Air show returns to Edwards after 13 years

The official name for the open house at Edwards Air Force Base was “The Right Stuff,” which served as the locale for the Air Valley Aerospace Show in 2022.

As a result of limited parking availability, attendance limits were implemented for the three-day event in October 2022, attracting a crowd of 120,000 enthusiastic air show enthusiasts who had been eagerly waiting to attend. Over the years, the event had faced multiple disruptions before its most recent occurrence in 2009, which used to take place annually.

The Dawn Patrol RV Formation Team soars over the capacity crowd at Edwards AFB.

What makes this air show stand out is that during the day’s flight, I witnessed no fewer than four sonic booms on the Saturday I was present. It is the sole air show in the United States that allows for supersonic velocity. What sets this air show apart from others?

I was excited to come back after 13 years, reconnecting with exhibited aircraft from past exhibitions and observing numerous fresh ones.

One of the highlights of the day was the special appearance made by Edwards, performing several low fly-bys before landing, and it was retired in 2022 after 12 years of service. It had been converted from a Boeing 747SP into an airborne observatory called SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy), which was intended to be used by NASA.

The retired NASA SOFIA 747SP aircraft makes a low level pass at the 2022 Aerospace Valley airshow. This was the first time a low altitude flight was conducted with the telescope aperture door open.

Another standout was the Lockheed Martin Darkstar plane showcased in the movie “Top Gun: Maverick.”

The 2022 hit movie Top Gun: Maverick featured this fictional hypersonic “Darkstar” aircraft that was based on the SR-72 and devised by Lockheed Martin Skunk Works engineers for the film.

This stationary movie prop was one of the main highlights on the runway, positioned alongside a legendary SR-71 Blackbird.

There is no mistaking the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, first flown in 1964 and retired in 1990. This is probably the only air show with one on display.

The true celebrities of the exhibition were the flight test resources stationed at Edwards.

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A Rockwell B-1B Lancer, nicknamed the “Bone,” makes a high speed pass, with the variable-geometry wings swept back and afterburners blazing.

All the Falcon Fighting F-16, Raptor F-22, and Lancer B-1B took to the air along with the III Globemaster C-17 and Stratotanker KC-135.

A KC-135 Stratotanker demonstrates aerial refueling with an F-22 Raptor while a F-35 Lightning II flies in formation.

NASA showcased numerous static display aircraft, including their F-15 Eagle and Gulfstream C-20. Additionally, NASA also had a selection of local aircraft soaring through the skies.

A trio of NASA aircraft: An Aeromot AMT-200 motor glider, Beech T-34C Mentor, and a Gulfstream G-III.

John Collver, Vicky Benzing, Greg Colyer, Chuck Coleman, Rob Holland, and Bob Carlton were featured in the roster, alongside numerous civilian entertainers.

John Collver performs a slow roll in his T-6 “War Dog”’ while extending the landing gear. The WD tail code is an homage to Walt Disney.
Vicky Benzing performing in her pristine 1940 Boeing Stearman.
Greg Colyer gains altitude after a pass in his Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star “Ace Maker.”
Chuck Coleman performs in his Extra 300. Chuck was an aerobatic flight instructor for the actors in Top Gun: Maverick, conditioning them for filming in the F/A-18 Super Hornets.
Rob Holland hangs from the prop in his MX2. Rob is a 10-time, consecutive, U.S. National Aerobatic Champion.
Bob Carlton goes vertical in his highly modified jet-powered Super Salto sailplane.

The United States Air Force Thunderbirds, executing with sharpness and accuracy as they typically do towards the conclusion of their season, were concluding the flight schedule for the day.

USAF Thunderbirds perform a tight trail formation over Edwards AFB.
The Thunderbirds perform a bomb burst, heading off in different directions.

Additionally, a significant amount of remarkable aircraft were showcased on static display. Among the over 60 aircraft exhibited, certain highlights were equally as impressive as the aerial performances.

  • A mix of F-35 Lightning II with the A, B, and C versions.
  • A elongated, delta-winged version of the F-16 referred to as the F-16XL.
  • F-16 VISTA (Variable stability In-flight Simulator Test Aircraft).
  • Lockheed L-1011 “Stargazer” is utilized as an airborne launch platform for the Pegasus rocket.
  • The SR-71 is displayed at the Air Force Flight Test Center Museum on-base.
  • Royal Australian Air Force Airbus A330 refueling aircraft.
  • A massive hangar hosted the STEM exhibits, several USAF test aircraft, including a B-52, and a large assortment of general aviation aircraft.

    This huge hangar dwarfs a B-52 Stratofortress, providing welcome shade while housing STEM exhibits along with many GA aircraft on display.

    In 1947, the 75th anniversary of supersonic flight and the 75th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force were the two commemorative themes of this event.

    Fans recommend this aviation history highly, as it has been made in the high desert of California, where there is a rich history of aviation.

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    The Chino-based Dawn Patrol RV Formation Team performs with a variety of Van’s RV aircraft during the show.

    Keep in mind that the plan for the next Lancaster Air Show in 2024 is to hold it at Edwards Air Show in Los Angeles as an alternative.

    Edwards Air Force Base, initially known as Muroc Bombing and Gunnery Range dating back to 1933, was later renamed in honor of Captain Glen Edwards who died in a crash while testing NASA’s YB-49 Flying Wing at the Research Flight Center of Armstrong. The base was originally designated as Muroc Army Air Base in 1942 and then as Edwards Air Force Base in 1949.

    Discover more information at Edwards.Af.Mil.

    A slow-speed pass by a B-1B Lancer.
    The Northrop Grumman/Scaled Composites Firebird, an optionally-piloted surveillance aircraft that first flew in 2010.
    The U.S. Air Force’s new Boeing KC-46A Pegasus aerial refueling tanker, derived from the 767.
    The United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force and Royal Navy both operate the F-35B Lightning. The F-35B is the short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the aircraft.
    The F-35C Lightning II is designed for operations from aircraft carriers. The F-35C features larger folding wings, stronger landing gear, dual-wheel nose gear, and a stronger tailhook for carrier landings.
    A Fairey Firefly strike fighter formerly operated by the Royal Navy, this type saw action during the Korean War.
    A Royal Australian Air Force Airbus KC-30A MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) based on the A330 airliner. The RAAF was the launch customer for this aircraft and operate seven in its fleet.
    A rare Howard 250, considered the Gulfstream of its time. These were postwar remanufacture of Lockheed Lodestar military transports with luxurious VIP interiors for executive travel. Fewer than 20 Howard 250s were built.
    A Tuskegee Red Tail on display. This North American P-51D Mustang “Bunny” wears the livery flown in World War II by Lt. Col. Bob Friend in Europe with the USAAF 332nd Fighter Group.
    The original Thorp T-211 Sky Scooter is a light aircraft designed by John Thorp in 1945. This one was built in 2003.
    A handsome Barrows Bearhawk kitplane scratch built by the owner between 1996 and 2008. (All Photos by Hayman Tam)

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