The Flight Test Historical Foundation will be hosting an SR-71 and U-2 50-Year Cold War Commemoration 10 a.m.,-4 p.m., April 26 at Blackbird Airpark located at Air Force Plant 42.
The Airpark is at 2509 East Ave. P in Palmdale.
The main feature of this event will be a “meet-and-greet” with Robert Gilliland, a Lockheed Martin test pilot who flew the SR-71 for the very first time 50 years ago out of Palmdale, in 1964.
“Blackbird Airpark is the only place in the world where an A-12, an SR-71, a U-2 and a D-21 drone are displayed next to each other,” said George Welsh, director and curator of the Flight Test Museum at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. “Being able to see all of these masterpieces of reconnaissance in one place is a rare opportunity for aircraft enthusiasts, while meeting pilots who flew them is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
To commemorate this special event a number of A-12, SR-71, U-2, F-117 and F-22 pilots, both past and present, will be signing books and handouts, and participating in Q&A panel discussions throughout the day.
Pilots scheduled to attend include:
U-2 Pilots: Lou Setter (Gary Powers’ U-2 instructor pilot); Tony Bevacqua (U-2 and SR-71 pilot); and Rob Rowe (U-2 Lockheed chief test pilot for NASA).
A-12 Pilots: Retired Air Force Col. Ken Collins; and retired Air Force Lt. Col. Frank Murray.
SR-71 Pilots: Bob Gilliland (SR-71 first flight pilot)’ Ed Yielding (holder of four world speed records on last SR-71 flight – Los Angeles to Washington, D.C.); B.C. Thomas (most SR-71 hours); Ray Scalise (YF-12 RSO); and Bill Flanagan (SR-71 RSO).
F-22/F-117 Pilot: James “J.B.” Brown (Lockheed F-22/F-117 chief test pilot).
In addition to aircraft viewing, this event will showcase the traveling Gary Powers U-2 exhibit, on display now through June 27 at Blackbird Airpark. This exhibit has been displayed at the Bodo Aviation Center in Bodo, Norway, the Allied Museum in Berlin, Germany, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National War College. The U-2 exhibit includes historic artifacts, photos and the Silver Star posthumously awarded to Francis Gary Powers.
“It is the mission of Flight Test Historical Foundation to preserve the rich local history of flight test through the support of the museum at Edwards AFB and Blackbird Park in Palmdale” said Lisa Gray, chair of the Flight Test Historical Foundation board of directors.