When the global COVID-19 pandemic changed everybody’s definition of ‘normal,’ many locations cancelled their scheduled air shows for 2020.
Brig. Gen. Matthew Higer, the 412th Wing commander at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., decided, however, that the Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., air show would transition to a ‘hybrid’ model.
At the time, no one was really sure what a ‘hybrid’ air show would look like, but thanks to the hard work of a lot of people, Higer’s vision is beginning to take shape.
“I am really, really excited that we were able to take what was going to the first air show on Edwards in more than a decade and take advantage of this unique opportunity to highlight the Aerospace Valley and the Air Force.”
What is typically an in-person two-day air show is now a weeklong event that begins on Monday, Oct. 5 with online STEM classes for K-12 students, and culminates with flying displays on Oct. 9 and 10.
“We’re still going to have jets in the air over Edwards.” said Higer. However, “we’ll not be doing any type of normal air show displays, but we’ll be flying routes so people will get to see and hear the aircraft, and also learn and explore in a multi-path environment on Friday and Saturday of air show week.”
Friday and Saturday, the air show will open just like any normal Edwards’ air show — with the National Anthem, the Wings of Blue parachute team from the Air Force Academy, and the breaking of the sound barrier.
“There will be an Olympic-style live broadcast each day,” said Maj. Thomas Stuart, the air show director. “General Higer and other senior leaders will be on hand to give context to what the public is seeing in the air, what the students have seen over four days of STEM instruction, and how it relates to the mission of the base and the mission of the aircraft in the air.”
Marquette Moore, director of operations, Airfield Operations Flight at Edwards, and Air Show Boss, shared the aircraft the public can expect to see, and what routes they will be flying.
“For fighters, we’re going to have everything from F-16 Falcons, F-22 Raptors, F-35 Lightning IIs and F/A-18 Super Hornets. For bombers, we’re going to have the B-1 Lancer, B-2 Spirit and the B-52 Stratofortress; and for heavy lift, we’re going to have the C-17 Globemaster III, KC-135 Stratotanker, KC-10 Extender and the new KC-46 Pegasus,” Moore said.
There will be two routes, one for each day.
“On Friday, we’ll fly the West Route: Lancaster, Palmdale, Rosamond, Mojave, Tehachapi, Bakersfield, California City and Boron,” Moore said. “And the East Route will take place on Saturday — Lancaster, Palmdale, Hesperia, Apple Valley, Victorville, Barstow, Fort Irwin, Ridgecrest, NAS China Lake and Rosamond.”
Online STEM curriculum
But perhaps the most unique aspect of this ‘hybrid’ air show is the STEM component.
“We had already planned to do a robust virtual STEM buildup, but the weight of effort has shifted to Monday through Thursday of air show week,” said Higer.
There will be four days of virtual, online STEM classes for elementary, middle and high school students, as well as a class each day for Spanish language students.
As of Sept. 12, more than 7,000 local students had signed up for the STEM webinars. The STEM program runs from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., Oct. 5-8.
Each day starts with one-hour STEM lessons for elementary, middle and high school students. There is also a Spanish session for our second language learners and bilingual students. Interactive, virtual STEM classes run 8 a.m.-9 a.m. for elementary students, 9-10 a.m. for middle school students, 10-11 a.m. for high school students, and 11 a.m.-noon for Spanish language students.
Visit www.avairshow.com to download instructions as well as a list of supplies needed for the different activities on each day.
“I think it will be very helpful for parents, students and teachers,” said Higer. And for those teachers who are concerned about their existing curriculum, Edwards has thought of that as well.
“Helida Vanhoy has mapped our hours to Common Core standards and other standard curriculum standards, so that (teachers) can potentially offset their curriculum throughout the rest of their grading period, and know what learning benefit we are going to help them instruct, and maybe even be principal guest instructors on,” Higer said.
Vanhoy is the 412th Test Wing STEM coordinator, and Aerospace Valley Air Show STEM Boss.
“For teachers, we have classes they can connect to, with next-generation science standards and common core state standards,” said Vanhoy. “For students we have elementary, middle and high school lessons; and we even have Spanish sessions for our second language learners and bilingual students.
“Keep in mind, for the career readiness schools, we also have career subject matter experts that will be presenting and sharing their experiences with you, as well as answering any questions you may have,” she added.
Edwards AFB virtual tour
From noon-1 p.m., Monday-Thursday, Edwards AFB will be sharing some of the inner workings of the base. On each of the four days, there will be video tours of the base, including the Air Force Test Pilot School (Monday), the F-35 Combined Test Force (Tuesday), the F-22 Combined Test Force (Wednesday), and the Benefield Anechoic Facility (Thursday).
This is followed by presentations from community and industry partners, running from 1 to 2 p.m.
From 3-4 p.m. daily, there will be a STEMposium.
“High quality, engaging, hands-on STEM activities for all of our students really helps fuel their aspirations and goals and lets them see themselves in these fields as they grow up,” said Diane Walker, STEM community coordinator and a founding member of the Antelope Valley East Kern STEM Network. “I truly believe that the more these opportunities are available and filled locally, the better it is for our community as a whole.”
“Our AV-East Kern STEM network is also a proud partner in hosting our 8th annual STEMposium throughout the week, including some outstanding student and industry presentations,” Walker said. “These include both elementary, middle and high school presentation and presentations from industry partners such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Virgin Galactic and some post-secondary presentations as well; so we’re very happy to be a part of it.”
As of Sept. 15, more than 7,000 students have registered for the STEM classes and there is no deadline for registration.
The Zoom platform has a maximum capacity of 10,000 people, but the air show team is also planning on sharing the classes on other platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.
“We’re using multiple platforms for the STEM program,” said Stuart. “And while there’s a limit on the number of people that can use the Zoom platform, we’re also going to push the same content out live to YouTube and Facebook and possibly other platforms, so there’s no limit on participation that way.”
Some of the subjects for the STEM classes include: Four Forces of Flight and Newton’s 3rd Law; Balance LAV Payload; Waves And Their Applications; Shock Absorbing Landing System; Motion, Energy and Stability; History of Flight; Air Traffic Control; and Urban Air Mobility.
Higer emphasized that this year, Edwards is taking the air show to the people.
“We really are focusing on taking this to the people in the medium that’s available,” he said. “Monday-Thursday in the STEM and virtual STEM environment, we are taking it out to anyone who has access; not just those who would normally be able to bus in, so there’s really no geographical limit on the schools that can register and the students that can learn and participate in this. That’s taking this part of the ‘air show to the people’ in a very broad sense.
“In addition to that, where we will have aircraft flying in the community, we will also be ‘out to the people,’” he said. “We can’t allow the people on the installation at this time because of the pandemic restrictions.”
Higer also expressed how important the air show weekend is from a historical perspective.
“This weekend is the anniversary of the first supersonic flight, so it’s an opportunity to showcase what this Valley does and what the community has to offer the nation,” he said, “It’s the weekend we have traditionally had our air shows in the Aerospace Valley.
“One year from now, in 2021, the center of focus for this event will be in the Valley, but at our civilian partners’ location,” Higer said, referring to the Los Angeles County Air Show scheduled for October 2021. “Two years from now, in 2022 it will be back at Edwards for, hopefully, a COVID-resolved air show, that is also the 75th anniversary of the Air Force and the 75th anniversary of the first supersonic flight. So if you want to see great things in aerospace, the long weekend in October is the time to do it, and the place to do it is in and around the Aerospace Valley.”
For more information on the Aerospace Valley Air Show, including STEM sign ups, visit www.avairshow.com.