Visit to Edwards AFB, California, January 2010

Ex embargoed Pakistani F-16 finds a new lease of life with NASA

    Edwards AFB in California has a long history of flight testing, and today is perhaps more commonly known by the general public as an alternate landing location for the Space Shuttle. It was first used in 1933 as a bombing range named Muroc (a reversal of the settlers name of Corum, chosen because the US Postal Service would not allow a post office to be set-up there with that name because they already had another Corum).

Wearing typical test centre colours is this Phantom    The location proved ideal for numerous reasons, including many desolate and remote uninhabited areas to allow for more freedom of testing, nearby access to some of the highest and lowest locations places in the USA, great weather conditions for much of the year to allow unhindered flight testing, and not least, the adjoining Rogers Dry Lake which provides a virtually infinite number of emergency landing strip lengths and directions in case a test flight needs to suddenly curtail.

    The Lake itself is a perfectly flat and hard surface, and has many runways marked on it, including the one used for the Space Shuttle, which is used occasionally when poor weather in Florida prevents the Space Shuttle returning to the Kennedy Space Centre.

Replica of Chuck Yeager's X-1 Glamorous Glennis    Historically, NASA have long had a presence here, named the Dryden Flight Research Centre, and it was from here that many test and experimental programmes have been hosted. The more famous ones include Chuck Yeager's sound-barrier breaking Bell X-1 flights in in 1947, through the incredible X-15 which topped Mach 6 in 1967, to the current crop of super agile designs and UAVs. The film "The Right Stuff" gave a good insight into much of the efforts that NASA and the pioneering astronauts went through at Dryden in the 1950's and '60's.

    As well as NASA, the USAF have a major flight test centre here, and over the years many aircraft have had their first flights and flight testing carried out here. Today, major testing of F-22 Raptor and Global Hawk is being undertaken, and initial preparation for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is well underway. Examples of most current USAF types are based here to facilitate continued test and development of new systems and programmes. Also, the USAF Test Pilots School is based here, and trains not only US, but also overseas, aircrew in the art of becoming a test pilot.

US Marine Corps H-46s    Edwards also has enough space to accommodate a USMC H-46 Sea Knight squadron that was displaced from it's old base during a base closure programme a few years ago. So, as you can see, there is a decent variety of types to be seen here, and that was one of the reasons we arranged to have a trip around. Our visit was arranged as part of the normal regular Edwards PRO ran tours, so we had to meet at the West Gate at the arranged time. Being January, the morning dawned bright and crisp and clear, but after a few days of heavy rain the Rogers "Dry" Lake was distinctly wet.

West Gate display   The West Gate has a display of "Century Series" fighters, joined by a recently arrived prototype YC-15. The fighters are arranged in a circle around a "tower", and are kept in very good condition, I suppose the dry California atmosphere helps a lot in this respect. After identity checks, we boarded the coach and headed onto the base, being briefed and informed by the chatty and affable PRO, first stop being the on-base museum. There is a good variety of aircraft on display outside here, from the impressive B-52 Stratofortress, to the unusual two-seat variant of the A-10 Thunderbolt. Inside the museum itself are a number of exhibits and models, and the exhibits give a great insight into the history of the base. A short video presentation was viewed, showcasing many of the types and systems tested over the years.

   After the museum, we re-boarded the coach and headed off to the NASA facility at Dryden. We were met here by some NASA guides who escorted us through the hangars and facilities, very helpfully answering any questions we had and relaying many of the historic NASA tales of daring. Another video presentation to illustrate NASA's history and current undertakings allowed us some time to relax, prior to our hangars and flightline walk. This was followed by a lunch in the NASA cafeteria, prior to re-boarding the coach.

Two-seat A-10B at the Edwards Museum    NASA T-38    CH-21 52-8623 is stored

   After leaving Dryden, our coach took us onto the vast Edwards flightline, and during the slow ramp tour the PRO made us aware of the many units and types operating here at the moment. All to soon, we left the ramp and headed back to the West Gate at the conclusion of our very interesting visit.

   Thanks go to Edwards AFB PRO, the staff at NASA Dryden, and all involved in the tour, we highly recommend it to all.

