This weekend has been a whirl of activity on base as today (Saturday) marks the 70th Anniversary of Chuck Yeager's Supersonic Flight that happened right here at Edwards Air Force base.
You might remember when the kids reviewed Doctor Aviation that we talked about Chuck Yeager and his first Supersonic flight on October 14th, 1947 when he flew the experimental Bell X-1 at Mach 1 at an altitude of 45,000 ft. This base even has a wonderful statue to memorialize the event.
It only made sense for the base where that historic event first happened to host the celebration of it's anniversary. The day started with a formal anniversary ceremony at 11am here on base. Unfortunately this event was not open to the public and so only those with base access could attend any of the events. However, for those off base, there were two flight formations that made a "STEM Flyover" where they passed at low altitudes over Southern Calfornia Schools.
The first formation consisted of two F-16 Fighting Falcons and a B-1B Lancer.
The second formation consisted of an F-16, F-15 Eagle, F-35 Lighting II and an F-22 Raptor.
Unfortunately, we didn't know that Chuck Yeagar was going to be at the ceremony. However, we later heard that he indeed had been there before we arrived.
|Special Thank you to Rachel Miller at Rachel's Photos for allowing me to use her photograph of Chuck Yeager. Much appreciated!|
Lockheed Martin had a nice little display setup that had some activities for the kids as well as a meet and greet where they could meet a couple of the F-35 pilots. At this part of the table, the kids had to guess which jar was filled with jet fuel. Do you know??
Here's a closer look :)
While Ashleight originally guessed wrong, Garrett guessed correctly. If your wondering, the jet fuel is the clear liquid. The other jars are lemon Gatorade, motor oil and tea ;)
The kids got to see many of the aircraft that are on base, only this time up close and personal rather than just from afar..
First up, the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk, which is a drone. Drones are unmanned aircraft, just like the drones that your kids might have recieved for Christmas, only on a MUCH bigger scale. Just like the toy version, this aircraft is controlled by remote control.
Next up was the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III.. This aircraft is used for transporting large equipment as well as personnel all over the world.
Across from the Globemaster was a display with a couple of Jet Engines. Both had cutouts to allow the kids to see how the turbines worked. They had fun making them operate ( minus the jet!!) and checking out the "Turkey Feathers" in the back.
This is the KC-135 Stratotanker.. This plane is typically used for in-air refueling of other aircraft.
Look how tiny these babies are compared to that huge KC-135 aircraft!!!
There were also a few WWII aircrafts that had been brought in for display. While obviously not in opperation in the US Airforce, they were very cool to see and to compare to more modern aircraft. This is a B-25J Mitchell, known as "Betty's Dream".
Look at those Guns!!!
Also, take note of the marks. This plane is decorated to honor Cpt. Charles "Pop" Rice. She carries 22 mission symbols and two silhouettes representing sunken Japanese ships.
Also on display was this extremely large Boeing B-52 Stratoforce bomber. It's hard to believe these planes first took to the air in 1952 and are still in military opperation today.
Rockwell B-1 Lancer doing a fly-by over the Tower as it came back for it's landing from visiting the SoCal Schools.
There was much more than just aircraft on display. At this display, Ashleigh and Garrett both had the opportunity to control a robot, which I believed was designed by one of the local high school robotics club.
This was really cool for Alyssa as well, because she had been in the Desert HS Robotics club.
Garrett was mostly just impressed with the gears involved and decided he needed the materials so that he could just make his own robots. (Hint Hint Santa!!!)
It's only under very rare circumstances where even members of the military have permission to cross the Red Line into the flight line. You better have a dang good reason to "Break red" as my husband informs me that this is a very bad thing. Yesterday, we all got to "break red" and head into the flight line area. We felt so rebellious - so daring!! Yeah, we had to take a picture as we did so.
More aircraft were on display once we got onto the flight line.
First, NASA had a few aircrafts on display. This is the Gulfstream G-III. On base, we have NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center (Previously known as the Dryden Flight Research center but was renamed after the passing of Neil Armstrong). The G-III is used by NASA as a multi-role cooperative research platform testbed for a variety of flight research experiments.
NASA also had a couple of fighter jets used as trainers on display, used by NASA pilots.
The first of the two jets was the F-18 which is commonly used by the US Navy. (I'll explain why that's important in a moment). It was really cute they had these "pilot" standups where the kids could look like they were coming off from their flight ;)
This is the F-15, which i commonly used by the US Air Force. Note the landing gears on both the F-18 and the F-15. The F-18 is significanly more rugged and bigger. There's a reason for this. US Navy Pilots routinely have to land on air craft carriers. To do this, they slam down onto the deck of the carrier, catching their "tail hook" which would be found on the back of the plane onto a cable which causes them to stop. This type of landing is extremely hard on the landing mechanisms of the aircraft.
However, the F-15 is an Air Force jet and the pilots tend to land on long runways with a more gentle touch down. Because of this, the F-15 does not need the extra stability and strength to their landing gears.
There were also some RC planes on display. These aren't your typical RC toys though, although I bet the researchers controlling them are having plenty of fun. Called the DROID (A Dryden Remotely Operated Integrated Drone), this is a modified radio-controlled Super Flyin' King model aircraft designed by Bruce Tharpe Engineering. This particular RC Plane flew to an altitude of 10,000 feet over Edwards to test the Towed Glider Air-Launch Concept, a proposed technique to horizontally launch a rocket into near-Earth orbit from a towed glider.
