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Gathering of Eagles

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The U.S. Air Force Flight Test Center Museum Panorama
The Flight Test Historical Foundation
Gathering of Eagles

The Gathering of Eagles (GOE) this year will be highlighted by paying tribute to six of the distinguished flight test pioneers who were an integral part of the B-52 flight test program. The Foundation will pay tribute to these pioneers at the 2002 Gathering of Eagles on October 25, 2002 at the Park Plaza Hotel's Convention Center in Lancaster, California.

This year's Eagles will include:

* Lt Col (Ret) John Carlson, pilot on the B-52B program and the primary pilot on the B-52G test program. John flew a number of rescue missions over Vietnam on two tours of duty.

* Maj Gen (Ret) Phil Conley served at the Air Force Flight Test Center (AFFTC) at Edwards three times in his career. From 1956 to 1961 he participated in flight test evaluations of F-100s and F-105s and was project engineer and a co-pilot on the B-52 test program. Conley returned to the AFFTC as vice commander in July 1971 and later returned to Edwards as commander of the AFFTC in March 1978.

* Maj Gen (Ret) Charles "Charlie" Kuyk, then a Captain, was the project pilot on the B-52G test program and was the project pilot on the B-52H Service Test Project. Later, Kuyk served as a Wing Commander and Deputy Division Commander of Military Airlift Command C-5 organizations.  He was the Commander of one C-141 and one C-5 Wing and later commanded the 22nd Air Force.

* Al Phillips, worked as a Flight Test Engineer on the B-52 A project when he was 24 years old. Later, Phillips worked as the project engineer on the Phase IV B-52A Performance and Stability program. After working as chief project flight test engineer on a variety of projects, Phillips became the AFFTC Technical Director, the top civilian at the AFFTC. 

* Brig Gen (Ret) Guy Townsend, then a Lt. Col and Boeing's test pilot "Tex" Johnson took the YB-52 on its maiden flight, from the Boeing runway in Seattle.  Townsend was also the first military pilot to fly the B-47, B-50 and KC-135 prototype.  While assigned to the AFFTC, he was the XB-70 Test Force Director and the AFFTC Director of Flight Test.  He also filled a number of general officer slots at WPAFB.

The 2002 Eagles will be led by Fitz Fulton in a panel discussion about the B-52 flight test program. Fulton was chief of Bomber Test Operations and brought the first B-52B to Edwards AFB. Later, he flew as chief project pilot on the Heavy Weight B-52 project. After retiring from the Air Force, Fulton worked for NASA. His duties included transporting the space shuttles on top of a modified Boeing 747 from California to Florida.

The Master of Ceremonies for the Gathering of Eagles program will be David Hartman. Hartman served three years active duty as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, Strategic Air Command. Back in civilian life, his numerous professional honors include two National News and Documentary Emmy Awards and the Aviation/Space Writers' Journalism Award.

Originally dubbed the "Stratofortress," the B-52 was later informally named by its crews the "BUFF," or Big Ugly Fat Fellow. With eight jet engines hanging under its wings and its bomb bay designed to carry massive thermonuclear weapons it was considered to be the most ambitious and unique bomber in American history. For the past 50 years, other bombers have come and gone in the Air Force inventory, but none has survived and defended the Nation more gallantly than the B-52. The B-52 was ideally suited for Cold War missions with its huge fuel tanks in the wings and fuselage. That would give the plane an unrefueled range that allowed it to strike deep into the Soviet Union. With air-to-air refueling, the plane could circumnavigate the globe. It was a credible, significant deterrent against the Soviet Union. It was, in and of itself, the third leg of the so-called "Triad"-a triple nuclear threat composed of land-based ICBMs, submarine-launched missiles, and aircraft. Today, half a century later, the Cold War may be over but the mission of the B-52 remains. The sons and daughters of the pilots that flew the B-52 in the 1950s and 1960s are now defeating global terrorism in this stalwart giant.

For more than five decades, Edwards has been the world's premier flight testing and flight research center. Much of this exciting history is now preserved and displayed in the Air Force Flight Test Center Museum.

The 12,000 square foot museum building at Edwards Air Force Base was constructed with funds raised by the Flight Test Historical Foundation. The Gathering of Eagles program helps support this museum and keeps the history of the AFFTC alive. Inside the museum are exhibits covering such diverse subjects as the formation of the ancient lake beds, early homesteading, the first military uses of Edwards, flight testing during World War II, high-speed flight and the story of Glen Edwards, for whom the base was named.

Adjacent to the museum, static displays include the B-52D, F-84F, F-104, F-111, T-28, T-39, H-34, T-33, YA-7D, F-101B, F-105D, UC-45G, NF-4C, Gloster Meteor and SR-71. Another five aircraft are mounted on pedestals around the base, including the F-104, NF-104, P-59, T-33, and T-38.

The foundation also supports the Blackbird Airpark which is nested on three acres at the Air Force's Production Flight Test Installation at Plant 42 in Palmdale, California.

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August 22, 2002 by John A. Fergione