PALMDALE — Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale is under new leadership, but one with a very familiar face.
David Smith took over from Col. Dwayne Robison during a ceremony held Wednesday and presided over by Brig. Gen. Matthew Higer, commander of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base.
Plant 42 is an operating location for the test wing.
Smith has a lengthy history with Edwards AFB, having served there for nearly two decades as inspector general and most recently as installation support director.
As such, Smith has often been the face of Edwards AFB to the community, working with various community organizations.
Prior to his time at Edwards, Smith served in the Air Force as a B-52 Stratofortress navigator before taking on civilian duties with the service.
According to an Edwards AFB account of the ceremony, Smith recalled dreaming as a child of being part of the Aerospace Testing Universe as exemplified by Edwards, and his new assignment to Plant 42 was “absolutely humbling.”
“I’m humbled to back-fill an outstanding leader in Col. Robison,” Smith said. “I’m excited about this opportunity because I stand on the shoulders of giants.”
As director of Plant 42, Smith, like Robison before him, will lead the support team of more than 8,500 contractor and governmental personnel providing airfield operations, security, law enforcement, fire protection, communications, logistics and civil engineering services.
“The image I want all of you to see in your brains…is that image of an amazingly strong human; strong in mind, strong in body and strong in heart, and in this case, an amazingly strong senior leader as well, that’s critically holding the weight of his duty on his shoulders,” Higer said about Robison, according to the Edwards’ account.
Located on Palmdale’s northern boundary and marked by hangars visible for miles, the government-owned, contractor-operated production flight test facility has long been home to the biggest names in aerospace like Lockheed, Rockwell, Northrop and North American.
Today, the 5,900-acre facility between Sierra Highway and 50th Street East and Avenues P and M houses the “big three” defense companies: Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman Corp. and Boeing.
In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration operates an air traffic control center in its building on the site.
Aside from its role as the birthplace for many of the nation’s aircraft, from stealth fighters to space shuttles and airliners to drones, Plant 42 plays an important part as an economic engine for the region.