PALMDALE – Several notable ex-CIA/USAF pilots will be honored at a Blackbird Airpark open house this coming weekend.
The SR-71 & U-2 50-Year Cold War Commemoration will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, April 26 at Blackbird Airpark at Plant 42, located at 2509 East Avenue P in Palmdale. The event is free and open to the community. View a flyer for the event here.
The open house will feature a “meet-and-greet” with Robert Gilliland, a Lockheed Martin test pilot who flew the SR-71 for the very first time, 50 years ago out of Palmdale, in 1964.
“Blackbird Airpark is the only place in the world where an A-12, an SR-71, a U-2, and a D-21 drone are displayed next to each other. Being able to see all of these masterpieces of reconnaissance in one place is a rare opportunity for aircraft enthusiasts, while meeting pilots who flew them is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” stated George Welsh, Edwards AFB Flight Test Museum Director/Curator.
To commemorate this special event, a number of A-12, SR-71, U-2, F-117, and F-22 pilots, both past and present, will be signing books and handouts and participating in Q&A panel discussions throughout the day.
Pilots scheduled to attend include:
- U-2 Pilots: Lou Setter (Gary Powers’ U-2 Instructor Pilot), Tony Bevacqua (U-2 and SR-71 pilot), Rob Rowe (U-2 Lockheed Chief Test Pilot for NASA);
- A-12 Pilots: Colonel Ken Collins, USAF (Ret.); Lt. Col. Frank Murray, USAF (Ret.);
- SR-71 Pilots: Bob Gilliland (SR-71 first flight pilot), Ed Yielding (4 world speed records on last SR-71 LA to DC flight), BC Thomas (most SR-71 hours), Ray Scalise (YF-12 RSO), Bill Flanagan (SR-71 RSO);
- F-22/F-117 Pilot: James “JB” Brown (Lockheed F-22/F-117 Chief Test Pilot).
In addition to aircraft viewing, this event will showcase the traveling Gary Powers U-2 exhibit, on display now through June 27 at Blackbird Airpark. This exhibit has been displayed at the Bodo Aviation Center in Bodo, Norway; the Allied Museum in Berlin, Germany; the National Reconnaissance Office; the Central Intelligence Agency; and the National War College. The U-2 exhibit includes historic artifacts, photos and the Silver Star posthumously awarded to Francis Gary Powers.
Saturday’s open house is hosted by the Flight Test Historical Foundation.
“It is the mission of Flight Test Historical Foundation to preserve the rich local history of flight test through the support of the museum at Edwards AFB and Blackbird Park in Palmdale” said Lisa Gray, chair of the Flight Test Historical Foundation board of directors.