2022… Edwards AFB Then and Now

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Edwards Air Force Base, the birth place of where it all began for so many, including myself. After a 12 year hiatus, Edwards opened it’s doors to the general public once again. This was the first real airshow I went to as a young child. It’s where I first saw the Thunderbirds, the A-7, T-37, F-4, and so many other aircraft fly for the first time. It has been the first of many record-breaking flights and milestones in aviation history as well.

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On the Thursday prior to the show, I had the chance to speak with Thunderbird # 5, Lead Solo Pilot, Major Kyle Oliver, who echoed my feelings with Edwards also being the birthplace of his aviation career. Maj Oliver grew up in the local area and was also introduced to the Edwards Airshow at a young age. He said he was looking forward to both having several family members in attendance, and was going to speak with students at Desert High School the following day. “It’s really good to be back.” said Maj Oliver.

Along with the Dayton Ohio Airshow, and the Great Pacific Airshow the week prior, he said being able to perform in the skies over Edwards Air Force Base is one of the highlights of his career. His hope is that their demonstration can do the same for other kids as it did for us, with sparking new interest and passion in aviation for years to come.

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The theme for the show, ‘Edwards, Then and Now’, celebrated the 75th birthday of the US Air Force. The show was opened each day by the breaking of the sound barrier, one of the best known aviation milestones completed in the skies above Edwards back in October of 1947 by Chuck Yeager. Once again the show was headlined by none other than the same Air Force Thunderbirds I watched as a kid, albeit in much newer F-16Cs of course. There were several civilian performers as well to keep the audience entertained throughout the warm weekend.

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From an Airshow standpoint, other than the breaking of the sound barrier, Edwards is best known for planes you will only see at this location, both on the ground and in the air. Inside the main hanger, the VISTA F-16 in-flight simulator was on display with the ever popular STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathmatics) exposition, which provides many educational and career path opportunities. Outside, some of the notable flyable aircraft on display were the L1011 ‘StarGazer’, Northrup’s Firebird, and one each of NASA’s F/A-18s, T-34, and Gulfstream.

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Non-flyable aircraft that garnered much attention from the crowd were the F-16XL, SR-71, and the Darkstar mock up from the Top Gun movie. For me at least, highlights to the flying portion of the show included several flybys by four of NASA’s own aircraft and an air power display by some of Edwards’ own.

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NASA made a couple formation passes with their Gulfstream, F-15D, and a F/A-18D (former color bird from VX-23 Salty Dogs) before the two fighters broke off to demonstrate a typical sonic boom versus a low boom that will one day help bring back supersonic passenger travel to our skies. In addition, the 747SP known as SOPHIA (Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy) made a few farewell passes as it has been officially retired from service.

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The air power demo(complete with pyro) utilized one F-22, F-16Ds, F-35As, a KC-135, KC-46, C-17, and a B-1 Lancer(which did a barrel roll at the top of it’s climb after it’s high speed pass). The Aerospace Valley Airshow at Edwards is on a rotational airshow schedule with the LA County airshow at Fox field just a shirt distance away. I look forward to the show at Fox Field next year, as well as the next Edwards show scheduled for 2024.

Steve Lewis

Steve is a Southern California based photographer living in the Los Angeles area.

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