Two Events Pay Tribute to Blackbird Community
submitted by Doug Nelson, AFFTC Museum
On Saturday, May 15th, the Flight Test Historical Foundation will host the 2004 Blackbird Laurels Induction Banquet at the Park Plaza-Lancaster/Palmdale Convention Center in Lancaster, CA. Retired Maj Gen Douglas Nelson, commander of the 9th SRW-the first operational Blackbird wing-will be the featured speaker for the gala event, wherein Blackbird crew members, maintainers, and support personnel will be inducted into the "Blackbird Laurels Society." The 40th anniversary of the SR-71 will also be observed during the evening.
The $75 per person banquet is a fund raiser for the Blackbird Airpark and will include a full dinner, silent auction, and complimentary commemorative items, in addition to the anniversary and induction ceremonies. Corporate tables are available at $1000 for a table of 10. Retired USAF Col Kenneth Collins, a 2002 inductee, will once again serve as emcee.
Over 300 invited guests attended the foundation's inaugural banquet in April 2002. During that event, 21 inductees-including Blackbird pilots, designers, engineers, corporations, and maintainers-were presented with Blackbird Laurels medallions. This year 12 new members will be inducted.
The Flight Test Historical Foundation is a non-profit organization established in 1983 to develop and support the Air Force Flight Test Center (AFFTC) Museum at Edwards AFB and its Blackbird Airpark Annex at USAF Plant 42. Funds totaling over $1.2 million have been provided by the foundation for construction of the AFFTC Museum and Blackbird Airpark and the foundation continues to support operation and restoration activities at both facilities.
For further information on the Blackbird Laurels Banquet, or to request an invitation, contact the Flight Test Historical Foundation at (877) FLT-TEST or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Saturday, May 15th, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, the 40th anniversary of the first flight of the SR-71A will be celebrated at the Blackbird Airpark, USAF Plant 42, in Palmdale, CA. Bob Gilliland, the Lockheed test pilot at the controls during the first flight, will be in attendance during the exciting event to greet the public and sign autographs. Joining Gilliland will be Jim Eastham, pilot of the F-104 chase aircraft on that historic flight. Eastham is better known as the man who completed the maiden flight of the Lockheed YF-12-an SR-71 predecessor. Concurrent with the anniversary event, the Air Force Flight Test Center (AFFTC) Museum and its support organization, the Flight Test Historical Foundation, will dedicate a new airpark visitor center.
Retired Air Force Colonel Richard Graham, former commander of the 9th Strategic Reconnaisance Wing, and author of "SR-71 Revealed" and "SR-71 Blackbird-Stories, Tales, and Legends," is scheduled to be on hand to sign copies of his books. Additional Blackbird exhibits will support the A-12, D-21, SR-71, and U-2D permanently on display and anniversary souvenirs will be available in the airpark gift shop.
Althought the SR-71 first flight was actually made on 22 December 1964, the anniversary celebration is being held in May to coincide with the 2004 Blackbird Laurels Banquet and because December weather can be unpredictable-making an outdoor celebration at the Blackbird Airpark questionable.
Blackbird Airpark is an annex of the AFFTC Museum at Edwards AFB and is located on
the Air Force Production Flight Test Installation at the corner of Avenue P and 25th
Street East in Palmdale, California. Normal hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.,
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Admission is free. The airpark is staffed entirely by
museum volunteers and profits from the above events will benefit continued development
of the facility.