My Western Trip~Part 5

4 Jun

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Bill Small Red Plane

With a pleasantly full tummy, I headed west to the Mojave Air & Spaceport to check out the famous Scaled Composites operation that Burt Rutan had founded. I was disappointed to discover that Northrop Grumman now owned the company and the open access to the facility I had once experienced when visiting Scaled Composites back in the early 1980s was no longer available. Since the Spaceport is now basically closed to visitors, I took a few pictures of some of the aircraft that have made the Spaceport famous in recent years, and are now displayed in the Rotary Rocket Roton. Then I headed for Palmdale, CA to check out the Lockheed Skunk Works.



I had hoped for a tour of the Lockheed Martin Plant 42 where they are building the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Skunk Works, where it is rumored they are now developing a new unmanned spy plane, dubbed the SR-72, or “Son of Blackbird.”   But, here again I was to be disappointed, as the whole area was fenced off with no visitor access. So, I drove on over to visit the Joe Davis Air Park and the Blackbird Park (Production Flight Test Installation). This provided me with great up close and personal viewing of some of America’s most popular and fastest airplanes ever made.



I started the next day with a tour of the Edward AFB and Museum. This was a three hour closely monitored bus tour of the museum and some of the base facilities. This was another case of having experienced open access visiting of most of the Edwards AFB facilities while assigned to the Space Shuttle Recovery Team in the mid-1980s. It seems that access to most of the U.S air bases around the country have been closed or largely restricted to the public since 9-11. As an example, the Edwards tour is only given two days each month, and then a person must sign up 30 days in advance to provide time for security background checks. I did however learn one very interesting thing on this tour. How the “Muroc Air Force Test Center” originally got its name. Can you guess? Google “Edwards AFB & Vicinity” and scroll down to “1910” and see what you get. I would never have guessed. I found it very informative. Things sure were a lot simpler back in those days.   As part of the Edwards AFB Museum tour, I visited the Century Circle display, which traces just one time period of the Air Force Flight Test Center’s history, which (Muroc) Edwards is famous for.


After leaving Edwards, my next stop was in Sylmar, CA to visit the Nethercutt Collection. This was one of the best automobile collections I have ever seen. J. B. Nethercutt was the co-founder of the Merle Norman Cosmetics Company and he collected more than 30 classic luxury automobiles as part of a 200-car collection that is on a rotating display. Each of the cars has been carefully restored, runs like new and is licensed for when they are taken to car shows. In addition, the collection includes an amazing collection of automobile mascots, antique furniture, clocks, watches, and one of the world’s finest collections of mechanical musical instruments, which is displayed in the museum’s music room.




—–To Be Continued—–



2 Responses to “My Western Trip~Part 5”

  1. divoran09 June 4, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    Great post, my darlin’. I loved that old car at the end!


  2. Louise Gib son June 4, 2014 at 8:17 am #

    Very interesting and informative, Bill.


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