By Michelle Thomas, 412th Test Wing Public Affairs
For test aircraft enthusiasts, students, and those who are just curious, gaining access to the current Air Force Flight Test Museum sometimes means signing up several months in advance for a tour. After last week’s official ground breaking on the new flight test museum to be located outside the gate, organizers and officials from the Flight Test Historical Foundation took the next step to making flight test history more accessible to visitors around the world. The ceremony, attended by more than 250 people, kicked off the fully funded Phase 1 construction of the new museum, which will welcome a larger, state-of-the-art new building. Future phases will also feature a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education center.
Flight Test Historical Foundation chairwoman, Lisa Gray, hosted the event and spoke about the importance of “telling the story” of flight test in order to inspire generations to come. “It is our mission to preserve the rich local history of flight test through the support of the museum at Edwards AFB,” said Gray.
Col. Jason Schott, 412th Test Wing vice commander, also talked about the rich legacy that started with “the first time a sonic boom was heard” in the valley 70 years ago. Schott noted that the “unending number of test programs that have taken aviation further, faster, higher and more lethal” has been done with men and women who have risked their lives.
“[They] put it all out there in order to make our country safer and protect our allies,” Schott said. “As we build this museum here on this spot, it should help us all preserve that legacy. Also in attendance was U.S. Congressman Steve Knight who spoke about the impact the new museum and the test programs at Edwards will have on future, potential “test pilots.” “When young people walk in, whether they watch an air show or they watch that F-22 fly tomorrow or they walk in [to the museum] to see what Joe Kittinger did… there are two things going through their head…’holy cow that was a crazy thing to do, but the second thing is man, I want to do that.’”
According to George Welsh, the museum’s curator, it should take approximately two years before the first building is ready for the public. After that, the foundation will continue its fundraising efforts in order to move on to two other phases that will include a 10,000 square foot adjacent building to house a new gift shop and a permanent, expanded STEM Education Center. The structure will also include a meeting room, a break room for staff and volunteers, an aviation research library and an exhibit preparation area.
The foundation’s fundraising efforts focus primarily on the construction of a new museum that will be accessible to the general public, aircraft acquisition and restoration and STEM scholarships.
For more information, visit the foundation’s website at www.afftcmuseum.org