Guests and members at the Palmdale Chamber of Commerce luncheon got a special treat when Danny Bazzell, the new general manager of the Flight Test Historical Foundation, gave an impromptu introduction of the Air Force Flight Test Museum at Edwards Air Force Base, the Blackbird Airpark and the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark in Palmdale.
“There is nothing else quite like it out there anywhere in the world,” said Bazzell, speaking of the museum at Edwards. “You can go to any aviation museum — Chino, Torrance or the California Science Museum and you will see planes on a stick, but what sets ours apart is our history.” Every aircraft displayed at Edwards is a first of its kind, a prototype or flew its first flight at Edwards.
With a show of hands, not many members have visited the museum at Edwards. Since Sept. 11, 2001, Edwards has been closed to the general public.
“Unfortunately, it currently takes about six months to get on a public tour of the museum at Edwards,” said Bazzell, adding that he would work on a special visit for the Palmdale Chamber.
The current 2,000-square foot museum holds a small gift shop, a full-size YF-22 and other remarkable memorabilia; however; more space is needed for the STEM interactive area and other displays. It also needs to be relocated outside of the secure area of Edwards.
In the pre-computer days, engineers designed and built supersonic aircraft on slide rule and on paper.
Bazzell spoke of the phenomena around the SR-71.
“When it flew, it actually expanded, got red hot and the structure became stronger with each flight,” said Bazzell. “Imagine what you can learn from that alone when designing aircraft and spaceships.”
The foundation is hoping to expand the museum with a world class interactive learning center and move it outside Edwards’ secure area by 2020.
Fifteen to 20,000 people visit Edwards and Blackbird Air Park each year. With easy access, Bazzell said an estimated 100,000 would visit the first year of opening the new museum.
“When you have a world-class tourist destination, people will come,” said Bazzell. “When tour busses stop at the Joe Davies Heritage Park and Blackbird Air Park, they sometimes buy out the entire inventory — people of all ages are very interested in aircraft and technology.”
Bazzell said bricks can be purchased and engraved for $100 and will pave the walkway around the new museum. “It is a great way to honor someone or an organization, and they make a great gift for someone who has everything and they will become a part of the history.”
Thirty-four acres are currently being environmentally assessed for a new 160,000 square foot museum to be built outside the west gate at Edwards.
Additionally, the foundation is in negotiations that will bring two World War II-era hangars from a site in Los Angeles up to the Antelope Valley. The hangars were scheduled to be bulldozed. This alone will save about 50 percent of the construction cost. About $7 million more is needed to complete the project.