submitted by Doug Nelson, AFFTC Museum
Two Blackbird-related events will be held in California's Antelope Valley on Saturday, April 27, 2002. Both events promise to be entertaining and memorable.
The first, a day-long event at the Blackbird Airpark, will feature special guests Lou Schalk, Bob Gilliland, and Jim Eastham - first flight pilots on the A-12, SR-71, and YF-12 respectively - greeting the public, sharing their experiences, and signing memorabilia. They will be joined by a number of former Blackbird crewmembers, engineers, and maintainers who will be available to answer questions and, perhaps, tell some Blackbird "war stories."
Also during the day, there will be a number of support exhibits to compliment the A-12, SR-71, D-21, and U-2 on permanent display at the airpark; an art and photo exhibition is planned; a book signing is in the works; food and beverages will be available; and a car display of 1962 vehicles along with a live radio broadcast are hoped for. A whole range of 40th anniversary souvenirs—along with other Blackbird memorabilia--will also be available for purchase in the airpark’s gift shop. Weather permitting, the aircraft cockpits may also be open for display.
Following the daytime festivities at the airpark, there will be a celebration dinner at The Convention Center Park Plaza in Lancaster/Palmdale. Still in the planning stages, this gala event is envisioned as the first of an annual "Blackbird Laurels Investiture Dinner," wherein crew members, maintainers, and support folks (one living and one deceased in each category) would be inducted into the "Blackbird Laurels Society" with recognition plaques on the Heritage Wall at the Blackbird Airpark. Fittingly, this inaugural dinner will also recognize the A-12's 40th anniversary. As a fund raiser for the Blackbird Airpark, the $75 evening event will include a full dinner, silent auction, entertainment, and commemorative items, in addition to the induction ceremonies. Retired Air Force Maj Gen Mele Vojvodich, pilot of the first operational A-12 mission, is the featured speaker, and another noted A-12 pilot, Mr. Ken Collins, will serve as emcee. Both Vojvodich and Collins earned the coveted CIA Intelligence Star for Valor for their participation in operational A-12 flights.
Full details of the dinner will be included in invitations to be sent out in February. Anyone interested in receiving an invitation should contact Doug Nelson, Air Force Flight Test Center Museum Director, by email [firstname.lastname@example.org] or by phone at (877)FLT-TEST (toll-free in the USA).
The 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.