It’s pretty apparent I love aviation. My masters program in Aeronautical Science at Embry Riddle focuses though on a new aspect of aviation for me: drones. I think UAV’s are going to have a fascinating future, especially with the requirements that the FAA come up with regulations for their commercial use by September 2015 and so I’m taking an expensive and lengthy gamble on getting certified and educated about unmanned aircraft for the future. But the truth is that it’s not much of a gamble when you love it and would do it anyway!
Through a friend of a friend, I got an invite to head north into the Mojave Desert to visit the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base last week to see real drones and witness how they’re flown and operated.
It was a chance of a lifetime for me to completely geek out over airplanes with some like minded flight engineers and pilots, and I gratefully took it!
If you’re not into flight, maybe this will seem super nerdy. If you are, then please join me for some photos of a geek-tastic day trip with NASA. There was so much there beyond just the drones – the X1, Gulfstream, F18’s and F15’s and a whole host of old spy planes like…
… the YO-3A which I had never heard of or seen before. What a beautiful prop!
Hanging out in the Armstrong Hangar looking at all their jets was awesome. They had a lot of F18’s they were working on that day, which was fun for me to see that close. I’ve never been so close to a jet.
At one point I even got a chance to see an F18 up close with one of the NASA mechanics, who gave me a tour of the flight controls, cockpit head’s up display, the air brakes and vertical stabilizer rudders.
Also incredible? There’s a supersonic corridor of airspace over this section which resulted in my hearing not one, but two Sonic Booms while visiting the hangars and flightline of Armstrong. It was AWESOME. Truly awesome.
My guide had warned me it would possibly happen during my visit but I jumped about three feet the first time it did!
But enough about jets and sonic booms…. it was on to the drones!
While I wasn’t able to take photos of the flight command centers for the Ikhana or the Global Hawk, I was able to go check them out in the hangars. This Global Hawk is massive! I had no idea their wingspan was so huge! I believe it’s the same wingspan as a 747 so in essence once these things are up, they work like a glider.
It was an awesome day out in the heat. I hope as I continue to learn about aviation and improve my skills as a pilot I will get the chance to visit again and ask even better questions and maybe see some different planes, too!
Jill Brown is an Author, Blogger, and Professional Writer. She founded TheDuchessGuide.com and is the author of the newly released book: Royally Awesome: How To Live, Think And Be Epic Daily. Jill’s writing has been featured numerous times in ALASKA Magazine and AOPA Flight Training Magazine. She’s crazy about aviation and her home state, Alaska.
Follow Jill on Twitter: @JilltheDuchess