There were a few big wigs on hand for the Edwards Celebration (even Chuck Yeager made an appearance early in the day) such as some 4 Star Generals and other significant military individuals. However, without a doubt, the highlight of the day for the kids was meeting real-life astronaut Barry E. "Butch" Wilmore. Wilmore was the pilot of Atlantis flight STS-129, CAPCOM on STS-139 (the final flight of the Space Shuttle Program) and served as part of Expedition 41 to the International Space Station where he spent 6 months in Space. He was also a flight instructor here at Edwards at the Air Force Test Pilot School. Charles was pretty hyped to be able to say that he has shook the hand of a real astronaut. lol
The US Navy had a few aircraft on display as well. Such as this FG-1D Corsair with folding wings. Why do the wings fold? It goes back to those aircraft carriers. The folding wings allowed for them to put more aircraft in limited space.
The Corsair had the nickname "Whistling Death" because the bent wing design caused a distinct whistling sound when it was flying and so the Japanese nicknamed it "The Whistling Death".
Here's another Navy aircraft, the A-3D Skywarrior.. Again, note the folding wings but also the folding tail.
Another WW2 plane brought in by the Texas Flying Legends - this is the TBM-3E Avenger and served on the US Aircraft carrier USS Wasp during WW2. She is a combat veteran who sunk two Japanese cruisers, the Oyodo and Nashi. After military service she also served as a fire bomber here in the US before being fully restored.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon. We see these flying over base all the time :)
You can always tell the F-16 because of that huge air intake in the front.
Without a doubt, the favorite aircraft for the kids was the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk. These planes are retired and this one is part of the Flight Museum here on base, although not currently on display for visitors to see. But they did bring it out for the static display to allow everyone to get up close and personal.
I was honestly surprised by how high the F-117 sits off the ground. I was able to walk underneath it without having to bend down and my head did not touch the bottom of the plane.. I'm 5'2, so I would say it's about 6 foot off the ground. Here's my 6'4 husband who did have to bend down.
Another world war 2 plan, the F-40E Warhawk. This one was also flown in by Texas Flying Legends and is nicknamed the Texas Warhawk. This particular plane was salvaged from a junk yard in Alaska after she was damaged and wrote off in 1942.
This was another plane brought in for the celebration. This is the Douglas C-53 Skytrooper. It's simliar to the DC-3 but was designed for parachute jumpers to easily jump out of it. She was assigned to the 88th Troop Carrier Squadron, 438th Troop Carrier Group from 1942 to 1945. During her time in the USAAF she was based in England and dropped American Paratroopers into France on D-Day to help eventually overthrow the German occupation of Europe. After serving with the USAAF she was sold surplus and spent the next 60 years of her life hauling people and cargo. She was then purchased in 2001 and restored by the Commemorative Air Force here in California.
And this lil guy was another flown in by the Texas Flying Legends Museum. This is the P-51D Mustang and is nicknamed "Little Horse". It served in the European theater during WW2.
This is the Ikhana Predator B Unmanned Science and Research Aircraft System. Ikhana is a Native American Choctaw word meaning intelligent, conscious or aware. It has a wingspan of 66 feet and weighs roughly 400lbs. This particular drone was involved in the Western State Fire Mission in 2007-2009. It carried a sensor on its wings that was able to see through the thick smoke to record hot spots and the progress of the fires. This information was then overlaid on Google Earth maps and could be downloaded in near real-time to the fire center to assist in firefighting.
Getting into modern military aircraft, this is the F-35 Lightning. This aircraft is currently the top of the line fighter jet for US Air Force and the US Navy/Marines. The Marines use a version of this aircraft that is capable of vertical takeoff from Aircraft carriers, however, this one, which is owned by the Air Force does not need that capability so this one just sticks to runways. :)
However, this baby right here is our family's favorite. The Marines can keep their F-35. This beats it hands down.
So this is the F-22. And if you have been following my blog for a while, you will know that my husband works on this aircraft on the avionics systems.. (This is one of his aircraft, hence, our family's baby). I often joke that this plane is my husband's mistress and she often sends him home bruised and broken because he comes home with bruises, scratches and cuts all the time.
This plane is probably one of the most heavily guarded secrets in the US Military. Let's just say, there's a reason why our government is willing to sell the F-35 to other countries but not the F-22. It is considered a precious commodity, so my husband says. I can't say much about it myself because I honestly don't know much about it other than what is.. LOL But it is a pretty kicking looking jet if I might say myself ;)
Kids (especially boys) will probably be most familiar with the F-22 as Starscream in the first two Transformers movies. As a matter of fact, the plane used as Starscream is one of my husband's jets and the footage of the plane flying was done right here at Edwards, so my husband can officially say he works with movie stars ;)
After seeing all the planes, the kids were ready to go. I can't blame them, walking around on the flight line in the desert heat is pretty uncomfortable and gets hot pretty fast. Cold drinks were in order and so we headed away from the flight line to the shoppette. But it was a great day of education, history, and fun.