Air Force Flight Test Center Museum, Edwards Air Force Base, CA, Blackbird Air Park and Joe Davies Heritage Air Park, Plant 42 Palmdale, CA
This is three sites in one and makes for a full day. We’re speaking of the Flight Test Center Museum, and the nearby Blackbird Air Park and Joe Davies Air Park. Vibrant, interconnected, and geographically all in the same neighborhood, this is one of the most unusual military destinations in the nation, and certainly one of the most important ones in aviation history.
Let’s start with Edwards. Edwards Air Force base is home to the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, the Air Force Test Center, and the Flight Test Center Museum, which tells the story of flight testing at Edwards. Located on base, the Flight Test museum is a modest museum with several interesting displays including a wall of scale model airplanes depicting all of the planes that made their first flight here. Aircraft on display include one of the few remaining B-58 Hustler supersonic nuclear bombers, the only two-seat version of the A-10 Warthog, an SR-71 Blackbird, various experimental “X” planes, and the YF-22 which was tested here and led to the F-22 Raptor.
Twenty minutes away is Blackbird Air Park in nearby Palmdale, California operated by the same non-profit that operates the Flight Test Museum. Here you’ll find two SR-71s nose-to-nose, or, rather, one SR-71 and one A-12, the single seat version of the SR-71 flown by the CIA (this is the only place where you can see the two side-by-side). You’ll also find a U-2 spy plane here, a black-project D-21 supersonic drone (blackbirds, right?), plus various parts of an SR-71 displayed inside a small museum also located here.
Joe Davies Heritage Air Park is next to Blackbird Air Park. It’s run by the City of Palmdale and named after one of the regions military luminaries. The Joe Davies Air Park has 21 additional aircraft and scale models on display including a B-52, a Boeing 747 that carried the space shuttle on its back, an A-7 Corsair, an A-4 Skyhawk, four “Century” series jets, the F-100 Super Sabre, the F-101 Voodoo, the F-104 Starfighter, and the F-105 Thunderchief, and some NASA test planes.
The Flight Test Center Museum is located inside Edwards Air Force Base so to get there you have to take the tour that runs on the third Friday of the month. If that’s sold out, they’ll take groups of 15 or more on private tours Tuesday through Friday (excepting Fridays when they’re giving the regular tour). On the way to the museum you’ll get a “windshield” view of the base including a trip along the flight line. Be sure to look for the statue of Chuck Yeager.
If you can’t get on any of the tours, don’t despair. Drive up to Edward’s North Gate and see the B-52 mothership that carried so any X planes aloft. Then drive over to the West Gate and see Century Circle. Century Circle isn’t named for any particular century but rather for a series of fighter jets that were 100-series aircraft. Lined up in a circle around the original Edwards AFB control tower is an F-100, an F-101, an F-102, an F-104, an F-105, and an F-106.
There are plans for a new museum and it will be more accessible to the public. Until then, this is still an excellent driving destination that puts you at the heart of cutting edge, military flight.
Flight Test Museum Tour Information:
General Public tours conducted on the third Friday from 9:30am – 1pm.
Check website (www.edwards.af.mil/tours) for dates.
Large group tours will take place on Tuesday, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays except the third Friday of the month. Reservations required. Start & end times flexible
Joe Davies Air Park Hours: Guided tours available by appointment.
Park hours: Friday, Saturday, Sunday: 11am – 4pmVisit museum website