Men, Women of the Flight Test Center

  • Published
  • By Maj. Gen. David Eichhorn
  • Air Force Flight Test Center
What a day - a clear blue sky with calm winds! A perfect day for an air show!

So much preparation went into this event, where do I start? Security? Maintenance? Medical? Operations? Civil Engineering? Protocol? Public Affairs? The AFFTC Museum? The Civ-Mil Group? Safety? Finance? Communications? Scaled Composites? National Test Pilot School? NASA? 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 but I have to try!

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. The parking plan was executed extremely well and even better were the adaptations that happened real-time as an anxious public was backed up all the way to the highways, north and west. 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.

And enjoy they did! You didn't have to be on the ramp to hear the Edwards trademark opening sonic boom! At precisely 10 o'clock, Brigadier General "Chuck" Yeager and Major General Joe Engle sent a shock wave to the ground from 30,00 feet, high overhead! Where else does that happen?

Once on the ramp, the public was exposed to what I believe was the greatest collection of aircraft ever amassed at an airshow! The F-35 Lightening II made it's airshow 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 Raptors, Talons, Vipers, BUFFs, BONEs, Spirits, Hornets, 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!

The public was also privileged to witness the enlistment ceremony for about 200 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines! 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!

Speaking of careers, a long time friend of the base and our Test Community, David Hartman, was here to moderate a talk between Yeager and Engle. For over an hour, Hartman and his guests enthralled the audience in our big hangar. How does one get to be a legend of flight test? Well, Yeager and Engle described their path to stardom and it was fascinating! Their paths were full of challenges and opportunities that they were smart enough to tackle both!

Everyone made this day the success it was but I have to give special thanks to the medics who took care of people overcome by the sun/heat. With so many people here, some of our guests were sure to overdo it. They were ready, well organized and on top of the situation.

Then there's our bomber maintenance team that worked through the pain (and the night) to show off their aircraft! I'm sure all our maintainers had their share of challenges but the bomber team has had more than their share lately. They did a fantastic job! The show and our trademark finale with all our aircraft flying overhead would have suffered were it not for them. The bomber formation of the B-1, B-2 and B-52 was just awesome to behold and they made sure it happened! We were asked why do we do such an awesome finale? Because we can! Because we're The Air Force's Flight Test Center and it's what we do!

If you weren't here - boy did you miss it! I've attached some pictures so you can see just how incredible the achievement was for Lt Col Aaron Reed, our airshow director, and his team of world-class professionals! We cannot thank them enough for their hard work and dedication!

Flight Test Nation 2009 is now in the history books as the new standard in airshow excellence! I can't wait for 2011!