Listed below are the aircraft present during the visit:-

51-2075 B-47B Stored on South edge of Rogers Dry Lake
72-1875 N15YC YC-15 West Gate
25755 FW-755 YF-100A West Gate
80288 05 F-101B West Gate
41353 TC-353 TF-102A West Gate
60790 FG-790 NF-104A West Gate
61-146 HI y F-105D West Gate
90158 QF-106B West Gate
52-0008 NB-52B North Gate
68-10771 Bensen X-25B Museum, inside
31090 ED NOA-37B Museum, inside
50751 YF-16B Museum, inside
2 X-36 Museum, inside
60585 B-52D Museum, outside
12581 JCH-3E Museum, outside
67161 823 UC-45J Museum, outside
(34477?) 00 UH-34G Museum, outside
WD592 Meteor TT20 Museum, outside
19350 FS-350 F-84F Museum, outside
03505 CT-39A Museum, outside
39766 F-111A Museum, outside
67-583 ED YA-7D Museum, outside
137702 T-28B Museum, outside
53-5099 T-33A Museum, outside
31664 YA-10B Museum, outside
37407 ED NF-4C Museum, outside
33121 ED C-17A Flew
73-114 ED F-15B Preserved on base
52-9846 T-33A Preserved on base
10810 ED T-38A Preserved on base
60801 FC-801 F-104A Preserved on base
60760 NF-104A Preserved on base
422633 P-59B Preserved on base
41004 ED RF-4C Preserved on base
80-634 ED F-16B Preserved on base
25241 FU-241 F-86F Preserved on base
57-1726 VH-34C Stored on base for the museum
52-8623 CH-21 Stored on base for the museum
N482PE Piper Enforcer Stored on base for the museum
125850 EF-10B Stored on base for the museum
71-1367 YA-9A Stored on base for the museum
48-0356 EYF-94A Stored on base for the museum
56-3591 KC-135A nose section Stored on base for the museum
54-0683 C-123K Stored on old ramp, to the south
135434 A-3A Stored on old ramp, to the south
84-0049 B-1B Stored on old ramp, to the south
60-0377 C-135A Stored on old ramp, to the south
65-0713 ED YF-4E Stored on old ramp, to the south
61-2779 NC-141A Stored on old ramp, to the south
60-0036 B-52H Southern flightline
60-0050 B-52H Southern flightline
17955 SR-71A Flightline, for museum
05-2022 Global Hawk Flightline
38034 McConnell KC-135R Flightline
60-0582 ED NT-38A Flightline
68-8154 ED T-38A Flightline
68-8205 ED T-38C Flightline
60158 C-12C Flightline
91-4006 ED F-22A Flightline/hangared
91-4007 ED F-22A Flightline/hangared
91-4009 ED F-22A Flightline/hangared
04-4077 FF F-22A Flightline/hangared
155302 ML-400 CH-46E Flightline
154810 ML-403 CH-46E Flightline
156431 ML-404 CH-46E Flightline
155312 ML-406 CH-46E Flightline
ML-407 CH-46E Flightline
ML-408 CH-46E Flightline
153962 ML-409 CH-46E Flightline
157720 ML-410 CH-46E Flightline
80-584 ED F-16A Flightline
83-1118 ED F-16C Flightline
84-307 ED, red/white scheme F-16C Flightline
85-515 ED F-16D Flightline
85-551 ED F-16C Flightline
87-0377 ED F-16D Flightline
87-0378 ED, blue aggressor scheme F-16D Flightline
90-797 ED, "416 FLTS" F-16C Flightline
M-2 Flying Bathtub NASA "Not a museum"
951 LLTV NASA "Not a museum"
N905NA B.747 NASA flightline
N911NA B.747 NASA flightline
90-480 ACAT/FRRP F-16B NASA flightline
162414 "Marines" F/A/18A Stored on NASA taxiway
161251 SRA, " F 18 Ironbird" F/A-18A NASA stored
845 YF-18B NASA stored
847 N847NA, 161520 F/A-18A NASA stored
851 N851NA F/A-18A NASA stored
848 F-16XL NASA stored
871 Global Hawk NASA hangar
872 Global Hawk NASA hangar
843 F/A-18A NASA hangar
846 F/A-18B NASA hangar
850 F/A-18A NASA hangar
852 F/A-18B NASA hangar
N863NA 63, 68-8116 AT-38B NASA hangar
N864NA 64, 68-8113 T-38N NASA hangar
865 NT-34C NASA hangar
818 YO-3A NASA hangar
N7NA 7 Beech 200 King Air NASA hangar
N804NA Northrop HL-10 Preserved at NASA
844 SR-71A Preserved at NASA
82-0049 049 X-29A Preserved at NASA
802 F-8C Preserved at NASA
810 F-8A Preserved at NASA
826 F-104G Preserved at NASA
6063 X-1E Preserved at NASA

Museum B-52D Stratofortress    NASA Global Hawks    Preserved NASA SR-71 Blackbird