Edwards AFB Airshow & Open House 2022: In the 13 years since Edwards air force base last hosted an air show, a lot has changed. Fifth generation aircraft now rule the skies and innovation is driving new technologies for America and her allies. The development and testing of new technology for many years has been centred around “Aerospace Valley”, the area includes Edwards AFB, Mojave Air and Space Port and United States Air Force (USAF) Plant 42. The theme of the events taking place at Edwards AFB to celebrate the 75th anniversary of both the USAF and the breaking of the sound barrier was “breaking tomorrow’s barriers today” which also included a record breaking science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) exhibition. The entire event was headlined by the United States Air Force Thunderbirds Flight Demonstration Team, and took place between 14th and 16th October 2022.
2022 is the 75th anniversary of the United States Air Force and also the 75th anniversary of supersonic flight, Edwards AFB celebrated the milestones with supersonic booms and a memorable air show. On 14th October 1947, Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1, this aviation milestone was celebrated 75 years later to the day at Edwards AFB, with a ceremony honouring the team that drove the achievement. As part of the celebration, the supersonic corridor above the airbase was renamed the “Bell X-1 Supersonic Corridor”. The exact time of the breaking of the sound barrier was marked 75 years later by a series of supersonic booms followed a short time later by another series of supersonic booms as the corridor was renamed.
A STEM exhibition also took place on Friday 14th October for the younger members of the communities from around Aerospace Valley and the wider community. The largest STEM expo in USAF history, the aim was simple, to inspire tomorrow’s generation today. The expo consisted of 60 hands-on displays and activities including flight simulators and robotics, as well as many other inspiring activities for the young crowd. From what was witnessed, the young audience were very excited and the activities on offer seemed to go down very well with the enthusiastic crowd.
The public air show over the weekend, consisted of both static and flying displays. One of the most notable static displays was the movie prop “Darkstar” from the film Top Gun Maverick. Darkstar was designed and built for the film by the famous Lockheed Martin “Skunk Works”, famous for their iconic, cutting edge aircraft such as the SR-71 and U-2 spy plane.
Other static aircraft included all three variants of the F-35 Lightning II, various NASA aircraft including the recently retired Boeing 747 Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Observatory (SOFIA), a KC-30A from 33 squadron Royal Australian Air Force and an F-35B from 17 squadron Royal Air Force. Other notable jets included a preserved SR-71 and F-16XL as well as many different aircraft currently on test or in use with USAF. A 416th Flight Test F-16C with a specially marked 75th anniversary tail was shown for the first time to celebrate the occasion. Merchandise including patches and coins were readily available in front of most of the static displays, for eager members of the public to purchase souvenirs from the day.
The flying display opened with the USAF parachute display team “Wings of Blue” gracefully returning to earth to the sound of the national anthem. It goes without saying that you could hear a pin drop during the rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. The following act filled the sky with noise: the USAF flight demonstration. This included a refuelling demonstration by a KC-135R with a flight of F-22A and F-35A waiting to receive the fuel. Shortly afterwards, F-16 jets were intercepted by the refuelled jets and close air support was provided whilst more parachutist dropped onto the airfield from the back of a C-17A Globemaster. A B-1B bomber also bombed the airfield to simulate suppression of enemy forces, this was all done to a pyrotechnic display on the ground to add realism to the demonstration.
Civilian acts also took part in the flying display: Vicky Benzing in her WWII Stearman training aircraft, Rob Holland in the MXS-RH with an aerobatic display that has to be seen to be believed, Gregory Colyer in the beautiful T-33 “Ace Maker”, John Collver in the SNJ-5 Texan named “War Dog”, a privately owned P-51D “Man O’ War”, Chuck Coleman in the Extra 300L, Vertigo Airshows in the Super Salto Jet Sailplane and Dawn Patrol Formation Airshows.
NASA flew a demonstration that began with a formation flypast. The formation consisted of a Gulfstream C-20A, a McDonnell Douglas F/A-18B Hornet, formerly of VX-23 with a specially marked tail from its former squadron and a NASA marked McDonnell Douglas F-15B Eagle. The Hornet and Eagle left the formation to climb to 49,000 feet. This was to be a supersonic boom demonstration, showcasing the progression being made by NASA to “quieten” the sonic boom. First, the Eagle broke the sound barrier in level flight making the standard loud sonic boom, then shortly afterwards, the hornet broke the sound barrier whilst diving from altitude. The sonic boom was much quieter, this research will culminate shortly in the flying of a new X plane, the X-59 QueSST. The X-59 is being built by Lockheed Martin as part of the low boom demonstration project. It is hoped the research will allow the use of supersonic passenger aircraft over land, a practice that is currently banned by the Federal Aviation Administration. If successful, aircraft transit times would be dramatically cut, heralding a new era of supersonic passenger aircraft.
The airshow flying display finished with the United States Air Force Thunderbirds Flight Demonstration Team. The patriotic crowd cheered and whooped during the 60 minute performance whilst the F-16 Fighting Falcon demonstrated its agility through many different formations and opposing passes.
After a 13 year pause, Edwards AFB air show was a very welcome event, that attracted people not just from the surrounding areas, but from all over the world. The rich heritage that Edwards AFB has to offer is well know by the enthusiast and despite many of us having a “wish list” of participants, the show still had many unique and cutting edge aircraft on display, and achieved its main goal which was to inspire the next generation whilst celebrating its many milestones in aviation history. The show was very well planned and that helped towards a very enjoyable experience by all that attended.
Jason Grant and Paul Newbold would like to extend their thanks to the Public Affairs Team on Edwards AFB and especially to Chase Kohler, Chief of Media at the 412th Test Wing, without whom, this article would not have been possible.
You can find out more about the work carried to at Edwards AFB here: https://www.edwards.af.mil
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