October 17, 2009: Edwards Air Show "Flight Test Nation 2009"

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  • Air Force Flight Test Center

Over 100,000 aviation enthusiasts streamed onto Edwards Air Force Base for “Flight Test Nation 2009,” the first Air Force Flight Test Center Open House and Air Show in three years. Pent-up demand was evident in the long lines of cars backed up as far as the town of Rosamond on California highway 14. Among the static displays was the first F-35 “Lighting” test aircraft, AA-1, while the F‑22 “Raptor” participated for the first time in the aerial demonstration. As an observer one noted:  “The [F-22] displayed moves that seemed to defy the laws of physics, hovering in a vertical climb, descending horizontal to the ground and flipping around in ways not seen by other airplanes.”  Former Air Force test pilots Brig Gen Chuck Yeager, USAF, retired, and Maj Gen Joe Engle, USAF, retired, opened the 2009 show with the traditional sonic boom salute and closed the day with a discussion of their flight test careers, moderated by former “Good Morning America” host David Hartman, who had been friends with both for many years.

Flight Test Nation 2009 astounded 225,000 visitors from across the world as they got the opportunity to see some of the nation's newest aircraft along with various historical ones.  Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the X-15, FTN-09 was the first Air Show hosted by Team Edwards since 2006.  "The eager public, over 200,000 in total, lined up early and our security forces were ready for them. They started early and they went very late to ensure our guests got off the base safely," said Maj. Gen. David Eichhorn, Air Force Flight Test Center commander. "We did our level best to expedite the flow but so many people knew how great Flight Test Nation 2009 was going to be that some lengthy delays were inevitable. So we adapted again and extended the hours of the open house to 5 p.m. so those that gave effort to be here could enjoy it for a while."  To kick off the aerial demonstrations, famed X-15 pilot, Maj. Gen. Joe Engle and the first person to break the sound barrier, Brig. Ben. Chuck Yeager, broke the sound barrier in two F-16 Fighting Falcons."Sixty-two years ago Chuck broke the sound barrier and solved the problem of flying through the sound barrier and keeping control of the aircraft," said General Engle.  General Engle continued by asking folks to take the time to thank military men and women when they see them, for all they are doing for the country.  Headlining the event was the Army Golden Knights Parachute Team and Tora! Tora! Tora!, a reenactment of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The event was closed by the Air Force Flight Test Center fly by, which featured various aircraft currently being tested here.  "The public was exposed to what I believe was the greatest collection of aircraft ever amassed at an Air Show," said General Eichhorn. "The F-35 Lightening II made its Air Show debut! The White Knight II flew by and was put on static display next to it older brother White Knight I. National Test Pilot School at Mojave brought over some of their aircraft and Global Hawk was basking in the public glow as well. There was a long line of people to go through the NASA SOPHIA Boeing 747. All this and our regular stable of aircraft which includes (F-22) Raptors, (T-38) Talons, (F-16) Vipers, BUFFs (B-52s), BONEs (B-1s), (B-2) Spirits, (F/A-18) Hornets, (F-15) Eagles, etc, etc, etc. All Edwards has to do to have a great show is open the hangar doors but we did so much more!"  During the Air Show hundreds of enlistees recited the oath of enlistment at center stage and were sworn in by General Eichhorn.

"The public was also privileged to witness the enlistment ceremony for about 200 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines," said General Eichhorn. "I officiated the oath of enlistment and was joined on stage by a multi-service honor guard, and representatives from each of the services. In addition, Yeager and Engle joined me as well to show their support for America's finest! What a privilege for me to do the ceremony! What a great start to their careers!"  Following the aerial demonstrations, was a conversation with General Yeager and General Engle moderated by David Hartman in Hangar 1600.  "For over an hour, (David) Hartman and his guests enthralled the audience in our big hangar," added General Eichhorn. "How does one get to be a legend of flight test? Well, (General) Yeager and (General) Engle described their paths to stardom and it was fascinating! Their paths were full of challenges and opportunities that they were smart enough to tackle both!  General Yeager, who flew 127 missions in Viet Nam said he has flown with every military in the world and said no one can match the U.S. He told the crowd he appreciated that they came to the air show to see where their tax dollars are going.  To host an event with so many spectators, coordination had to be made and for the past several months, General Eichhorn said that he was happy with every aspect of the event and Team Edwards team effort is what allowed the base to pull this off.  "So much preparation went into this event, where do I start," asked General Eichhorn. "Security, maintenance, medical, operations, civil engineering, protocol, public affairs, The Air Force Flight Test Center Museum, The Civilian-Military Group, safety, Finance, Communications, Scaled Composites, National Test Pilot School, National Aeronautics and Space Administration and all the local communities that issued proclamations of unequivocal support. It took the best out of all of them and their best was what they delivered! Now, so many to thank - so hard, no, it's impossible to find the right words.  Flight Test Nation 2009 is now in the history books as the new standard in Air Show excellence! I can't wait for 2011!"

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