The 2020 Aerospace Valley Hybrid Air Show is over and has claimed its place in the history books.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, and air shows around the world were cancelling, Brig. Gen. Matt Higer, the 412th Test Wing commander at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., made the decision to transform the air show experience into an online, virtual, hybrid show that would showcase what makes this area of the Southwestern United State the “Center of the Aerospace Testing Universe.”
Higer’s vision came to fruition Oct. 5-10. The first part of the week, Oct. 5-8 featured 8 hours a day of online STEM and STEM-related programing streamed live on the air show website, YouTube and Facebook.
Activities culminated Oct. 9 and 10 with aircraft flights over the California desert.
The two-day flying portion of the hybrid air show started the same way air shows at Edwards always start — with a parachute jump performed by the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Wings of Blue Parachute Team; the National Anthem; and the breaking of the sound barrier, reminding attendees that it was at Edwards Air Force Base that Capt. Chuck Yeager became the first human to break the sound barrier 73 years ago in 1947.
On Oct. 9, 11-year-old Esther Robinson sang the National Anthem; and on Oct. 10, Rachel Bradshaw, a flight engineer with the 416th Flight Test Squadron sang.
And then it was on to the flying — with Olympic-style commentary hosted by Dan Hawkins from Air Education and Training Command public affairs in San Antonio, Texas. Higer was on hand through the entire broadcast, and welcomed everyone to the air show.
“I’m thrilled to be here, and I know you’re going to have a great two days with four hours of great airplanes flying today and tomorrow,” Higer said. “This is a special place; the air we breathe, the dirt we walk on has so much history and so much potential. The people that are here are fired up to be here; we’re innovative and agile by nature, and our organizations are dynamic. This air show is just another example of how we pivoted when our nation needed us to and led the way.”
“There’s a lot of innovation here and our products are real, they are impacting your daily life now and they’re going to do so for decades into the future,” Higer said. “This hybrid air show is just one more example of what we’ve done here despite what we’ve all gone through for the past six to eight months. This is the only air show with airplanes flying this year.”
Chief Master Sgt. Ian D. Eishen, 412th Test Wing command chief, focused his opening remarks on the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) portion of the hybrid air show.
“Normally you would have one day of STEM with students on base, and then start into the real air show” Eishen said. “The best part of this hybrid solution is that it allowed us to do an entire week of STEM. We had experts in their field with offerings for elementary, middle, high school, and bilingual students.
“Students learned about physics, engineering, aerodynamics and more,” he continued. “And all the lessons are still going to be available online for anyone who wants to use them as part of their online curriculum at home.”
Throughout the broadcast, guests dropped by to impart their knowledge, skill and insight.
Guests included Maj. Gen. Christopher Azzano, commander of the Air Force Test Center (headquartered at Edwards), Col. Keith Roessig, AFTC vice commander, Col. Sebrina Pabon, commander of the Air Force Test Pilot School.
Other guests were David Vanhoy from the Test Pilot School, Kevin Rohrer from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, Justin Anthony who is part of the program to recruit and hire people at Edwards, Col. Randel Gordon, the 412th Test Wing vice commander, David Smith, the commander of Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif., Capt. Karson Roberts from the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Propulsion Branch, and Tech. Sgt. Steven Whalen, an Air Force recruiter based in Lancaster, Calif.
Day one included flights over the Antelope Valley, Tehachapi and Bakersfield, and day two included flights over Apple Valley, Fort Irwin and the Navy base at China Lake. The Air Force had crews at the various flyover locations so viewers of the livestream could see and hear what the spectators on the ground were witnessing.
Air Force aircraft taking part included the T-38 Talon, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II, B-52 Stratrofortress, C-17 Globemaster III, KC-135 Stratotanker and the C-12 Huron. NASA Armstrong aircraft taking part included the F/A-18 Hornet, the C-20 and the ER-2.
Some social media commenters expressed disappointment that the F-22 and F-35 were only flying on Friday, and the B-1 Lancer, which had been scheduled to fly both days, cancelled at the last minute. But, as Higer pointed out during the live broadcast, each of the aircraft in the air were flying actual test missions.
And so, shortly after 1 p.m., PDT, on Saturday, Oct. 10, the 2020 Aerospace Valley Hybrid Air Show came to an end.
Eishen made a point of letting the audience know that this event involved a lot of people.
“This base has been working towards this air show for over a year, and so it’s an entirety of the base that has made this air show happen,” he said. “You only see a few people on camera, and a few aircraft in the air, but this was more than a year of planning and a partnership between the Antelope Valley, LA county and all our neighbors.”
Higer thanked all those responsible for the hybrid air show, from the aircraft maintainers on the flightline to General Azzano at the Air Force Flight Test Center, from officials at Air Force Materiel Command to Headquarters Air Force, as well as civilian partners.
Looking forward, Higer had a message for all air show fans.
“We’re going to be here a year from now, this weekend in October — if you are interested in technology, the application of STEM as it involves airplanes, this is the place to be, potentially virtually again, in hybrid mode next year, but also with airplanes flying in 2021.
“But in 2022, from this ramp, on this weekend, it will be the the 75th anniversary of supersonic flight,” Higer said. “If the pandemic permits we’re going to have a traditional open house at Edwards, and keep all the good things we’ve learned from the hybrid air show this year.”
Editor’s note: If you missed the air show live stream, you can watch it at:
Day One, Part One: https://www.dvidshub.net/video/769109/aerospace-valley-airshow-day-1-part-1
Day One, Part Two: https://www.dvidshub.net/video/769112/aerospace-valley-airshow-day-1-part-2