Edwards AFB Aerospace Valley Air show 2022

From October 14 till October 16 2022 The Aerospace Valley Air Show was held at Edwards Air Force Base. The air show is an entirely new event dedicated to showcase the best of stem and aviation. Organized by the 412 Test Wing, Edwards Air Force Base, this event was the first for the base in 13 years. Celebrating a double 75th anniversary of the formation of the US Air Force and the 75 anniversary of the breaking of the sound barrier in the skies above Edwards AFB.

The base is located in California’s Antelope Valley, also called Aerospace Valley which is also home to Air Force Test Plant 42 and Mohave Air and Space Port, three aviation installations with a rich history in aviation. Many first flights took place from Edwards AFB and plenty of weapons and aircraft have been extensively tested at the base. The military base began as a stark and remote bombing range in 1933 and went on to become a major bomber training base in World War II. The Air Force Flight Test Center originated during the darkest days of the war and has since achieved more major mile stones in flight than anywhere else in the world.

Aircraft ranging from the Bell XP-59 Airacomet to the Bell X-1, the NASA space shuttle and the B-2 bomber were all first tested at Edwards AFB. This proud history continues with flight test programs like the F-35 5th gen fighter, airborne laser weapons, unmanned aerial vehicle (UHV) programs and upcoming new projects like the new USAF B-21 bomber Edwards will continue to play a very important role in the future.

75th anniversary of breaking the sound barrier

The event started on Friday and was for invited guests only. It marked the 75th anniversary of breaking the sound barrier, on 14 October 1947. Bell’s team with test pilot Chuck Yeager in the cockpit of the Bell X-1 made history as the sound barrier was broken for the first time. As part of the celebration the supersonic corridor above Edwards AFB was renamed the “Bell X-1 super sonic corridor’’.

Because of the 75 anniversary several supersonic booms were performed by fighter jets of the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center and the 412 Test Wing during the air show days. A special exhibition also took place on Friday this science, technology engineering and maths (STEM) exhibition was specially set up to inspire the young next generation, and consisted of more than 60 hands on displays, flight simulators, aircraft and several other activities. Educators, pilots and maintainers spoke enthusiastically about their jobs the exhibition was well attended and turned out to be a very successful event.

Public Air Show

The public air show on Saturday 15 October & Sunday 16 October consisted of a static and flying display. Some very unique aircraft could be seen in the static display. The most notable was the movie prop Darkstar, famous from the film Top Gun Maverick.
Darkstar was specially designed and built for Top Gun Maverick by the famous Lockheed Skunk Works at their facility at Air Force Test Plant 42 in Palmdale. Darkstar was nicely parked in the static show together with another well known Skunk Works icon, an SR-71A Blackbird which is normally kept in one of the hangars at Edwards and was placed in the static especially for the air show. Furthermore several aircraft form the based NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center could be seen in the static display. These aircraft are normally rarely seen outside Edwards.

Other aircraft included an F/A 18F and F-35C from Flight Test Squadron VX-9 from nearby NAS China Lake, a KC-30A MRTT From the Royal Australia Air Force, an F-35B from the Royal Air Force which is based at Edwards for the RAF F-35 flight test program and one of the F-35A prototype’s AF-01 were present.
Other Aircraft in the static display were aircraft from the Edwards Based 412 Test Wing or aircraft that are currently in service with the USAF like the KC-10A, KC-135R, F-22A, F16, T-38 and KC-46. Noteworthy was the based 416 flight test squadron F-16C with a special 75th anniversary tail.

There were also several civilian aircraft that took part in the static display. The last flying L-1011 Tri-Star ‘Stargazer’ from Northrop Grumman made the short flight from Mohave Air and Space Port and took part in the static show.
Also a Antonov 2 biplane and various WWII era aircraft such as a C-47 Dakota, a Lockheed L-18 Lodestar and a former Marine Corps PBJ-1 Mitchel Bomber of the Commemorative Air Force could be seen, all of the aircraft looking in pristine condition.

