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Endeavour flyovers: My reaction and that of a 91-year-old retiree

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Photo: Bill Ingalls/NASA -- A 747 with Endeavour perched on top made a slow flyover at LAX before landing at that airport today September 21, 2012

Photo: Bill Ingalls/NASA -- A 747 with Endeavour perched on top made a slow flyover at LAX before landing at that airport today September 21, 2012

After a grand tour of the Golden State, Endeavour is spending its first night in the Southland. Yesterday, the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft gave Endeavour a piggyback ride from Houston to Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert. Shortly after eight this morning, the modified Boeing 747 airliner took to the skies again with the proud orbiter mounted on its back.

Endeavour flew over Sacramento, San Francisco and parts of the Bay Area before heading south. I knew it would fly over a number of Southland places like The Getty Center, Los Angeles City Hall, Griffith Observatory, Universal City, Hollywood, several beach communities, Disneyland, before landing at LAX — still I was surprised and delighted when I had an encounter with Endeavour.

My PT Cruiser was trudging up a hilly section of La Brea Avenue in Baldwin Hills when a spectacular sight slowed traffic just before noon. Up in the sky, the SCA with Endeavour on its top glided by. Two fighter jets provide an escort. It was definitely an “oh, wow” moment for me.

A short time later, I shared my experience with the ladies at the Hair Production salon in Inglewood. They were all watching  on television as Endeavour thrilled crowds all over the Southland. The business of doing hair continued, but the live TV reports on Endeavour were the focus. When we heard Endeavour was headed to LAX to end its historic journey, hairstylist Roz Williams and two of her clients, Judy Baity and Eunice Pye, rushed outside to try to catch a glimpse of it from out on La Brea. I stayed behind to view the landing on the tube, under a hair dryer, beside 91-year-old aerospace retiree, Mildred Lee.

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G -- Mildred Lee 91-year-old retiree and former Southland aerospace worker got a hairdo from stylist Rick King at Hair Production salon in Inglewood September 21, 2012

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G -- Mildred Lee 91-year-old retiree and former Southland aerospace worker got a hairdo from stylist Rick King at Hair Production salon in Inglewood September 21, 2012

Lee was excited to see Endeavour’s flyovers and landing; she described it all as “amazing” and a part of “history.” Turns out Lee knows a thing or two about flying machines. As a young woman in her twenties she took a job with Lockheed. She worked the aircraft assembly lines mostly. She spent eight years at the Lockheed location in Burbank. After several decades in the aerospace industry, Lee retired from Boeing at the age of 63.  Her daughter, Charlene Houston, says not only is her mother’s mind still sharp, but she is “feisty as hell.”

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G -- Mildred Lee, 91, watched Endeavour's journey end in the Southland on television while getting her hair done at Hair Production in Inglewood September 21, 2012

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G -- Mildred Lee, 91, watched Endeavour's journey end in the Southland on television while getting her hair done at Hair Production in Inglewood September 21, 2012

“If I’m still here,” Lee says she would like to see Endeavour up close at the California Science Center in Exposition Park. For now, Endeavour will be stored in an aircraft hangar at LAX. In a few weeks, Endeavour will be moved to the California Science Center where NASA hopes the retired space shuttle will “…inspire the next generation of explorers and engineers.”

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