The California Wing Civil Air Patrol Aerospace Education Summer Camp (CAP – AESC), took place during the week of July 30 to Aug.5 at Edwards Air Force Base. Participants in this 2nd annual CAP-AESC event comprised cadets and adult staff from all over California between the ages of 12 and 87. While the week was packed with activities such as flying military simulators, visiting several exhibits and meeting test pilots, many of the attending cadets experienced their first flight in a Cessna 182 (CAP O-Ride) and a C-17. What made the CAP O-Ride more special than most was not only that it was flown from an active Air Force Base, it was also flown from the very same runway that Chuck Yeager landed the Bell X-1 on in 1947.
After arriving on July 30, the adult staff started right up with activities for the cadets. Up to Wednesday, Aug. 2, every hour of daylight was spent on aerospace education activities. But, what made Wednesday so special was the opportunity for cadets to take flight. The CAP O-Ride operations began at dawn as 9 CAP Cessna 182s and 2 Cessna 206s were flown onto Edwards South Base from CAP Squadrons throughout southern and central California. Keep in mind that the pilots of these CAP airplanes are also CAP members and volunteer 100 percent of the time to fly CAP O-Rides. With 33 cadets waiting at the flight line, before long, three per airplane, they took to the skies and were soaring above Edwards AFB and the Mojave Desert. And for many of them, it was their very first experience in an airplane.
The cadets were not the only ones enjoying their first-time CAP flight. That morning the California CAP Wing (CAWG) was honored by a visit from very special guests Sen. Jean Fuller and her husband, Russel Fuller. Sen. Fuller and Mr. Fuller were taken in one of the Cessna 206s for their own O-Ride and a birds-eye-view of the desert. Afterwards, a luncheon was held for the special guests at Club Muroc, hosted by the AESC program sponsors of the 412th Test Wing, Dr. David Smith, installation support director and Humberto Blanco, deputy director of Plans and Programs. Also honoring the special guests at the luncheon were CAWG leadership staff, Col. Alan Ferguson, CAWG-Commander, Lt. Col. Roger Dunn, CAWG-Aerospace Education Director.
The following morning, CAP-AESC cadets and staff went on a two hour C-17 military orientation flight, piloted by Major Eric Day, USAF. Unlike the CAP Cessna O-Rides where the cadets actually get to take the controls of the airplane while in flight, on the C-17 O-Ride they rode as passengers in the aircraft bay and were allowed to visit the flight deck with the pilots. While in flight, Maj. Day made sure that it would be a memorable one. Shortly after take-off, he demonstrated capability maneuvers by taking the C-17 into a steep vertical climb, which was only the beginning of several fun maneuvers. Within the first hour of flight, he demonstrated low-level aerial unloading operations at 1,000 feet off the deck with the rear doors open. Then, at midflight, he twice demonstrated the effects of positive and negative G-forces which first pushed everyone into their seats on the positive-G and then, being held only by their seat belts, arms and legs floated in mid-air on the negative-G. In the midst of it all, the airplane bay was filled with cheering screams and laughter.
After the G-force demonstration, Maj. Day took the C-17 to 25,000 feet and then demonstrated a tactical descent (TC). At altitude, he tipped the nose to negative 25-degrees, engaged the reverse thrusters and dove to 12,000 feet within less than minute. Again, the bay filled with cheering and laughter. Day’s final tactical maneuver was to demonstrate the short-field landing capabilities of the C-17. Upon touching down back at Edwards AFB, he rapidly slowed the aircraft to a stop within 2,500 feet, just a little shorter than twice the normal landing distance of a Cessna 182. As the grand finale, the force of the landing slammed everyone forward in their seats.
For the remainder of the week, CAP-AESC activities included tours of the Edwards AFB Test Flight facilities of the F-22, static demonstrations of the F-35 and the Global Hawk, the Joshua Radar Service TRACON facility, the Test Pilot School, USAF EOD and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). Special guests along the way included Assembly member Tom Lackey, and staff, who enjoyed the F-22 tour and the CAP-AESC STEM display with cadets. Also, Assembly member Vince Fong and staff enjoyed the F-35 tour, got to shoot a STEM model rocket into the air and handled the controls of a STEM unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
Throughout the entire week of the event, cadets demonstrated a hunger for aerospace knowledge while maintaining a high level of enthusiasm with the excitement of seeing firsthand the aircraft, the operations and the people who make up such an elite part of the aerospace community. It might be said that Chuck Yeager himself would be honored to be a part of a program that so profoundly inspires young minds.
Major Gail Harper, CAP, is the Public Affairs Officer at Edwards Air Force Base.