Annual gathering of eagles remembers the past and looks to the future


Annual gathering of eagles remembers the past and looks to the future

AEROSPACE VALLEY, Calif. – On the evening of Saturday, November 12, the Historic Flight Test Foundation will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the breaking of the sound barrier and the nonprofit organization’s landmark achievement in building a world-class , one of- Its kind Flight Test Museum and Conference Center for Edwards AFB.

This year’s gathering of eagles in the Hunter Pavilion at the Antelope Valley Fair & Events Center in Lancaster marks the 40th anniversary of the founding to share the story of America’s birthplace of aerospace exploration.

In addition to recognition of individuals and teams for their aerospace achievements, scholarship presentations and a panel discussion by leading authorities in flight testing, aerospace engineering and space exploration, this “gathering of eagles” will also celebrate the raising of the walls and roof above the 75,000-square-foot foundation for the Flight Test Museum.

Doors open at 4:30 p.m. for a reception where attendees can mingle with stars of aerospace research and technology. A silent auction of rare memorabilia, including aviation art and aerospace artifacts, is due to begin at 6 p.m. Proceeds will support phase two of the museum’s construction.

Additionally, an aerospace art exhibit will be selling original paintings and fine art prints. Half of the proceeds from sales are donated by the artists to help fund the new Flight Test Museum. Award-winning artists Douglas Castleman and Mark Pestana who are official artists of the US Air Force with many of their paintings in the Pentagon and NASA art collections.

The dinner program will begin at 6 p.m. The public will also be able to support the fundraising campaign by visiting the Foundation’s online store of autographed collectibles.

With the futuristic theme “75 Years of Breaking Barriers on the Valley of Aerospace / Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going,” the call for an Honorary President was answered by a familiar last name in the star-studded firmament of ‘Hollywood.

Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry, son of the creator of the 1960s television series Star Trek, is the CEO of Roddenberry Enterprises where he is executive producer of current television feature series including Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Lower Bridges. Star Trek Prodigy and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

Honorary President Roddenberry will participate in a fireside chat with Bill “Evil” Gray, chief test pilot at the Air Force Test Pilot School.

Going where no Gathering of Eagles panel has gone before, the 2022 theme will take audiences from the start of flight testing in the Mojave Desert to visions of barriers on the horizon for the young pioneer race from aerospace explorers at Mojave Air and Space Port, Edwards AFB, NASA Armstrong Research Center, Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, and nearly every other aerospace industry today, including SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic.

The panel will seek to answer the questions of how did we get to where we are today, where are we going and how will we get there?

Insightful answers, thoughts, and maybe some WAGS on the tracking problem, How We’ll Get There, will be addressed by a panel of experts from the astronautics side of the house.

Panelists, including three new recipients of the FTHF Eagle Award for Flight Test Achievement, include:

  • Donald L. Mallick, Lt. Cmdr. USN (Ret.) Navy pilot and research pilot for NASA Dryden (now Armstrong) Flight Research Center; Chief Pilot LLRV, Chief Pilot NASA, Deputy Chief Director NASA Dryden (Ret.)
  • Kelly Latimer, Air Force and Virgin Galactic test pilot, test flight director at Virgin Galactic, and (first female) research pilot for NASA Armstrong.
  • Jared “Rook” Isaacman, CEO, Draken International and Shift4, and Commander of Inspiration4 and Polaris Dawn.
  • Wesley R. Persall, Flight Test Engineer for the Air Force and Scaled Composites, and Principal Test Engineer for Blue Origin and The Spaceship Company.

The panelists and winners are:

  • Fred W. Haise, Jr. – NASA Astronaut, Apollo 13; commander of the space shuttle Enterprise; Pilot test; Fighter pilot, Air Force and Marine Corps
  • Pamela A. Melroy – NASA Astronaut, Space Shuttles Discovery & Atlantis; Commander, Discovery; Deputy Administrator, NASA; Test pilot, Air Force
  • Todd “Leif” Ericson – Mission Director, Polaris Dawn; Test pilot, Air Force and Virgin Galactic

The discussion moderator will be retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bill ‘Evil’ Gray, USAF Test Pilot, AFFTC Chief of Flight Safety, Test Pilot in Chief AF Test Pilot School and Chief X-62 Test Pilot.

