Edwards 2020 air show evolving into hybrid event

Crowds pack the Edwards flight line during the 2006 Open House and Air Show. Brig. Gen. Matt Higer, commander of the 412th Test Wing, announced June 19 that the 2020 air show will evolve into a hybrid, online event. (Air Force photograph)

Aviation enthusiasts worldwide who had been anticipating a return to air shows at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., this fall will have to wait a little longer.

Brig. Gen. Matt Higer, commander of the 412th Test Wing, announced that the October air show, scheduled for Oct. 10 and 11, will now be a hybrid air show.

Many people had been eagerly looking forward to the first open house and air show on Edwards since 2009, but the coronavirus pandemic has forced the base to look at a different way of doing things.

“We are not going to have a whole bunch of people on the installation,” Higer said during a June 19 Facebook live town hall. “We’re not going to have a whole bunch of boots on the ground, static displays, or buses all over that weekend.”

The last public air show and open house at Edwards was in 2009.

Base leadership and the air show planning team is, however, working on this hybrid event.

“The style and the venue are going to morph, but there’s still going to be a lot of exciting stuff to look at both at Edwards and Fox Field in Lancaster,” said Higer.

From left: Retired Maj. Gen. Joe Engle, Maj. Gen. Curt Bedke, then commander of the Air Force Flight Test Center, Chuck Yeager, and then Lancaster Mayor Frank Roberts watch the 2005 Open House and Air Show at Edwards AFB. For several years, Yeager would open the air show by recreating his 1947 flight that broke sound barrier. (Air Force photograph)

“We are going to have a bunch of iron on our ramp, and potentially on the ramp at Fox Field,” Higer explained. “It’s going to morph into something like a parade of planes.

“The air show planning team is going to put together a hybrid event — we will have airplanes in the sky over the Antelope Valley. We will have some YouTube hits, 360-degree views of the airplanes, and possibly live cast the parade on the Friday.”

Higer said there is the possibility that there will be in-air events both before and after the weekend. The base is also looking at hosting some live stream events after the weekend with the Airmen flying the aircraft with the possibility of real-time Q&A sessions.

Higer explained there are two reasons for having some kind of event over that weekend.

“That’s an important weekend for the Aerospace Valley, and we need to cement it this year,” he said. The Edwards air show is traditionally scheduled to coincide with the anniversary of Chuck Yeager’s breaking of the sound barrier in October 1947.

“It’s a time we need to tell the nation, frankly the world, that if you want to see awesomeness on the cutting edge of aerospace, that’s the weekend to do it, and Fox Field or Edwards are the place to do it for at least the next three years, probably enduring,” the commander explained. “That’s why this event is so critical that we have something that people can resonate with.”

The second point Higer made is to maintain the focus on STEM.

“It is really important is that what we are morphing to preserves a lot, maybe all, maybe more, of the learning and motivational experience of science, technology, engineering and math education that air show s and airports and Air Force bases do — and that’s one of the ingredients in the ‘secret sauce’ that I’ve asked to continue and we’re going to continue push out on that.”

The next on base air show will be in October 2022 and, according to Higer, is beingi planned as a traditional air show. Edwards is expecting 100,000-plus people to attend.

“The first day of the 2022 air show, Oct. 14, will be the 75th anniversary of the X-1 [with Chuck Yeager at the controls] breaking the sound barrier for the first time,” Higer said. “So a huge historical alignment for that air show.”

Retired Brig. Gen. Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager (left) and Brig. Gen. Robert C. Nolan II, then Air Force Flight Test Center commander, get ready to fly faster than the speed of sound in an F-16 during a morning flight over the Mojave Desert, Oct. 14, 2011. Yeager visited Edwards, where he broke the sound barrier in 1947, to help celebrate the 60th anniversary of the AFFTC. For many years, Yeager would open the Edwards Open House and Air Show by recreating his famous 1947 flight. (Air Force photograph by Rob Densmore)

Long-time residents of the Antelope Valley will remember when Yeager would re-enact his historic flight to open the air show each year — sending a massive sonic boom reverberating across the desert. The most recent was in 2009.

The next air show in the Antelope Valley will be the Los Angeles County Air Show Oct. 15-17 at William J. Fox Field in Lancaster.

“We are going to participate as, if you will, a junior partner per se, with the organization hosting the air show in at Fox Field,” Higer said. “We will participate and go full in as we were planning to in March of this year before the LACAS was canceled due to the COVID-19 crisis.”

Higer concluded the air show segment of his town hall by saying that more information would be forthcoming.

“More as we get updates — but look for it, get up and get pumped for it. I’m super excited about what we’ve got,” he said.

The LA County Air Show started in 2014 in response to most military bases cancelling air shows in response to sequestration budget cuts. In that time, both the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Navy Blue Angels have headlined the event.

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