Edwards AFB Provides Thrust to Lancaster Area

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Edwards Air Force Base
Senior Airman Julius Delos Reyes
Any population center worth its salt has a few planes flying overhead, maybe even a busy airport. But most can’t boast about getting to see the occasional space shuttle landing. If you’re in the Antelope Valley, however, you can talk about that and much, much more. The valley has been home to Edwards Air Force Base since 1933, when it was used as a bombing range. It received its current name, in honor of U.S. Air Force test pilot Glen Edwards in 1949, and has grown in size and scope ever since. Edwards, which fills around 301,000 acres, is home to the Air Force Flight Test Center, Test Pilot School and NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center. The base is also home to the 412th Test Wing and is operated by the 95th Air Base Wing. In addition to the first space shuttle landings on Rogers Dry Lakebed, the largest in North America, the base has been the location of some historic moments in flight, including Chuck Yeager’s sound barrier-breaking flight; test flights of the North American X-15; and the 1986 around-the-world flight of the Rutan Voyager. Current projects include the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, F-22 Raptor, RQ-4 Global Hawk and B-52 synthetic fuel program. With all this activity, and thousands of personnel, it’s easy to see how Edwards is a big player in the Antelope Valley economy. From housing to schools, the base’s comings and goings are felt throughout the region. Edwards currently is in the process of replacing much of its on-base housing, a major project designed to create more modern living quarters, says John Haire, director of media relations. “We’re losing some housing, because we’re not building as many replacements,” Haire says. “But our newer houses are going to have better pipes and all the things that make them more energy efficient, so it’ll be cheaper to keep them up to grade.” The base will have 792 homes on its property when the project is finished, Haire says, adding that much of the base’s workforce, military and otherwise, chooses to live in the surrounding communities. “Probably 60 percent of them live in Lancaster and Palmdale, so we do have a lot of people who come in from the surrounding communities,” he says. Given the size and scope of the base’s operations, its business filters into the local economy on multiple levels. That alone makes doing business with Edwards worthwhile, although it can be a bit cumbersome at the outset, says Steve Malicott, president and CEO of the Antelope Valley Chambers of Commerce. “There’s a process to go through in order to get into the system, but that process is well worth it,” Malicott says. “We try to offer educational classes on how to do that, but many people don’t want to go through the effort. But even though they only award about 20 percent of their contracts locally, they have a huge impact. The people who do the work to do business with Edwards find that it really does pay off.”

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Wed, 02/28/2018 - 21:22