Edwards Air Force Base Air Show

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The Air Show exhibition at Edwards AFB is one of the best in the United States, if not the entire world.  Edwards Air Force Base is home to the United States Air Force's Flight Test Center and, according to the Edwards AFB website, has been the location of more major milestones in flight than any other place on earth!  Now, that's quite an accomplishment!  Add to that the fact that most aircraft ever flown by the Air Force were originally flight tested at this base and it is no wonder that aviation enthusiasts see the Mojave Desert region around Edwards as the place to visit!  You just never know what you'll see flying around the desert so keep their eyes to the sky.

Attending an Air Show at Edwards is a great opportunity to not only see this famous facility but to enjoy the static displays and thrilling flight demonstrations of some of the Air Force's most spectacular and awesome aircraft!  Most of the pictures you'll see in our Photo Tours were taken at the 2003 Air Show but understand that not every aircraft is at every Show.  We have attended many Air Shows at Edwards,  however, and have never been disappointed.  There is always something new to see and the flight demonstrations are always so impressive - even if you've seen the planes fly before!  You just never know what you'll see at an Edwards AFB Air Show!

bullet Getting There
bullet Show me the Maps
bullet About Edwards AFB

Aircraft at the Show:

    B-1 Bomber (Lancer)
bullet N9MB Northrop "Flying Wing"
    B-2 "Stealth" Bomber (Spirit)
bullet RQ-4A "Global Hawk" UAV
    C-130J "Hercules"
bullet SR-71 "Blackbird"
    C-17A "Globemaster III"
bullet Trainer Aircraft
    F-117A "Nighthawk"
bullet Thunderbirds
    F-15 "Eagle"
bullet U-2
    F-16 "Fighting Falcon"
bullet X-35 Joint Strike Fighter
    F/A-22 "Raptor"
bullet Aircraft Review Flyby
    KC-135 "Stratotanker"
bullet Photos around Edwards AFB

Books That We Recommend:

Getting There

The Air Shows at Edwards are very popular with the residents of Southern California and each year they attract more and more people.  Be prepared for large crowds (in the thousands) and all of the typical delays that go with an event of this size. 

As of 2003, access onto the base was only through two gates:

bulletWest Gate at Rosemond (Rosemond Blvd.)
bulletNorth Gate at Highway 58 and Boron

Prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, there was also a South Gate entrance via 120th Street but it has been closed since then and the two remaining entrances are very heavily controlled.

Much of the crowd for any Air Show comes up from the L.A. Basin via S.R. 14 (Antelope Valley Freeway) and their closest entrance is the West Gate near the town of Rosemond.  This makes the West entrance extremely crowded with traffic and, on two separate occasions, we have experienced a two-hour traffic jam as we were led from the West Gate to the designated parking area on Rogers Dry Lake.  Although the North Gate is further away, it might be worth your time to enter the base from there.  

 

From Los Angeles (to West Gate):

Most people coming from Los Angeles approach from S.R. 14 (also known as the Antelope Valley Freeway and the 14 Freeway).  If you are using this route, continue on the 14 Freeway, past Palmdale and Lancaster, to the town of Rosemond.  Look for Rosemond 20 miles (32 km) north of the intersection with Palmdale Blvd. (S.R. 138).

Exit the 14 Freeway at Rosemond Blvd. and turn right (east).  Continue on Rosemond Blvd, through the small town of Rosemond,. for about 15 miles (24 km) to the main part of the base.  As mentioned above, this route is usually very congested [see picture]. 

If you decide that you want to avoid the traffic at this Gate and try your luck at the North Gate, see the * below under the "From Bakersfield" directions.

From Bakersfield (to North Gate):

Take the 58 Freeway east for about 60 miles (100 km), through Tehachapi, to the town of Mojave.  From Mojave, continue on the 58 Freeway, passing the Mojave Airport, for about 14 miles (22.5 km) and take the Edwards AFB off-ramp.

* Alternate route from Los Angeles:  Follow the directions above but do not exit at Rosemond Blvd.  Continue driving north on the 14 Freeway, for about 12.8 miles, to the town of Mojave where the freeway ends.  Cross the railroad tracks and, at the traffic light, turn right (east) and  follow the signs directing you to S.R. 58 and Barstow.  This road will, after a few miles, put you onto the new 58 Freeway.  From the traffic light intersection, it is about 16.7 miles to the Edwards AFB off-ramp.

From the Cajon Pass via I-15 (to North Gate):

If you are coming up from San Bernardino or the Counties of Riverside, San Diego or Orange, take the I-15 north through the Cajon Pass.  Just after cresting the Cajon Summit, go 3.3 miles (5.3 km) the US 395 off-ramp.  Continue north on US 395 for 42.5 miles (68 km).  At this point you will reach Kramer Junction (where S.R. 58 intersects US 395).  Turn left at this intersection, onto S.R. 58, and continue west for 19.7 miles (31.7 km).  Exit the Edwards AFB off-ramp (Not the North Edwards off-ramp) and turn left to the base.

About Edwards AFB

The main attraction for the Air Force to this location was (and still is) the large, dry lakebeds here.  Their long, flat surfaces make great natural runways for all kinds of aircraft.  The largest of these dry lakebeds was first known as Rodriguez Dry Lake but somehow became better known as Rogers Dry Lake. 

