June 17, 2010 (by Stephen K. Robinson) - A prototype YF-22 Raptor fighter plane that was built in Palmdale, Calif., flight tested here, and put on temporary display at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, returned to Edwards AFB where it will stay for Air Force Flight Test Center Museum visitors to see.
Airman who were instrumental in the process of bringing the first YF-22 Raptor prototype built, pose in front of the aircraft with Mr. David Ferguson (7th from left), first Raptor test pilot, Mr. Tom Morgenfeld (10th from left), last Raptor test pilot and Mr. Fredrick Johnsen (3rd from left), Air Force Flight Test Center Museum director, that were instrumental in bringing back to Edwards, its flight-test home. [USAF photo by Stephen K. Robinson]
With approximately 100 military and civilians in attendance, Maj. Gen David Eichhorn, Air Force Flight Test Center commander, welcomed all to the AFFTC
Museum for the dedication of the Raptor June 11.
"This aircraft is a great addition to our museum out here and commemorates what Edwards is all about," General Eichhorn said. "It was built as part of the competition to determine which aircraft was going to be better; this one or the 23. You're looking at the winning design, and Edwards played a significant role in its success."
The Raptor prototype spent a few years in residence at the National Museum of the Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, but was transferred back here when the Wright-Patterson museum acquired an F-22A for its display.
"This very aircraft has flown 43 times under its own power and is a marvellous testimony to Team Edwards; not only during its test phase, but also in getting it back home here where it belongs," General Eichhorn said. "Now, we just have to get it outside the gate where anybody can show up at just about any time and enjoy our great heritage," referring to the planned museum relocation and expansion efforts underway by the non-profit Flight Test Historical Foundation.
Looking as though it just rolled off of the assembly line in Palmdale, it is hard to imagine the transformation this Raptor has gone through once it arrived back home.
"We are an official field museum of the National Museum of the Air Force and as such we cannot use Air Force dollars for physical plant construction. Thus, our non-profit foundation, Flight Test Historical Foundation, will have to raise the funds to enable us to build the three-phase museum outside the base gate," said Mr. Fredrick Johnsen, AFFTC Museum director. "This Raptor is a great addition to our museum here, and will be a crowd-pleaser for those who visit us."
The Raptor was ferried from Wright-Patterson to Edwards via a C-5 Globemaster cargo aircraft.
"By having a crackerjack team that worked well together and are all experts on this airplane, they saved me a lot of money in getting this aircraft back here. That, I am extremely happy for," General Eichhorn said.
Twenty-two Air Force members were instrumental in getting Raptor back to its origin.
"The best F-22 maintenance personnel available were brought together to tear down and package this first-ever built prototype for its trip from Wright-Patterson back here to Edwards," said Master Sgt. Gary Palazotto, 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron weapons flight chief. "We needed to ensure that it would not sustain any damage in transit."
Following General Eichhorn's remarks, Lt. Col. Stephen Grotjohn, 412th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander, and Lt. Col. Russell Hart, 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron commander, thanked and congratulated the personnel who got YF-22 back to Edwards.
Personnel from the 412th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron spent hundreds of man-hours transferring the Raptor from Ohio back to Edwards. Their names appear on the jet intake covers along with the signatures and call signs of the first and last Lockheed-Martin civilian test pilots, Mr. David Ferguson and Mr. Thomas Morgenfeld.
"Once we got it back here, we rebuilt it, stripped it down, primed and painted it and got it ready for its permanent home at Edwards," Sergeant Palazotto said.
This particular aircraft is of importance to the AFFTC and Edwards as it was the first prototype built at Plant 42 in Palmdale and conducted all 43 of its test flights here.
"Once the Raptor got here, it was quite an experience putting it back together," said Master Sgt. Eric West, 412th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Raptor production superintendant. "All parts were laid out in one of the 22 maintenance hangars, and we put it back together piece by piece."
"As this 22 is a prototype, there is no other aircraft like it. The men and women who worked on it did so with no schematics. They made a painstaking effort to restore it to like-new, off-the-line condition. I'd say they should be very proud of the job they did," Mr. Johnsen said.