The founding members of the FTHF recognized Aerospace Valley as the genesis of flight testing and aerospace innovation, and since 1983 the FTHF has honored luminaries of the aerospace world at events and awards dinners.

Each year, the FTHF awards two $2,000 scholarships to students in California State University’s Long Beach Aerospace Valley Engineering program. This year’s recipients of the G. Gordon Fullerton and William J. “Pete” Knight Memorial Scholarships are Robert Brown Jr. (EE) and Yesenia Morales (ME).

The Gathering of Eagles was established in 1997 to recognize significant accomplishments in flight testing and to honor individuals who have made those accomplishments possible with the Eagle Award.

Tickets are $150 per person, $100 for current “Friends of the Museum,” with sponsorships and full table purchases available.

For more information, contact [email protected] Book your tickets at

Eagles winners over the years

Tributes to Aerospace

  • 1989: Celebration of the 20th anniversary of the first moon landing
  • Honoré Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins (first time together since 1969)
  • 1990: Just Wings, 5th annual tribute honoring Jack Northrop and flying wing pilots Max Stanley, Bob Cardenas, Chuck Tucker, Bruce Hinds and Rick Couch.
  • 1991: 40th anniversary of the Air Force Flight Test Center (AFFTC) award accepted by Major General John Schoeppner.
  • 1992: 50th anniversary of the first American jet – Bell P-59. Honored Lt. Gen. Laurence C. “Bill” Craigie, America’s first military jet pilot.
  • 1993: Kelly Johnson 50th Anniversary of Lockheed Skunk Works – Award accepted by Sherm Mullin.
  • 1994: 50th anniversary of the USAF Test Pilot School.

Gathering of Eagles

  • 1995: Edward Heinemann and Douglas Aircraft. “An evening of aviation history.” Special guests included Chuck Yeager, JJ Quinn, Tony LeVier, Pete Knight, Bob Gilliland and Bob Cardenas.
  • 1997: 50th anniversary of the X-1 program – Winners: Chuck Yeager, Bob Hoover, Bob Cardenas, Jack Russell, De Beeler.
  • 1999: 40th anniversary of the X-15 test program – Winners: Pete Knight, Scott Crossfield, Joe Engle, Bill Dana, Fitz Fulton.
  • 2001: AFFTC 50th Anniversary – Winners: Lt Gen Thomas Stafford, Charlie Bock, Jesse Jacobs, Don Mallick and Fred Stoliker.
  • 2002: B-52 50th Anniversary – Winners: John Carlson, Phil Conley, Charlie Kuyk, Al Phillips, Guy Townsend.
  • 2003: Centennial of Flight and Century Series Fighters – Recipients: Hank Beaird, Bob Little, Bob Titus and Bill Weaver.
  • 2004: Out of the Black, Into the Blue – Paper drawings and flying prototypes – Winners: Keith Beswick, Den Dyson, Doug Benjamin, Rudy Haug, Dan Vanderhorst and Dick Thomas.
  • 2005: U-2 50th Anniversary – Winners: Louis Setter, Harry Andonian, Bob Riedenauer, Tom McMurtry, Don Sorlie.
  • 2006: B-58 Hustler 50th Anniversary – Winners: Johnny Armstrong, Beryl Erickson, Harold Confer, Charles Harrison, Robert Sowers.
  • 2008: XB-70 Valkyrie flight test program – Winners: Paul Reukauf, Lyle Schofield, Bill Schweikard.
  • 2009: 50th anniversary of the X-15 flight test program – Winners: Bob White, Betty Love, Bob Hoey, John McTigue.

Aviation Achievement Awards Series

  • 2010: Winners: Brig. Gen Robert Cardenas, Bob Hoover, Clay Lacy, David Tallichet.
  • 2011: Winners: Frank Robinson, Robert Gilliland, Jens Neelsen.
  • 2012: Tribute to the space shuttle
  • NASA ALT/OFT – Approach and Landing Teams, Orbital Flight Test
  • NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center Space Shuttle Operations Team,
  • Boeing Space Shuttle AIT Team – Assembly, integration and testing of all orbiters
  • Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne’s SSME – Space Shuttle Main Engine Team
  • US Air Force Space Shuttle Recovery Team.


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