AEROSPACE VALLEY, Calif.—When two roads into Edwards Air Force Base open on the mornings of Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 15-16, tens of thousands of visitors are expected to become part of an historic event in a place where history can change daily and at triple-sonic speed.
Those visitors will be the first to attend an Edwards AFB Open House and Air Show since the once-annual event was twice suspended 13 years ago — first for security reasons after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and subsequent warfare in the Middle East, and then by shutdowns during the pandemic.
This year’s restoration of the open house and air show coincides with historic anniversaries for Edwards and the U.S. Air Force, most notably the 75th Anniversary of the first supersonic flight at Edwards in October 1947, and creation of the U.S. Air Force in the same year.
A base historian reports the first recorded air show at what is now Edwards took place on Army Day, April 6, 1945, on what was then Muroc Army Airfield. Attendance was set at 5,000 and about 1,500 of those paid to stand in line for Army chow.
Attendance blossomed in the 1950s as the Edwards mission profile expanded. And in subsequent decades appearance of legendary air and space programs, including the X-15, XB-70, NASA Space Shuttle, SR-71 Blackbird, and B-1 and B-2 bombers, propelled attendance to incredible heights. Two-day attendance at Edwards air shows totaled more than 100,000, always spurred by appearance of the Thunderbirds.
Additionally, this year base officials estimate about 10,000 school children to be bused-in on Friday for a new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Expo in massive Hangar 1600 and across a flightline ramp full of static aircraft. In another first, young eyes will witness the full airshow on the Friday that was traditionally a closed rehearsal. The base will remain closed to the public on that day.
Whether flying by, performing aerobatics, or parked for closeup inspection, things with wings are the starring attractions. And the Edwards AFB Open House is one of the few bases where such a large and comprehensive collection of military aircraft from all branches come together on rare occasions.
Many of the aircraft, including the pioneering X-Planes and America’s fleet of Space Shuttle Orbiters, first flew and landed at Edwards, one of a few places in the world where such an extraordinary family reunion is possible.
Art Thompson, Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Flight Test Historical Foundation, remarked, “While Kitty Hawk is revered for the first powered aircraft flight, the first of everything else was started here,” in the Aerospace Valley.
Visitors using the Rosamond Boulevard West Gate entry to Edwards from SR-14 (Antelope Valley Freeway) may get a first glimpse of the non-profit group’s steel walls rising from foundations poured alongside Rosamond Dry Lakebed. Ahead, and just before reaching restricted base property at the guard post, visitors will see the landmark Century Circle.
Lisa Brown, director of education and community outreach, said the museum’s educational center will be a worldwide crossroads, bringing together and inspiring future generations of aerospace technologists, engineers and research scientists.
Among the museum’s major attractions for researchers, educators and historians will be the Bob Hoover Research Library and the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP) Archives. Brown concluded, “Our mission is to elevate this Valley.”
The USAF Thunderbirds
USAFA Wings of Blue Parachute Team
C-17 Globemaster III West Coast Demo Team
From Edwards: F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II Variants, F-16 Viper, T-38 Talon, C-12 Huron, B-52 Stratofortress, B-1 Lancer, KC-135 Stratotanker, C-17 Globemaster III.
From NASA Armstrong FRC: F-15B/D Eagle, F/A-18D Hornet,
Additional Demonstrators: Ace Maker Airshows, John Colver “Wardog” Airshows, Vicky Benzing Aerosports, “Race To Mach 1” Demo
Up close and personal
From Edwards: F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II variants, F-16 Viper, T-38 Talon, C-12 Huron, B-52 Stratofortress, B-1 Lancer, KC-46 Pegasus, KC-135 Stratotanker
Other Air Force aircraft: Beale AFB, RQ-4 Global Hawk; Travis AFB, C-5M Super Galaxy and a NASA C-20A
Featured Exhibits: Calspan X-62 Vista; Scaled 281 Proteus; Rutan Long-EZ; Howard 250; Convair BT-13A; Antonov AN-2; Fairchild PT-23; Pratt & Whitney F-135 jet engine; Lockheed L-1011 Tristar “Stargazer;” Stratolaunch Talon A Hypersonic Vehicle and a Northrop Grumman Firebird; and an Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II, more popularly called the “Warthog.”
