The Flight Test Historical Foundation hosted an SR-71 and U-2 50-Year Cold War Commemoration at Blackbird Airpark at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif., where aerospace enthusiasts ignored the wind to collect autographs of men they have read about in history books.
Former Lockheed Martin employee Brian Beach stood first in line for autographs, even while pilots took a lunch break.
“I’m not going to lose my place – these men are legends.” Beach enjoyed listening to the pilots during an open panel discussion. “I like to hear about their clandestine missions even though I know they probably can’t tell the whole story.”
Blackbird Airpark is the only place in the world where an A-12, SR-71, U-2 and D-21 drone are displayed next to each other.
“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,” said George Welsh, Edwards AFB Flight Test Museum director/curator.
Pilots that were on site to autograph books, models and whatever fans desired were Lou Setter, Tony Bevacqua, Rob Rowe, Ken Collins, Frank Murray, Bob Gilliland, Ed Yielding, BC Thomas, Jim Shelton, Bill Flanagan, Ray Scalise and James “JB” Brown III.
“Just Google these men and you will get a history lesson,” explained Beach.
The traveling Gary Powers U-2 exhibit is on display now through June 27 at the park. Powers, a civilian pilot flying for the Central Intelligence Agency, was captured, tried for espionage, and imprisoned for 21 months- until Feb. 10, 1962, when he was exchanged for a Soviet spy, Col. Rudolf Abel.
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 exhibit includes historic artifacts, photos and the Silver Star posthumously awarded to Francis Gary Powers.
“Despite the winds we had a great turn out,” said Lisa Brown, director of education on the foundation’s board. “It was wonderful to see how much support the foundation has from the community.”
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.