The 2015 GOE Program includes:
- 1 page articles on each of the 2015 Eagles
- An incredible 30 pages of the 60 year history of the U-2 written by William J. Simone, former U-2 Engineer and FTHF Board member titled “Birth of the Dragon Lady”.
- A fascinating 6 page account of the “SR-71 Speed Record Flight to the Smithsonian” written by SR-71 pilot, Ed Yeilding.
The 2015 Gathering of Eagles event had a dual theme – to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the U-2 spy plane, and to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the SR-71 coast-to-coast Smithsonian flight, during which four (4) aircraft speed records were set.
The panel of Eagles (honorees) consists of the following:
- Louis Setter, Col. (Ret.), USAF – U-2 Instructor Pilot /Test Pilot (USAF)
- Tony Bevacqua, Lt. Col. (Ret.), USAF – U-2 & SR-71 Instructor Pilot/Test Pilot (USAF)
- David Kerzie, Lt. Col. (Ret.), USAF – U-2 Chief Test Pilot (Lockheed)
- Rob “Skid” Rowe, Col. (Ret.), USAF – U-2 Chief Test Pilot (Lockheed)
- Ed Yeilding, Lt. Col. (Ret.), USAF – SR-71 Instructor Pilot/Test Pilot: Four (4) Aircraft Speed Records
Members of the panel represented the complete life span of the U-2 program – one of the most unique and longest lasting Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms in the history of US aviation. Louis Setter talked about the early days of the secret CIA U-2 program, when he participated in early flight test under the legendary C. Kelly Johnson and taught Francis Gary Powers to fly. Louis’ experience was bookended by reminiscences from the current U-2 by Rob “Skid” Rowe and Melani Austin, Lockheed Martin U-2 program director. Melani briefed the captivated audience on the aircraft’s current capabilities and the fact that, despite being 60 years old, the Dragon Lady is projected to fly well into 2045.
One member of the panel, Mr. Tony Bevacqua, was the only pilot in the room to have flown both platforms. He shared some great stories about how he ended up in the Air Force and the fact that everyone in the U-2 cadre knew Powers as “Frank” – it wasn’t until after he was shot down and the press picked up on the fact that his girlfriend (and future wife) preferred to call him Gary that he started to go by that name. Dave Kerzie, who was the 1986 recipient of the Iven C. Kinchloe Award as the industry’s Test Pilot of the Year for his work in performing extremely high-altitude flutter investigations, shared his memories of that experience. Kerzie, who had flown with co-emcee Dana Purifoy, also reminisced about the engine flameout that he experienced during a mission as Purifoy’s wingman and the rare sights you get to see while flying at altitudes of about 70,000 feet. “I’ll never forget the beautiful sight…” explained Ed Yeilding as he talked about his last flight in an SR-71 Blackbird, March 6, 1990.
Foundation Trustee Jens Neelsen presented a certificate of appreciation to Dr. Keith Jamieson for a pledge of $50 thousand from the Glen and Lois Jamieson Family Fund to the Foundation’s Capital Campaign. This pledge allowed the FTHF to qualify for a $300,000 matching grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. Chairwoman Lisa Gray stated “I am very pleased to announce we have now raised enough money to break ground outside the gates of Edwards AFB. We have initiated the offer of gift to the United States Air Force, the first tangible step toward building the new museum.”
Thank you again for your past and future support of the museum!
All of the proceeds from the sale of these programs will be used to support the Air Force Flight Test Museum at Edwards AFB and the Blackbird Airpark in Palmdale. Proceeds will be used for repair and restoration of the aircraft in the museum’s inventory, as well as moving the main museum outside the West gate, to make it accessible to the general public.