 15m is the original design size, but the Delta Flyer is shown at 21m on screen as dictated by the set. Looking at the cockpit (image), it seems to be about 7m long. The overall length of the Delta Flyer appears to be more than twice as much, rather 20m than 15m. There is only one scene allowing a comparison of the ship with crew members, when the first Delta Flyer is being built in VOY: "Extreme Risk" (re-used for "Dark Frontier"). It looks as if the ship is some 20m long and over 5m tall (image).

Delta Flyer and shuttlebay door

The first remaining question is if the Delta Flyer still fits through the shuttlebay door. Rick Sternbach writes in Star Trek: The Magazine that "right now, the wingtips just clear the shuttlebay opening" (for the 21m Flyer). Is that correct? As for the height, the Delta Flyer is supposed to have a landing gear, but we may assume that it is retracted before the Flyer reaches the door (provided that the headroom is sufficient inside the shuttlebay to extend the gear there). The second question is if the inside of the shuttlebay is large enough to hold the ship which is considerably larger than a standard shuttle. This is why I have compiled all available size figures for the Delta Flyer and for Voyager's shuttlebay door.

Delta Flyer
Reference Length Width Height Width @ 15m length Height @ 15m length Width @ 21m length Height @ 21m length Notes
Star Trek Encyclopedia III 87.5mm 51.0mm 20.0mm 8.74m 3.43m 12.24m 4.80m  
Star Trek: The Magazine, Sternbach sketches 136.0mm 75.0mm 33.5mm 8.27m 3.69m 11.58m 5.17m Given figures (15.12m, 9.25m, 4.73m) don't match with sketch
Star Trek: The Magazine, CGI views 153.5mm 89.0mm 38.5mm 8.70m 3.76m 12.18m 5.27m Fore and aft views don't have the same scale
Star Trek Fact Files 270.2mm 156.1mm 67.7mm 8.66m 3.75m 12.13m 5.28m  
Voyager shuttlebay door Comparison of Delta Flyer and shuttlebay
Reference Width Height Wide enough for 15m Flyer? High enough for 15m Flyer? Wide enough for 21m Flyer? High enough for 21m Flyer? Notes
Star Trek Fact Files 14.0m 6.2m Yes Yes Yes Yes Door outline, assuming that there is no smaller inner frame
CGI model 11.6m 5.9m Yes Yes No Yes
Revell/Monogram model 11.7m 5.0m Yes Yes No No

First of all, it is obvious that the available official dimensions for the Delta Flyer vary considerably. We shall disregard the early sketches by Rick Sternbach in the following, since they only served as guidelines for the final model - although the smaller width would be useful to fit the Flyer through the door. The Star Trek Encyclopedia III shows a flattened ship compared to the two renditions in Star Trek: The Magazine (which appears to be the actual CGI) and the Star Trek Fact Files (whose proportions almost perfectly correspond with the CGI). Looking at the available screen evidence, I am quite sure that the Encyclopedia depiction is flawed, and that the ship is actually as tall as in the other two publications. So if we go with Rick Sternbach's suggestion that the Flyer is 21m long, it would be 12.2m wide and 5.3m tall.

The dimensions of Voyager's shuttlebay diverge very much depending on what reference is used. I measured the exterior schematics in the Star Trek Fact Files, on an actual CGI model by Foundation and on the Revell/Monogram scale model. The Star Trek Fact Files are not exactly known for their precision, however, this is the only reference giving us a large enough shuttlebay door. Especially its width seems to be a problem. Maybe Rick Sternbach, stating that the wingtips just cleared the shuttlebay door, actually referred to his own sketch of the Flyer on which it was 0.6m narrower than the final CGI? Anyway, as long as it's only about one meter tolerance, we may easily justify this with my limited measuring accuracy as well as with a potential small inaccuracy of the Voyager and/or the Delta Flyer schematics. Maneuvering with a Delta Flyer which is barely smaller than the door is not only possible because Tom is a good pilot, but also because the Flyer is likely tractored in and out anyway.

