New classrooms at Airpark await students

Impacts of COVID-19 did not discriminate when, this year, that virus abruptly altered the daily lives of civilian employees and military personnel alike, or essentially the entire population on earth, ranging from senior citizens to school children.

Ramifications of the virus interfered, at least temporarily, with educational plans that involved the use of two new classrooms which Palmdale School District contributed to Blackbird Airpark, located at 2503 East Avenue P in Palmdale, Calif.

Beginning on March 28, Edwards Air Force Base, the Flight Test Museum at Blackbird and the Airpark were off-limits to everyone except mission-essential personnel.

Scheduled reopening of Blackbird Airpark is still to be determined.

When the mobile classrooms were delivered to the Airpark in early March no one could foresee the widespread affects that basically put life in a holding pattern.

Lisa Brown, the volunteer Director of Education for the Flight Test Museum Foundation, who sits on the Eastside Union School District arts council, said the STEM Education programs have been successful. She described it as ironic that Palmdale School District “generously donated two classrooms to the Foundation to help accommodate more students more comfortably for this summer” when access to the Airpark has been restricted.

Despite the frustrating and actually scary conditions that COVID-19 cast locally and worldwide, people maintain hope that the virus will fade away as quickly as it came and the new classrooms at Blackbird Airpark will be filled with eager students learning about every facet of STEM Education — a goal-oriented program which focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — the basis for career development in the field of aerospace, Antelope Valley’s largest industry.

Some of the top leaders in aerospace had worked in the Antelope Valley including Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager who passed Mach 1 flying the X-1 in 1947, the first pilot confirmed to exceed the speed of sound in level flight; Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins on Apollo 11 flying to the Moon, with Armstrong known as the first person to set foot on the Moon; and U.S. Air Force Col. William J. “Pete” Knight, a Vietnam combat pilot who in 1967 set a speed record of Mach 6.7 in an X-15.

Someday a student from one of those classrooms could join the ranks of those aerospace leaders.

Each of those mobile classrooms are situated in a 24’ by 40’ trailer. The city of Palmdale solicited Webb Construction to dismantle and deliver the trailers to the Airpark along with accessible ramps.

Students attending STEM Education classes at the Airpark include those that enroll in the Junior Test Pilot School.

Blackbird Airpark is an annex of the Air Force Flight Test Museum at Edwards AFB. That facility was dedicated on Sept. 27, 1991, and displays numerous aircraft including the Lockheed SR-71A and the once secretive D-21 drone. Display of various military aircraft offers the public insight regarding the history behind U.S. innovative and technological capabilities available to the armed forces during times of war and times of peace.

The Flight Test Museum Foundation, a private nonprofit organization, serves as the fundraising arm in support of the Air Force Flight Test Museum at Edwards AFB in addition to Blackbird Airpark at Plant 42 in Palmdale.

During the closure of Blackbird the staff has kept busy upgrading museum exhibits and artifacts on display at the Airpark. The SR-71 ejection seat has been upgraded. Now, with that seat more stable, visitors can more securely take photos of themselves or their friends and family members sitting there.

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