Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Geek Disneyland and Rabbit Parts


Written on 1/18, posted on 1/23


One of the things I really enjoy about touring around the country is seeing places I've always dreamed of seeing but have never had the chance to see.  One of those places is Edwards Air Force base right outside of Rosamond, CA.  Or perhaps I should say Rosamond is right out side of Edwards, as the city is dwarfed by the sprawling base and not the other way around.

Edwards has been the site of almost every single advance in the US aerospace community in our history.  From its origins in the 1930s as an Army Air Force bombing range to today's test flights of the F-22 Raptor, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Airborne Laser, Edwards has seen it all.

I was fortunate to visit the base courtesy of a Marine Master Sergeant and my friend Garold, mentioned in an earlier post.  Together we were able to visit the Marine Corps Air detachment at Edwards which hosts two squadrons of Marine helicopters.  Walking around and through these enormous helicopters gives one a keen appreciation for the lives that are daily on the line for the defense of our country.

Next door sits the Air Force Test Pilot School with its fleet of white T-38 trainers and F-16 fighters sitting on the flightline.  Driving around it's easy to see America's newest fighters sitting in their hangers; the unfamiliar shapes of F-22 Raptors and F-35 Joint Strike Fighters sitting in the desert cold waiting for their flights.

We also had the chance to visit an Air Force major who did his doctoral dissertation on nanotechnology and now devotes his talents to testing various systems for the Air Force.  From his building we could look across the flight line and see representatives of each bomber in the US inventory, the B-52, B-1 and the B-2 sitting on the asphalt.  Beyond them sat an enormous Boeing 747 that houses the Airborne Laser or ABL.  This aircraft serves as a testing platform for a laser weapon which is being designed to shoot down ballistic missiles shortly after their launch.

My father had raised me to be an engineer and my uncles are retired Navy & Air Force pilots.  I've loved airplanes since I was old enough to look up.  As a child I think I read every book on astronauts in my little town's public library.  For me, visiting Edwards was like visiting Disneyland, except everything is real.

Real too are the ever present swarms of  jackrabbits, familiar with the comings and goings of base personnel after so many years.  Looking around you can pick out little piles of fur spotting the fenced in portions of the base.  These fluttering little mounds are silent reminders of the ever present presence of airborne predators in the desert, desert owls playing their role in the ecosystem.  

It was hard to miss the similarity between those silent swift owls and all those warplanes on the flightline.


Anonymous said...

Do you know the Stephen Center in Tirana?

Jeff said...

I think I've heard the name, but I'm not familiar with it.