All screen evidence of the Delta Flyer leaving the shuttlebay shows significantly more clearance than expected though. The most common scene was originally created for VOY: "Extreme Risk" and reappeared in "Dark Frontier", "Thirty Days" and "Live Fast an Prosper" (image). Here the clearance is 2m on either side, so even if we assume a 14m shuttlebay door the Flyer would be less than 10m wide and thus at most 17m long. About the same clearance, maybe even a tad more, can be observed in VOY: "Q2" (image). But the CGI scene from this episode is very inconsistent anyway (see below).

Any size comparison of the Delta Flyer with parts of the ship must be taken with a grain of salt anyway. In VOY: "Innocence" we can see a Type-9 shuttle exit from the shuttlebay, and the tiny craft does not appear to be much narrower than the Delta Flyer, although it should be less than half as wide.

Delta Flyer and shuttlebay interior

The still worse dilemma about the Delta Flyer is that it has to fit into the interior of the shuttlebay. The shuttlebay and cargo bay are a shared set on Voyager's Stage 9 (image). The floorplan of the shuttlebay set (image) shows that the main part of the set is some 56ft (17.0m) long and 32ft (9.7m) wide.

We have seen the shuttlebay interior with people as a size reference only on few occasions, most notably in VOY: "Counterpoint" from three different angles: the short side of the "L"-shaped room as seen from the corridor door (image), the long side from the outer gate showing a large door and an observation gallery at the aft end (image) and the long side looking out into space (image). The relative sizes of Janeway and Kashyk, the Devore shuttle and the interior may not be entirely consistent because of the CGI supplements. Anyway, it is the best size reference of the shuttlebay interior and it confirms that the whole room is at most 10m wide, with the outer door being 8m or less. This is just two thirds of the width of the actual door and obviously way too small for the Delta Flyer. It is interesting that this small door from "Counterpoint" has about the same proportions as that in the various outer views though. So my impression is that the shuttlebay set on Stage 9 is actually a scaled down and therefore cheaper version of what it should be according to the external views.

In VOY: "Alice" we can see the shuttlebay (image) from roughly the same angle as in the first screen cap from "Counterpoint" (image). The markings on the floor are somewhat different, but the structure of the wall and the aft door (on the left) are the same. The observation room from the second cap from "Counterpoint" is visible in another take from "Alice" too. Yet, there is suddenly a partition wall somewhere in the middle of the long side of the "L" (image). Is it really possible to divide the shuttlebay into two compartments? Or is this actually a different room which only happens to have a gallery like the shuttlebay's?

Finally, in VOY: "Prophecy" we can see lots of Klingons inside the shuttlebay (image). There are various inaccuracies due to the use of CGI. At least the whole aft end of the shuttlebay and the two vessels are computer-generated. The aft door has the wrong proportions, the Type-9 shuttle is about right and the Delta Flyer in the background is way too small here (neither shuttle exists as a full-size mock-up anyway). We know from "Counterpoint" and "Alice" that the Flyer would not remotely fit into the short side of the "L". Most likely the side walls are CGI too, and only the Klingons are real (and digitally multiplied). Apparently the whole shuttlebay has been scaled up and is more than 10m wide. Also, the horizontal trench in the struts of the side walls that used to be at about 2m height in every other episode seems to be at 3m here.

The crew always enters from the short side of the "L" from where it may be possible to access a second room beside the actual shuttlebay. I don't think the intention was to suggest that they can be combined to one which may create a large, rectangular shuttlebay. Nevertheless, this may be considered as an option to solve the dilemma, also because of the observation from "Alice" where we could have seen a second, parallel and smaller shuttlebay. Yet, the side walls of this potential "shuttlebay 2" and of the main shuttlebay in all other episodes look quite solid (not like sliding walls), as does the wall frame around the too small space door, so it is unlikely that this is actually possible - and most importantly the exterior views show nothing like a second compartment or another door into space large enough for a shuttle.

