Warford 2020

Walk down Lancaster Boulevard and within just a few blocks you will see impressive monuments and murals dedicated to aerospace legends.

Among them: Neil Armstrong, Pete Knight and Chuck Yeager.

Think about this: No one in all of human history beat Armstrong to the moon, no one in all of human history flew faster than Knight, and no one in all of human history beat Yeager through the sound barrier.

Not bad.

I’m told that one night after Lancaster’s Aerospace Walk of Honor dinner, Knight invited the other two over to his place for a beer, and they sat and told stories.

How would you like to have been a fly on that wall?

It would be like listening to Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ty Cobb talk baseball. Or Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon talk songwriting.

All three are gone now, Yeager this week at 97. But their exploits live on, and our community can walk down the Boulevard and take pride – “Yes, these legends all lived and worked here.”

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You should take your kids or grandkids down to see the murals and monuments on the Boulevard, teach them about our well-deserved reputation as Aerospace Valley.

I don’t think we do a good enough job of teaching kids our aerospace history, based on conversations I have had with young people.

Even my school, The Palmdale Aerospace Academy, has in my view plenty of room for improvement in that area.

After Yeager’s death, I tried to show my students a video summarizing AV aviation history and could not find one online that fit what I was looking for.

There may be one; I just didn’t find it in my fairly short Google search.

It would be nice if there were something in the 15- to 20- minute range that encapsulated some of the milestones and gave overviews of the accomplishments of the likes of Armstrong, Yeager and Knight.

It could give highlights from the old days of Edwards AFB (when it was still Muroc) through the latest innovations at the Mojave Air & Spaceport.

If anyone knows of such a video, please send me a link.

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In search for AV aerospace videos, I did find an entertaining one on the infamous Battle of Palmdale.

I have written about the incident before, based on old newspaper stories, but had never seen video footage.

The Battle of Palmdale is something upon which we can look back and laugh, but it was not funny at the time and could have been deadly serious.

In case you have never read about it before, the 1956 incident involved a runaway drone from Pt. Mugu Naval Air Station near Oxnard.

Interceptor aircraft — Northrop 89-Ds from Oxnard AFB — went aloft with a goal of shooting down the drone, lest it crash into a heavily populated area such as, oh, downtown Los Angeles.

They fired a lot of rockets at the drone and they missed, sending the rockets to land in Palmdale and Newhall, narrowly missing some people and igniting some substantial brushfires.

Two fellows eating lunch in their work truck decided to get out and sit underneath the shade of a tree instead. Good move. Second later an errant rocket crash downed and destroyed their truck.

Let’s just say the Battle of Palmdale is probably one to omit from our highlight reel of aviation milestones.

William P. Warford’s column appears every Friday and Sunday.

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