Orion Space Mission

NASA flights could startle Maryland drivers

NASA flights could startle Maryland drivers

If you're easily startled by big, low-flying airplanes, you'll need to get a good grip on the steering wheel Monday.

NASA will be starting a monthlong campaign of air pollution sampling, using a four-engine turboprop P-3B Orion to skim 1,000 feet over Central Maryland's interstate highways to gather air samples.

A thousand feet is about the height of the TV towers on Television Hill in Baltimore, or twice the height of the Washington Monument in the nation's capital.

Public safety officials have been told to expect anxious phone calls next week as the flights get under way. The aircraft will fly a circuit from Beltsville and Annapolis to Cecil County and back,...