Foundation marks B-2 Spirit anniversary

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A B-2 Spirit bomber takes off July 17, 1989, from the Northrop Grumman production facility at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif., on its inaugural flight to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The B-2 would remain in the testing phase until 1993, when the first operational aircraft was delivered to Whiteman AFB, Mo. (Air Force photograph)

Amidst all the celebrations earlier this year marking the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing, another aerospace milestone almost slipped under the radar. July 17 marked the 30th anniversary of the first flight of the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.

On Oct. 19, the Flight Test Historical Foundation will commemorate the B-2’s 1989 achievement at their annual Gathering of Eagles banquet in Lancaster, Calif., The theme of this year’s celebration is “From First Flight to First Fight.”

This year’s Eagle honorees are:
• Col. Frank T. Birk, U.S. Air Force — B-2 Combined Test Force Director
• Lt. Col. William “Flaps” Flanagan, Ret. – Northrop Grumman Flight Test Weapon System Operator
• Lt. Col. Anthony A. ‘Tony’ Imondi, Ret. – Former B-2 instructor pilot
• Lt. Col. Thomas J. LeBeau, Ret. — Operational Test & Evaluation Pilot; B2 Test Pilot
• Robert G. “Bob” Myers — Northrop Grumman Vice President B-2 Flight Test
• Otto J. Waniczek — Northrop Grumman Air Vehicle Manager

The 2019 co-chairs are:
• Col. Rick Couch, Ret. — First Flight Co-pilot, First CTF Director, and a 1998 Eagle
• Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr. — B-2 Pilot, and commander of Air Force Materiel Command

The gathering will give attendees the opportunity to honor and meet some of the team members and pilots from the B-2 program.

The B-2 Spirit has participated in nearly all of America’s wars and military actions since its first flight in 1989.

The annual event is a fundraiser for the Flight Test Historical Foundation and will include a B-2 Presentation and Q&A, Eagle Recognition, dinner and Keepsake Silent Auction.

There will also be B-2 displays on hand, as well as aerospace-themed art available for sale, created by award-winning artists Doug Castleman and Mark Pestana. As official Air Force artists, dozens of their paintings are in the Pentagon Collection. Fifty percent of their sales will be donated to the Flight Test Historical Foundation.

The Gathering of Eagles is an annual celebration, hosted by the Flight Test Museum Foundation, to acknowledge significant achievements in the flight testing of aerospace vehicles. The celebration honors both significant events, and individuals, that have made these achievements possible. The Gathering of Eagles is meant to provide an avenue for camaraderie, education and a way to memorialize some of the history of flight test programs. The event is also a fundraiser, providing resources to the Air Force Flight Test Museum at Edwards Air Force Base, university scholarships, and a variety of STEM education programs.

The mission of the Flight Test Historical Foundation is to raise funds to support the development of the Air Force Flight Test Museum at Edwards Air Force Base in California, and the museum’s Blackbird Airpark Annex at Air Force Plant 42 in nearby Palmdale. The foundation’s fund-raising efforts focus primarily on museum improvements, new construction, exhibits, aircraft acquisition and restoration, and educational programs.