Flying display

The flying display started with the parachute jumpers from the USAF parachute team ‘Wings of Blue’ Jumping from a C-17 Globemaster from the 412 Test Wing. One of the para jumpers carried a beautiful large US Flag and landed close to the enthusiastic audience.
After that it was time for jet noise, as some of the based F-35’s F-22’s and F-16’s simulated the recovery of a captured airfield. Directly after that the F-35’s and F-22 were hooking up with a KC-135R Stratotanker and demonstrated Air to Air refuelling. To complete the show of force, a B-1B lancer of the 412 Test Wing demonstrated how effective they can take out an enemy, that resulted in quite a few explosions and a large wall of smoke and fire and ended with a nice victory roll.

Boeing 747SP SOFIA

During the first day of the Air Show weekend Armstrong Flight Research Center’s Boeing 747SP SOFIA made a ‘once and only’ visit to an Air Show. This specially modified Boeing 747SP carried a 17 tonne glass reflector telescope, flying into the stratosphere to an altitude of 45.000 feet to escape 99 percent of the earth’s atmospheric water vapour. It concluded its final science flight on 29 September 2022. After several fly byes for the public the aircraft landed at Edwards, after which SOFIA was towed to the Static were the public was given the opportunity to view the aircraft from the inside and had the possibility to talk with the crew.

After the last day of the Air Show ended, the aircraft departed back home. SOFIA took off for one last time from her home base NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, Air Force Test Plant 42 in Palmdale. The crew performed one last fly by over the base after which SOFIA began it’s very last flight to Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. After landing there she will be prepared for display in the Pima Air Space Museum.

Nasa was well represented in the flying program and also flew a formation consisting of an F-15B Eagle a C-20A Gulfstream III and a F/A-18B Hornet, the latter still wearing the markings of its former owner, Flight Test squadron VX-23. After various fly-bys the Eagle and Hornet left the formation, after which they climbed to higher altitude only to reappear again not much later this, time flying fast and breaking the sound barrier and creating the so called Sonic Boom. Various civilian aircraft also took part in the flying displays, a demo was flown by Gregory Colyer in his beautiful T-33 ‘Ace Maker’ and a North American SNJ-5 Texan nicknamed ‘War Dog’ was flown by John Collver. Furthermore, a P-51D Mustang participated in the flying program.

This P-51 with the name ‘Man o War’ looked like it just came out of the factory and flew a great display, this P-51D is owned by the Palm Springs Air Museum and regularly participates in Air Shows in the US. Furthermore Rob Holland flew his custom built MXS-RH Aerobatic aircraft he showed the most daring manoeuvres to the public with his MXS-RH, something you actually have to see for yourself to believe it. The flying displays ended with the US. Air Force Demonstration Team the Thunder Birds who entertained the enthusiastic crowd with their aerial performance for almost an hour.

The Edwards Air Show was a great event, especially considering that after 13 years an event was finally held again at this interesting Air Force Base.The STEM exhibition can be called a great success and for the general public it was a show to never forget. However for the aviation enthusiasts which travelled to Edwards from all over the world for the Air Show, it was also a bit disappointing at some points, as the display line facing into the sun the whole day and all the aircraft using the furthest runway far away from the general public, which meant it was a real challenge to get the images you want, which is basically impossible if you’re looking into the sun all the time.
Also the fly pass of the based fleet was missed, which is one of the highlights of the Air Show for many aviation photographers. On the other hand the Air Show still had a lot to offer and was well arranged. Many unique aircraft could be seen in both the static and flying display, aircraft from which most of them you normally don’t see at an Air Show. Let’s hope that in the not too distant future there will be another opportunity where the base will open its gates for the general public.

The team of Lowpass Aviation would like to thank Mr. Chase Kohler, chief of the PAO Media team, and the other members from the Public Affairs Office off Edwards AFB for their time and assistance.

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