Spectacular Images From Edwards Air Force Base’s STEM Flyover

On October 12th, aircraft and airmen from Edwards Air Force Base in California executed a regional flyover ahead of the installation’s first airshow and open house in 13 years. During the mission, some images were taken over the historic base and the surrounding area and the 412th Test Wing was kind enough to send them to us, and they do not disappoint.

Also dubbed the STEM School Flyover, the mission roared over 55 schools in the ‘Aerospace Valley’ to “help promote innovation for the next generation who will design and test tomorrow,” according to Edwards. The flyover offered test pilots from Edwards and the colocated NASA Armstrong Flight Test Center the chance to train in a unique environment. Edwards said that this is the “first time an Air Force base conducted a flyover of this purpose and scope.”

“In order to ‘Break Tomorrow’s Barriers Today,’ the theme of the AV [Aerospace Valley] Airshow, we need the next generation of scientists, engineers, pilots, and manufacturers excited and ready to take on the challenge,” said Jessica Peterson, the 412th Operations Group Technical Director and civilian flight test engineer who facilitated the flyover. “My intent was to encourage STEM education and awareness of STEM careers.”

The flyover included a C-17, F-35, F-16, T-38, and NASA F/A-18 that flew over a route spanning 250 miles, 14 different communities and reached over 40,000 students.

With designated waypoints at schools ranging from kindergartens to colleges, the flyover route included the Californian towns of Edwards, Boron, Helendale, Victorville, Hesperia, El Mirage, Lake Los Angeles, Palmdale, Quartz Hill, Lancaster, Rosamond, Tehachapi, Mojave, and California City.

A map of the STEM Flyover. Credit: U.S. Air Force

The jets were captured flying above the striking California desert landscape with the C-17 acting as the camera ship. The shots over Edwards AFB are fascinating and offer a great view of the ever-growing installation, which is home to much of what comes next in combat aviation as well as the schoolhouse that trains future test pilots and engineers that will make that future a reality. 

“Leading up to the event I reached out to schools to provide in-person presentations on Flight Test and Engineering,” Peterson said. “The goal was to connect students to the airplanes and aircrew they saw at the STEM outreach flyover and airshow.” 

Edwards has certainly been busy with outreach efforts as of late, as the sprawling installation in the Mojave Desert recently executed its first airshow in over a decade, which you can see from space in this recent War Zone article, on top of celebrating the 75th anniversary of Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier in the Bell X-1. Both events were meant to serve, at least in part, the same purpose as the STEM Flyover, which is to give students and interested youth the opportunity to get a first-hand look into the groundbreaking innovations coming out of Edwards Air Force Base in hopes of inspiring future STEM careers. 

This is an absolutely critical issue when it comes to the future of the U.S. Air Force. Without the best and brightest talent, the service would lose its competitive edge, especially when it comes to developing and testing future technologies and capabilities.

“I’m so deeply humbled by the inspirational investment I witnessed by all the key players and volunteers that made the last six days happen;” said Brig. Gen. Matthew Higer, Commander, 412th Test Wing, “an investment that clearly resonated with kids ages three to 13, for they are the STEM future of our nation.”

And we have some great photos to show for it, as well. 

Special thanks to the featured USAF photographers: Christian Turner, Christopher Dyer, Kaitlyn Steigerwald, and videographer: Jessica “Sting” Peterson

Contact the authors: Emma@thewarzone.com and Tyler@thedrive.com