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Excited Fans Expected for Endeavour Flyovers

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Pilots Expect Excited Fans for Endeavour Flyovers

The pilots of the aircraft carrying space shuttle Endeavour across the country to California already know what it's like to lead an aerial parade.

"The Washington beltway was pretty packed with people," said Jeff Moultrie, chief pilot of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, or SCA, about the crowds the crew witnessed gathered around Washington, D.C., in April as they delivered Discovery to the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum. "In fact, I think it stopped. We could see people stopped in their cars and up on buildings and such."


Image above: Jeff Moultrie, chief pilot of the

Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, flew the SCA to

Washington, D.C., and New York to deliver

Discovery and Enterprise to their new homes.

Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflet

› View Larger Image

That ferry flight and a similar one a few days later that flew over New York City with Enterprise were two of a very few times a shuttle has been flown over northeastern cities. Enterprise was flown to the nation's capital in 1985 before going on display at the Smithsonian.

"We weren’t sure what to expect, since we had never done something like this before with the space shuttle on top of the 747, what would be the reaction?" said SCA pilot Bill Rieke. "When that happened and we saw the reaction, that was priceless."


Image above: Bill Rieke, pilot of the Shuttle

Carrier Aircraft, in the cockpit of the modified


Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

› View Larger Image

The flight crew for the SCA, a modified 747 airliner, is expecting much the same interest this time. The flight will start at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where Endeavour has been undergoing transition and retirement processing for life as a centerpiece at the California Science Center.

The SCA and Endeavour will cross the skies over the Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans, Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, and Johnson Space Center in Houston on the way to Los Angeles.

"We're proud to show off our work that NASA's done," Rieke said.

Moultrie said much more effort goes into setting the courses for the flights delivering the retired space shuttles to their display locations than did the ferry flights that carried the spacecraft back to Florida after a California landing.


Image above: Astronaut Kay Hire flew on

Endeavour during STS-130.

Photo credit: NASA/Tim Jacobs

› View Larger Image

Large aerial corridors are assigned for the ferry flight so no other planes can use the airspace while the shuttle and SCA are flying through, for example. Also, the flyovers call for the aircraft to pass into restricted airspace around some notable sites.

"We had a massive coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration," Moultrie said. "The regular ferry flights required none of this. Other than some flyovers on arrival that we did as a bonus, we really didn't do flyovers."

Although they saw the crowds from inside the cockpit of the 747, Moultrie and Rieke said they made sure not to get distracted by them.


Image above: Endeavour stands atop the Shuttle

Carrier Aircraft ahead of its flight to Los Angeles.

Photo credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

› View Larger Image

"We still have a mission to do and that is we need to deliver it safely where it belongs and that is the part I'm focused on," Rieke said.

The flight also makes a few special demands of pilots as they line up the best way to approach a landmark so the flyby can be recorded in the best way.

"To do this type of flying, we need to consider the photography aspects, the sun angle, what the geometry with the chase ship needs to be, that type of thing," Moultrie said. "This is obviously the biggest thing I've done in aviation and probably the biggest thing I ever will do."

Steven Siceloff,

NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center


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I saw a Shuttle riding Piggy Back back in the 80's in Mobile, Alabama. It was an awesome sight! The vehicles were so large that they gave the impression of being very close to the ground and the speed seemed almost impossibly slow for something in flight.....

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I saw a Shuttle riding Piggy Back back in the 80's in Mobile, Alabama.

I was lucky enough to see the SCA carrying Enterprise over the river Thames from Greenwich in June 1983.

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