A celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Flight Test Historical Foundation and a reunion of Eagles took place Oct. 13 in the Grand ballroom at the University of Antelope Valley.
“It is always an honor to be with these people who made history,” said guest Barbara Little, former Lancaster mayor, an original board member of the organization and friend of Pancho Barnes. “These men here are some of the firsts. They got in an aircraft that had never been flown, knowing damn well the risks, yet, still, they took their chances. I love them all.”
The mission of the foundation is to preserve flight test history and to inspire future generations by building a museum outside the gate of Edwards Air Force Base, where once again, history can be enjoyed by the public. Over 48,000 guests visited the museum its first year, however, attendance has been cut after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Lisa Gray, chairman of the board of directors, welcomed guests and 19 Eagles including former U.S. Air Force/NASA Test Pilot Lt. Col. Fitzhugh L. “Fitz” Fulton and Voyager pilot Dick Rutan.
Masters of Ceremonies were test pilots Joe Sobczak and Dana Purifoy.
Neil Armstrong was added to the ranks of Eagle presented by Director of Dryden Flight Research Center David D. McBride.
When Armstrong was inspired to fly, he figured he had missed the best of the action; he missed all the great firsts.
“Neil thought he was born a generation too late – that all the great things had been accomplished by people like you,” said McBride. After flying more than 2,600 hours at Edwards Air Force Base in 900 different aircraft, Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon.
Accepting the Eagle pin on behalf of Armstrong was 2009 Eagle, Betty Love who was a “Computer” in 1952 and worked on all the research airplanes from the X-1 to the X-15.
The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation will match funds one-to-two – if the foundation can raise $600,000 by July 2015.
“Of course if we match it sooner, we get it sooner,” said Sobczak. Donations can now be given via Combined Federal Campaign code #44465.
Proceeds from a silent auction and portions of profits from artists Doug Castleman, Mike Machat and Mark Pestana will go towards building the museum. Membership is $25 year which includes a patch, newsletter and a 15 percent gift discount on shop merchandise.
For more information, visit www.edwardsmuseum.com.