EDWARDS AFB — Edwards Air Force Base is well known for cutting-edge aerospace technology and history-making events. The world’s premier flight test facility has another innovation to brag about — pulling off the first-of-its-kind Aerospace Valley Hybrid Air Show.
This weekend was supposed to be the first air show at Edwards in 11 years, the kind that attracts tens of thousands of people to the historic base. The COVID-19 pandemic forced base officials to change plans. Rather than cancel the air show outright, 412th Test Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Matthew Higer announced a hybrid event instead.
“We broke another barrier today. No one had ever done a hybrid air show,” Higer said Friday.
The weeklong event began Monday and featured four days of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics webinars for thousands of students across the nation to help inspire them to pursue a STEM career.
After learning about the science behind flying, students watched the aircraft fly on Friday. The aircraft will take to the air again today for the conclusion of the air show.
Friday’s flyover event started from Edwards AFB and took a west route. The aircraft flew over Lancaster, Palmdale, Rosamond, Mojave, Tehachapi, Bakersfield, California City and Boron. The goal was to inspire the next generation of engineers, scientists, and pilots.
“Right here at Edwards Air Force Base we’re testing the next generation of weapon systems and it’s happening in your backyard,” Capt. David “Mack” Guerrero said. “Every time you see a military aircraft flyover, it’s someone working here working on the next advancement of technology.”
The aircraft will fly the east route today, The livestream begins at 10:30 a.m. (https://www.facebook.com/EdwardsAirForceBase/).
Flyover times start at 11 a.m. from Edwards, then on to Rosamond, Lancaster, Palmdale, Victorville, Apple Valley, Hesperia, Barstow, Fort Irwin and China Lake.
Today’s aircraft are the T-38 Talon, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, B-52 Stratofortress, B-1 Lancer, C-17 Globemaster III, KC-135 Stratotanker, C-20, ER-2 and C-12 Huron.
Friday’s event included a media ride on the C-17, piloted by Lt. Col. Zack “Scrape” Schaffer, commander of the 418 Flight Test Squadron.
“We do flight tests and all of the mobility platforms we have here at Edwards,” Schaffer said.
The C-17 is a beast of an aircraft. It is 174 feet long, 55 feet, one inch high, and has a wingspan measuring 169 feet, 10 inches. The cargo compartment is 88 feet long, 18 wide, and 12 feet, four inches tall.
“This airplane flies really nimble. It has a stick instead of yoke and so it flies like a dream. You really do lose track of how big it is until you come walking down the stairs and you look and you’re like, Oh, man. It’s big,” Schaffer said.
Schaffer added the aircraft was designed to span all types of airlift missions.
“It can haul stuff really far but it can also land in really short, austere airfields,” Schaffer said.
Schaffer led the introduction to the virtual high school STEM event on Wednesday. He encouraged students to think about what they like.
“Think about what it is that you’re interested in and what you like and then go do the research and figure out what that career field looks like to work in and around that, and then just go do it,” Schaffer said.
Avionics technician Kevin Dinh is in charge of special instrumentation for the C-17.
“I’m an IT guy; I run the computers for the servers on board and I also record the flight test,” Dinh said.
Staff Sgt. Kori Myers, the load master on the C-17, is a Desert High School graduate, Class of 2012. She joined the Air Force in 2014.
The C-17 cargo aircraft is capable of rapid strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to main operating bases or directly to forward bases in the deployment area, according to description.
“We had a mock-up of the Orion space capsule in here,” Myers said. “We actually air-dropped the fake capsule with the parachutes on it from 35,000 feet.”
Myers opened the C-17’s cargo door for much of the flight, which lasted about 90 minutes. Myers on the edge of the cargo door, secured with tethers to the aircraft.
The flight was a little noisy and bumpy at times but otherwise exciting, in particular when the aircraft banked while the cargo door was open.
Engineer Roger Arauz is a discipline engineer who tests aircraft systems after improvements are made.
“We create a test to make that whatever the designer intended is actually what’s going into the system,” Arauz said.
Arauz has a bachelor of science degree in aerospace from Cal Poly Pomona.
“When I came out from college I thought I was going to be working at a cubicle bar, working on a boat 10 days out of the month,” Arauz said. “But in reality I ended up working for the Navy and got to do a lot of cool stuff like firing missiles, going to travel and different analysis than what I expected. Then I came out here and I’m flying in the back of a jet. It’s more than I was aware of I could do with a STEM degree. It’s been a blast. I’m going back for my master’s to get more education in me and help the mission more.”
Visit avairshow.com for details about today’s event.