Delta Flyer and shuttlebay dimensions as in "Counterpoint" and "Alice"

"Q2" shows us the CGI Delta Flyer inside the shuttlebay without any people, and now there would be even enough room for two Delta Flyers in the same set that previously seemed much too small for only one. The Flyer appears to be as small as already in "Prophecy" and it has plenty of clearance on all sides when it turns around the corner of the "L" and then exits through the outer door. While we have to accept that the too small shuttlebay (too small when the set is populated with crew members) is indeed large enough for the Flyer, this shouldn't go so far that the Flyer would be less than 10m long, so this very scene must be disregarded altogether.

Regarding the match between the exterior and interior views of the shuttlebay, early episodes like VOY: "Parallax" didn't reproduce the look of the shuttlebay set which arguably didn't yet exist. In later episodes a combined CGI/miniature or pure CGI effect may have been used to insert the fitting interior into the shuttlebay as seen from outside. However, in VOY: "The Barge of the Dead" (image) as well as in VOY: "Workforce" (image) the aft door is too narrow, exactly as in the later CGI-enhanced scene in "Prophecy" (image).

Shuttle storage

The ultimate question is where the Delta Flyer can be stored - and Neelix's ship which is larger than a standard shuttle as well (image). While the shuttlebay itself is located on decks 9 and 10, shuttle storage can't be on the decks above or below, since one deck height is not enough and there is open space above deck 8 and below deck 11 in Voyager's aft section (image). So it has to be on the same decks 9 and 10, as it is shown on Voyager's MSD too. Considering that Janeway and Kashyk in "Counterpoint" and Tom and other crew members in "Alice" entered from a normal corridor at the side of the left shuttlebay compartment, there may be enough room (at least a width of about 18m) for shuttle storage in front of the shuttlebay.

It is simply impossible to keep the Delta Flyer in the entrance area of the shuttlebay, the short side of the "L", like in "Prophecy" and "Q2", even if we assume that the shuttlebay has the correct relative size to its outer appearance. The actual storage area may be located behind the rear door of the shuttlebay, underneath the gallery, even though the door looks too small on the exterior view with Neelix's shuttle (image). This is where the Delta Flyer may have been built and where the mysterious "room 5" may be located. The CGI of "room 5" differs from what we could see in "Extreme Risk" (image) and it appears in various episodes in at least five distinct takes, each time with slight changes. We may explain away the different size in VOY: "Drive" with sliding walls. Still, the assembly hall as well as "room 5" look just too spacious for the aft end of the ship. Ultimately the presence of Irina's ship, which is a lot wider than the Delta Flyer, in "room 5" is a clear sign that we need to draw a line somewhere and ignore the most blatant size inconsistencies.

For what it's worth, the storage area of "room 5" would also be a suited candidate for the infamous "shuttlebay 2" mentioned in one Voyager episode. Rick Sternbach about "shuttlebay 2" and about the CGI renditions (posted at Starship Modeler):

"Chalk it up to writer goofiness. The rationalization we used later was indeed that "Bay 2" was a maintenance bay forward of the landing area. I can't say that I was ever satisfied with the CGI renditions of the shuttlebay, because it changed a lot from ep to ep, and I can only imagine that the producers were always pining for different bits to look at."



Summarizing, the inside and outside appearance of a 21m long Delta Flyer match each other. If we measure very accurately, the Delta Flyer might scratch the edge of the shuttlebay door, but we may say as well that there would be enough space left. The Delta Flyer, however, definitely doesn't fit into the small shuttlebay set as it could be seen seen in a few episodes. The only solution is to disregard these scenes and assume the shuttlebay set was simply scaled down to two thirds. In this case it is possible that the Delta Flyer is actually 21m long, 12.2m wide, and 5.3m tall.


See Also

Voyager Inconsistencies - including the famous Voyager shuttle count

Redresses of Jaheel's Ship - how one design shows up in four science fiction universes in some fashion



Thanks a lot to Jörg Hillebrand for most of the screen caps and for spotting several details, to Balapoel for some of the drawings and to DH for the shuttlebay floorplan.


Back to Starship Articles index

View as gallery