By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
Pilots in the Washington, D.C., area on Tuesday morning, April 17, may catch a glimpse of the space shuttle Discovery taking its final ride strapped to the back of a 747. The now-retired shuttle will be making its move from a storage facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida to Dulles International Airport in Virginia, en route to its final home at the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center. The modified NASA 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft will depart from Florida just after sunrise on Tuesday and arrive in the Washington, D.C., area about 10 a.m., taking a final victory lap around various landmarks before touching down.
The exact route and timing of the flight depend on weather and operational constraints, NASA said; however, the aircraft is expected to fly near the National Mall, Reagan National Airport, National Harbor, and the Udvar-Hazy Center, at an altitude of about 1,500 feet. Two NASA T-38 jets flew over the area last week to scout out the route, and may join the SCA on the final flight. The aircraft is also expected to execute a low pass over the airport at Dulles prior to landing. The museum has planned a welcome celebration and special events through the weekend. The shuttle will be moved to the nearby museum on April 19. Discovery will replace the shuttle Enterprise, which is currently on display.