NASA jets fly over D.C. for photo training mission

Don\'t be alarmed if these are in the skies over D.C. on Thursday. (Photo courtesy NASA.gov)

WASHINGTON – Don’t be alarmed by jets flying over D.C. on Thursday. It’s just NASA conducting a training mission to practice aerial photography.

Two T-38 training jets will fly roughly 1,500 feet above D.C. between 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m., according to a release from the space agency, in preparation for the delivery of the recently retired space shuttle Discovery to the Smithsonian this month.

The purpose of the flights is to “capture photographic imagery.”

These jets have been used commonly for training missions for 30 years, according to a NASA webpage. They are able to achieve Mach 1.6 and fly as high as 40,000 feet, 10,000 feet higher than commercial aircraft.

Discovery is set to arrive April 17 on the back of a Boeing 747. It is expected to arrive by midmorning and fly over parts of the Washington area.

The shuttle will be formally delivered to the Smithsonian April 19 in a ceremony and four-day festival at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Northern Virginia.

Thursday’s training mission should be fairly unobtrusive.

“The T-38 is a great aircraft for what we need at NASA because it’s fast, it’s high-performance and it’s very simple,” says Terry Virts, a pilot for the now-retired space shuttle Endeavour, according to the NASA site. “It’s safe and it’s known. So compared to other airplanes, it’s definitely one of the best.”

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