Americas FAA Test Sites

IYK plans spectacular open house


Rebecca Neipp

Organizers are putting the finishing touches on what they promise will be day full of spectacular aerial performances, ground displays, musical entertainment, hands-on activities, information, food and fun for the whole family at the Inyokern Airport’s very first Community Open House on Saturday, Nov. 16, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“We want to make this a celebration of our local contributions to aerospace advancement, our love of technology and all the strides we have made in the last year and a half toward the cause of unmanned aerial systems integration at the Cal UAS Portal at IYK,” said Eileen Shibley, who has been leading an effort to promote Cal UAS for test-site designation by the FAA.

“I think what we have right now is a rare opportunity to witness the beginnings of a brand-new industry that is going to be a huge future focus. The applications for unmanned systems in the commercial sector are beyond even imagining.

“Go back to where we were 10 years ago with our smartphone apps. Did anyone ever imagine that we would be able to carry this little device in our pockets that can tap into limitless information and such remarkable capabilities?

“I think we are now on the edge of seeing that same kind of boom in unmanned systems. We can’t predict where things will develop, but in another 10 years they are going to be so ingrained in our culture we will take them for granted,” she said.

“One of the things we learned during our efforts to bring this kind of work to Inyokern was how much our community embraces un-manned systems technology. While other sites are facing public protest, our community is saying ‘Yes! We want to stay on the leading edge of technology and we want aerospace development to happen here!’

“Having a test site at IYK would bring jobs and industry to the region and strengthen the existing intellectual capital. And at our event on Saturday, we are going to present to the community all the ways they can be a part of this effort.”

From an industry perspective, said Shibley, Cal UAS partners are considering the day a valuable opportunity to network with vendors and developers.

“But I think what many people are looking forward to are the fantastic aerial displays we have planned,” said Shibley. She recommended early arrival, as most of the aerial demonstrations will be held in the morning.

One of the headlining attractions is a precision flight demonstration by the Desert Ravens. Axel Alvarez will lead a team of up to 12 pilots in an intricate aerial demonstration that has been seen in high-profile shows all over the United States.

Chip Yates, the entrepreneur who is developing a mid-flight refueling technology for electronic aircraft, will also address the crowd before flying in his world-record-breaking Long EZ.

Both Yates and members of the Desert Ravens will also be on hand for autographs afterward.

Dr. Tim Dawson, a world-renowned remote-controlled-aircraft champion and aerial photographer, will also give an address as well as demonstration. The local hobbyist club will also give demonstrations.

“The ramp is going to be absolutely full of hardware of every imaginable size and application,” said Shibley. Indoor and outdoor exhibits will feature just a fraction of the existing technology, as well as hinting at future capabilities.

“I’m also really excited about all of the youth activities that will be available that day,” said Shibley. Volunteering scientists and engineers will be offering hands-on workshops featuring air rockets, a wind tunnel and desktop flight simulators.

For the younger children there will be bounce houses, an obstacle course and a rock-climbing wall.

Elected leaders — including Rep. Kevin McCarthy, state Sen. Jean Fuller, Assemblywoman Shannon Grove and Supervisor Mick Gleason have promised to make appearances at the event.

Food, catered by Schooners, will be available for purchase.

Admission and all activities are offered free of charge.

“I know people are going to have a good time here, but I’m also hoping to impart to the residents of our amazing community a sense of excitement and ownership about all the things happening out at Inyokern,” said Shibley.

“The high desert has always been known as a place where innovators and visionaries gather to usher in the future — it’s why this was chosen by Cal Tech as the site of a weapons lab in the 1940s. I think bringing this kind of private-sector work to the Indian Wells Valley could be the biggest thing to happen to us since then.”

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