Hands-on Simulators: Popular with young and older air show fans are flight simulators, at least two of which are on schedule at Edwards. The General Atomics UAV Simulator lets the pilot replicate the missions of a real life drone pilot flying a mission from half-a-world away.
Also appearing for the Air Show and the STEM day will be the new flight simulator from AviNation Magazine, a national media platform featuring stories for and about students aspiring to careers in aviation. In the words of founder and CEO Jack Peed, “Our mission is to attract, educate, and empower youth in aviation.”
Early in the week the AviNation American Dream Tour will send aerospace speakers to high schools in Santa Monica, Bakersfield and Palmdale’s Engineering Academy.
Chase Kohler, chief of media operations for the 412th Test Wing at Edwards, said the base, located within the boundaries of three counties — Kern, Los Angeles and San Bernardino — is a benefactor to the entire regional economy. It takes more than 1,200 volunteers to operate the event.
Whether new in town or a local air show fan from way back, each visitor may have a lot in common in figuring what to expect this entirely new Aerospace Valley Air Show.
Unofficial guidance for visitors falls under the traditional motto of Edwards AFB: Ad Inexplorato, Latin for Toward the Unexplored. The motto could fit because this is the first air show at Edwards since 2009. Many things have changed. Needing to arrive early isn’t one of them.
The only two gates open to the public are West Gate on Rosamond Boulevard off SR-14, and North Gate off SR-58 north of Mojave. Gates originally scheduled to open at 8:30 a.m. are now reported online to open at 9 a.m. And both gates into the base will close 2 ½ hours later at precisely 11:30 a.m., no matter how many cars have entered or how many remain in line outside.
The old Edwards air show of old came to be known for traffic jams entering and leaving the base, especially on State Route 14, where traffic was jammed for miles.
With time, better technology, communications and collaboration between military, local and state law enforcement and transportation departments, drivers may notice improved directional signs and receive important electronic messages on mobile devices.
Entry and exit traffic movement is expected to be improved by adding one extra inbound lane in the morning, reversing that lane’s direction for exiting.
A non-official idea that might shorten waiting time at the gate for drivers coming from the south is to use the North Gate on Highway 58, which historically experienced shorter lines onto the base, and a shorter drive from gate to parking.
For those unfortunate to be sitting in line when the gates to Edwards shut at 11:30 a.m., there is an alternative aerospace landmark destination to save the day and avoid a wasted trip.
The City of Palmdale’s 26-acre outdoor Joe Davies Heritage Airpark and the adjacent Blackbird Airpark, operated by the Flight Test Historical Foundation, are located in the shadow of Air Force Plant 42, where many of the nation’s military and civilian aircraft and missiles were produced and flight tested since World War II. From SR-14, travel east on East Avenue P (Rancho Vista Blvd.)
Heritage Airpark’s inventory lists 21 aircraft, including a B-52, NASA’s 747 Shuttle Orbiter Transporter and a scale model B-2. Blackbird Airpark has the spy plane collection, including the SR-71, YF-12A and the U-2.
Both museum sites are open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays. Parking and admission are free.
While there’s no charge for entry to the Air Show or for general area parking, visitors must provide their own shade and place to sit. And with security rules limiting the size of containers, a small bag and a folding chair are the maximum. Water is free, and food and beverage concessions accept cash or major credit cards. But there are no ATM machines.
Those who can afford it may buy upgrades from several privately operated ticket vendors online. Advertised prices range from top-end VIP premium box seats just north of $700 a head, to various levels on the creature comforts scale as low as $70 per person.
One high-roller package offers, “Exclusive viewing area • In-and-out privileges from the box seating area• Dedicated concessions and restroom facilities• Children ages 3 & under admitted free (lap only)”
Then, there’s the Flight Line Club: In-and-out access from club area, front line seating in a spacious exclusive area, and reserved tables of four available for the reclusive. Single seats not available). Lunch can be catered or buffet-style, and water and soft drinks are included.
Restrooms are private and “premium.” Children ages 3 and under are free to sit on a lap. There is one proviso. No refunds on Premium/VIP tickets. But free to all are the Kids Zone, and a beer garden for grownups to buy a brew.
For more information, visit www.avairshow.com.