Gathering of Eagles

Boeing’s X-32 (left) and Lockheed Martin’s X-35, competed in what became known as the “Battle of the X-Planes” to win the contract for the next-generation fighter for US and allies. This year’s Gathering of Eagles will recognize those involved in this battle, while raising funds to support the Flight Test Museum Foundation.

LANCASTER — Tickets are on sale for the annual Gathering of Eagles, on Oct. 23, an event that celebrates the region’s aerospace heritage and raises funds for the Flight Test Museum Foundation in its efforts to share that history, while inspiring and educating the next generation.

This year’s event will recognize those involved with the “Battle of the X-Planes,” the fly-off competition between Boeing’s X-32 and Lockheed Martin’s X-35 to produce the next-generation fighter for multiple US and allied services.

The X-35 ultimately won the contest, and Lockheed Martin was awarded the contract for what became the F-35 Lightning II in 2001.

“It should be a really fun night with this friendly competition. These guys all know each other and all worked together in the past,” Foundation Director of Education Lisa Brown said. “It was a fierce competition, but (there was) a lot of camaraderie between these guys.”

The gathering in honor of the 20th anniversary of the contest will be held at the Antelope Valley College Performing Arts Theater. It will begin at 5 p.m. with an outdoor reception in front of the theater. This “Taste of the Antelope Valley” will feature beer and wine tasting and appetizers, included in the ticket price, and live music from local artists. Food trucks will also be on hand with their offerings for an additional cost.

Following the reception, the event will move indoors to the theater for the awards ceremony and program.

Many of the pilots and others involved in bringing these unique aircraft to flight will be hand. Six people from the competing joint strike fighter team will be honored as Eagles, as well as the joint test force and contractor teams involved. The PBS Nova documentary “The Battle of the X-Planes” will also be recognized.

Several will participate in a panel about the competition, followed by a question-and-answer period from the audience.

Tom Morgenfeld, a decorated test pilot and Eagle who was Chief Test Pilot for the X-35 flew the first flight of the X-35, will serve as Honorary Chairman.

The Gathering of Eagles raises funds to support development and operation of the Air Force Flight Test Museum at Edwards Air Force Base and the satellite Blackbird Airpark in Palmdale, as well as scholarships and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) educational programs. The Foundation is working to build a new museum outside the Edwards’ gates, where it will be easily accessible to all.

To that end, the gathering will feature a silent auction, as well as an aerospace art exhibit with original paintings and prints for sale. The artists are donating 50% of the proceeds from those sales to the Foundation to help fund the new Museum.

In addition, limited edition posters and Modernica chairs by internationally-renowned photographer and artist Jim Krantz will be available as gifts for donations in support of the Museum’s F-117 and SR-71 aircraft displays.

Tickets are $35 for the reception only and $75 for the reception and following program. They may be purchased online through the Foundation website at www.afftcmuseum.org/goe2021

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