Face coverings at the MPF, CAC/DEERS, ID cards, Commissary, BX and Shopette are mandatory!  All Civilian, Active Duty members and dependents are reminded to avoid visiting the Commissary, Base Exchange, Bldg 3000 and the Pharmacy on Wednesdays. Retirees are also being seen on Wednesdays at the CAC/DEERS office by appointment only.  Please call 661-277-4281 option 3, to make an appointment.

Ridley Mission Control Center turns 30

Col. Jackie L. Ridley, while stationed at Edwards in the 1940s.  (Official Air Force photo)

Col. Jackie L. Ridley, while stationed at Edwards in the 1940s. (Official Air Force photo)

Col. Jackie L. Ridley 's widow, Mrs. Nell Ridley Loe, and retired Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager (right of the door) cut the ceremonial ribbon to the Ridley Mission Control Center, June 12, 1980.  General Yeager, who flew with Colonel Ridley and was a close friend, said supersonic flight may not have been achieved without Colonel Ridley's analysis and intellect. (Official Air Force photo)

Col. Jackie L. Ridley 's widow, Mrs. Nell Ridley Loe, and retired Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager (right of the door) cut the ceremonial ribbon to the Ridley Mission Control Center, June 12, 1980. General Yeager, who flew with Colonel Ridley and was a close friend, said supersonic flight may not have been achieved without Colonel Ridley's analysis and intellect. (Official Air Force photo)

The Ridley Mission Control Center celebrates it 30th year, June 12. (Air Force photo by Kenji Thuloweit)

The Ridley Mission Control Center celebrates its 30th year, June 12. (Air Force photo by Kenji Thuloweit)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The heart of the Air Force Flight Test Center turns 30 years old June 12. Ridley Mission Control Center was dedicated in 1980 with a small ribbon cutting ceremony. The control center, which was built for $6.5 million, is named for Col. Jackie L. Ridley, a former test pilot, engineer and architect of modern flight testing.

Colonel Ridley served as pilot and engineer for the Bell X-1 rocket plane, in which retired Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in 1947. General Yeager helped cut the ribbon during the dedication. Col. Ridley was killed in 1957 when the C-47 transport plane he was riding in crashed into a mountain in Japan. Before that, he spent nearly 10 years in the high desert working on several flight test projects, which has had an influence on flight testing today.

General Yeager said that supersonic flight may not have happened without Colonel Ridley. According to Colonel Ridley's Aviation Hall of Fame biography, General Yeager found at near supersonic speed, the Bell X-1's elevators, which are the movable part of the horizontal tail fins that raised and lowered the nose, became ineffective. Colonel Ridley determined, in that speed range, that the X-1's entire horizontal stabilizer could be adjusted for trim changes and be used for pitch control. His idea worked and the concept was eventually incorporated in all supersonic aircraft - the 'flying tail'.

Today, Ridley Mission Control continues to serve as the centerpiece for tracking and recording almost all flight test operations. Ridley can even record telemetry data from as far away as White Sands, N.M. In 30 years, as one could imagine, technological advances have made flight tests more efficient and expansive. Ridley Mission Control has been at the forefront of these advances.

"We used to use 35mm film and multiple sites called cinetheodolites to record flight tests on the range," said Larry Pratt, 412th Range Squadron, director of operations. "Literally miles of film were shot during the week, and sometimes in one day. After the processing of the film for projection, the finished "movies" were then returned to Ridley for frame-by-frame data reduction. That film ran at 20 frames per second and was read post-mission by film readers and then merged with precision radar data for the best estimated trajectory. Today, we use real-time and post flight Global Positioning System assets."

David Puckett, 412th Test Wing, Range Control chief, has been working at Edwards since Ridley opened and has witnessed the evolution of technology first-hand.

"One of the biggest advents I saw was digital electronics taking over from analog electronics," Mr. Puckett said. "By virtue of that change, I saw the evolution of the surveying telescopes we used - which I maintained - become moth-balled when GPS inertial aided tracking became available."

The center was, and still is, based on efficiency. Construction of Ridley Mission Control was commissioned in the late 70s to be a center for range and test mission control. Before that, each test squadron had its own range and control equipment which made coordination and data acquisition more complex and inefficient. Putting everything under one roof centralized an important part of the flight test process.

The numerous technological advances and equipment upgrades at Ridley have improved accuracy and the ability to record exponentially more data.

"Right before Ridley was commissioned, space positioning optical RADAR track controllers worked out of building 4970 on the hill," explained Mr. Puckett. "They had plot boards that used paper charts scribed with a two-axis plotting pen to show the position of an airplane as tracked by the radar. That's what they had when I was coming up as a young man. Each SPORT controller watched a single aircraft on the plot boards. Now, we can display 300 different aircraft trajectories on one digital monitor."

"The reliability of the systems is better today," said Diana Bladen, 412th RANS, range control officer. "The amount of time and efficiency we have gained in the ability to analyze data versus the time we used to spend just keeping the systems repaired is phenomenal. It's just like everything that has become digital and more convenient and reliable. We saw this revolution at Ridley Control Center firsthand."

Dedicating the mission control center to Colonel Ridley seemed only natural. While at Edwards, the Colonel rose from chief of the Test Engineering Branch to chief of the Flight Test Engineering Laboratory, where he made his greatest contributions. He established the basic testing techniques and philosophy of the flight test center. Colonel Ridley was designated as an "expert test pilot" and flew numerous aircraft including the P-51, B-25, C-47, B-26, B-29, F-86, X-1 and the X-4.

"The United States Air Force Test Pilot School has Col. Al Boyd, the 412th Range Squadron has Col. Jackie Ridley," said Mrs. Bladen. "The inspiration from legacies left by those who went before continues with the 30th anniversary of the dedication of the Ridley Mission Control Center."

After three decades, Ridley Mission Control Center continues to live up to Colonel Ridley's legacy. Among the countless flight tests Ridley Mission Control has managed and recorded includes the testing of the first cruise missile, B-1, B-2 and the F-22. Ridley will now focus on another technological advancement, the state-of-the-art Joint Strike Fighter, which arrived last month.
USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.