Southern California’s long aviation history began over a hundred years ago, and has been thriving since the dawn of flight. Advancements have been linked to the diverse, impactful, risk-taking, and forward-thinking attitude that is typical of the region’s culture. In 1910, Los Angeles became the first city in the United States, and only the second city in the world, to host the International Air Show which acted as a catalyst for later local developments in the industry.
The Antelope Valley has become synonymous with aviation and aerospace development, known to some as “America’s Aerospace Valley,” due to its long history of aeronautical achievement and success. Companies like Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Scaled Composites have developed a large presence today. These companies, in addition to the continued presence of Edwards Air Force Base (EAFB), the United States Air Force (USAF) Plant 42, and NASA’s Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center have helped to preserve the local legacy of aeronautical innovation.
Originally opened in 1933, EAFB first operated as a temporary bomb and gunnery range. The first permanent facilities were known as Muroc Army Air Field, which was established in 1942. In 1950, Muroc Army Air Field was renamed Edwards Air Force Base after Glen Edwards, a captain and test pilot who died testing a YB-49 Flying Wing in 1948. Following World War II, the center has served as a test site where the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and private aerospace companies have developed and evaluated nearly every aircraft in its inventory.
Due to its proximity, Lancaster has been a privileged host to some of the greatest names associated with aviation history, along with many broken records and outstanding feats that took place at Edwards including: America's first jet flight by the Bell XP-59A Airacomet in 1942; the first supersonic flight by Captain Charles “Chuck” Yeager in the Bell X-1 in 1947; the highest altitude record in the world of over 90,000 feet by test pilot Arthur “Kit” Murray in 1954; the world's absolute speed record for winged aircraft, set at 4,520 mph by Major William J. "Pete" Knight in the X-15 rocket research aircraft in 1967; and the landing of the first space shuttle following its mission to orbit the earth thirty-six times in 1981.
Established in 1990, and completed in 2009, Lancaster's Aerospace Walk of Honor program was created in order to acknowledge the City's more than sixty-year tradition as the nation's aerospace epicenter and host City to a distinguished group of internationally known experimental test pilots who flew at EAFB during their careers. The Aerospace Walk of Honor awards recognition to test pilots whose aviation careers were marked by significant achievements and commemorates these accomplishments with sidewalk monuments along Lancaster Boulevard, which merit the contributions of these brave men and women.
Today, the Lancaster Museum of Art and History (MOAH) is collaborating with Residence Inn by Marriott to decorate and design the hotel’s public spaces with custom aerospace imagery curated from the museum’s permanent collection. Each image will be labeled with a QR code that, when scanned, will lead to detailed descriptions about the aviators and aircrafts being displayed. The 107-room, 4-story Residence Inn is located in the heart of downtown Lancaster (near the corner of Gadsden Avenue and Lancaster Boulevard) and will be the first hotel in the Antelope Valley region situated in a walkable downtown district.
Photos courtesy of NASA and MOAH’s Permanent Collection