 

The name was changed again in 1933 when an aviator with a vision, named H.H. "Hap" Arnold, recognized the value of this area and established the Muroc Bombing and Gunnery Range.  At the beginning of World War II, a training camp for pilots was established at this bombing range and the name was changed once again to the Muroc Army Air Base.  These pilots trained mostly in B-24's and P-38's.

In the 1930's, when Rogers Dry Lake became known as Muroc Dry Lake, it was a popular place where "hot-rod" enthusiasts went to race their machines.  Their racing came to an abrupt stop in 1941, however, when the military took over the dry lake completely and kicked them out.  The "hot-roders" moved their racing to the southeast, at El Mirage Dry Lake near Victorville, and the Air Force used the dry lake for landing the Space Shuttle and other fast-running aircraft.  Recently, on a weekend in 2001, the Air Force opened up the dry lake and allowed those same, classic "hot-roders" and their classic race cars to run on their old "turf" once more.

It was also in the beginning of World War II that American aviators first worked with jet engines and began experimenting with secret, jet powered aircraft.  The test flights for this new aircraft increased the traffic at Wright Field in Ohio to the point where it became overwhelmed so plans were set forth to build a secret testing facility near the Muroc base on the shore of Rogers Dry Lake.  Here, they could take advantage of both the lake's flat surface and its remote location.

By the end of the war, the Muroc base had taken on two distinctly different identities - one was for highly experimental (and usually secret) research programs and the other was for flight testing conventional aircraft of the period.  One of those highly experimental programs was the rocket powered Bell X-1.  Captain Chuck Yeager flew the X-1 at Muroc and became the first person to break the elusive and long-sought-after sound barrier.

In 1949, the Muroc base was renamed Edwards Air Force Base in honor of Captain Glen Edwards who was killed during the test flight of another unusual aircraft, the YB-49 Flying Wing.  The main dry lake used by the Air Force, who's name has changed many times over the years, is now called Rogers Dry Lake by the military but many people still know it as Muroc Dry Lake.

Also on the grounds of Edwards AFB is NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center.  This facility is located on the northern edge of Rogers Dry Lake or about 3 miles (5 km) north of the main Edwards facility.  Dryden is NASA's primary facility for performing flight research on craft inside the Earth's atmosphere and they have their own website.  

Photo Tour:
Click on picture to enlarge
Pictures taken October 2003

Common during Edwards AFB Air Shows are aircraft reviews that give the crowds a chance to compare different types of aircraft in flight.  Here, an A-10 Warthog (right) and a P-51 Mustang fly over the flight line.
The hanger where Boeing worked on its X-32 until Lockheed Martin won the contract to build the X-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Driving across one of Edward AFB's taxiway to the designated parking area.  NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center is in the background (view is looking north).
Part of the flight line at Edwards.
The Air Shows at Edwards always bring out the big camera lenses.
In the hills to the southeast of Edwards are some curious-looking structures.  These are actually rocket engine test platforms but they are not for sending rockets into the sky.  Here, the rockets are pointed upside-down for testing and are never actually launched.  Almost all rocket engines that have been used to launch vehicles into space by NASA are test fired here.  When driving along Highway 58, on the north side of Edwards, you may be lucky and see a large plume of smoke suddenly appear over one of these platforms which means that they are testing.  This division of the Edwards testing facility usually has its own display in one of the hangers at the Edwards Air Show.
Another view of the rocket test platforms.  The Joshua Tree in the foreground identifies this picture as being taken in the Mojave Desert.
One of the long, wide runways on Rogers Dry Lake, made of dried mud (Mother Nature's pavement), ends here and funnels onto a paved taxiway.
One of the least-favorite attractions at an Edwards AFB Air Show - traffic congestion at the West Gate.  It is here, in line to get into the Air Show, that we typically enjoy hearing Chuck Yeager open the show as he flies by making a sonic boom.
Many of the static displays on the flight line allow visitors to sit in the pilot's seat.  Here, an enthusiastic 10 year old sits in the cockpit of a C-141 and dreams of one day becoming a pilot.
Driving around Edwards, you'll see all kinds of assorted "junk yards" where the pieces of many years of spent aeronautical experiments are now kept.
A Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-15 sits on the flight line at Edwards.
A static display of one of the unusual UAV's (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) in one of the hangers.  More and more UAV's  are being displayed at the Edwards Air Shows.  Read about the RQ-4A Global Hawk UAV.
Side view of a the same UAV pictured above.
Another UAV parked in a hanger.
A V-22 Osprey "tiltrotor" aircraft sitting inside of one of the hangers.  The V-22 has an unfortunate history of being difficult to fly because it is a completely different type of aircraft (half helicopter and half airplane) and is here at Edwards because it is going through intense flight testing.
Side view of the V-22.  It can takeoff vertically, like a helicopter, and then it tilt its two rotors forward to fly like an airplane.  This gives the V-22 the best features of both types of aircraft.
Designed to be a troop transport, the V-22 can carry 24 passengers and cruise at 315 mph (507 kph).

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