There’s no music. There’s no commentary. Even the in and off radio calls are left for other clips. Nothing but fast jets making lots of thunderous freedom noises down in Star Wars Canyon. The aircraft are a cross-section of nearly everything fast in service today: A-10s, F-15s, F-16s, F-22s, F-35s, F/A-18s, EA-18Gs, and a few more thrown in. Foreign built jets appearing in the piece include the Panavia Tornado and the Eurofighter Typhoon. For you nostalgic jet fans there are appearances by one of the last living QF-4G Phantoms and a privately owned Northrop T-38 Talon. The video was uploaded to YouTube by Habujet. Enjoy with your sound system set to 11!
There’s nothing really secret about Star Wars Canyon. Technically it’s part of a published but restricted low-level training route (part of the R2508 Special Use Airspace Complex) meandering through Rainbow Canyon area on the western edge of Death Valley National Park in California. One reason photographers and videographers like the location so much is the variety of aircraft that use the place. Aircraft from Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake, the Air Force’s Plant 42 at Palmdale, Nellis AFB, NAS Lemoore, Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar and Fresno Air National Guard Base (ANGB) all use the restricted air space for testing and training.
The preferred location for capturing images and videos of the jets as they thunder by is a place called Father Crowley Point. It’s roughly four hours east of Los Angeles and sits on publically accessible land- so no hassles from the fun police. Upsides include the potential for unique perspectives from which to snap incredible pictures and real restrooms at the parking area. Potential gotchas include a lack of published flight schedules, meaning a day could go by without any jet action at all, and for certain parts of the year the weather- broiling hot or freezing cold. But if it’s worth a trip the weather’s not stopping you! Just remember that summer weather affects density altitude, which in turn affects jet aircraft flight performance. Short answer: Fall and spring are probably your favorite seasons for this place resembling Tatooine on Earth. That’s how the place got its nickname. Somebody said the geography looked like the Star Wars planet of the same name and it stuck.
The experts say the best places to set up for righteous viewing are:
36° 21.278’N / 117° 33.694’W: A head on view of the jets diving into the canyon, still above the rim, followed by nice shots of the aircraft’s undersides when they roll to the left and dive into the canyon itself.
36° 21.324’N / 117° 32.583’W: A clear view of the jets as they keep rolling left, then pulling level for a short straight before a sharp right turn.
36° 21.557’N / 117° 32.119’W: A low level view (below the canyon rim) of the jets as they begin rolling left in preparation for egress. Many of the jets exiting the canyon pull up, but nearly as many remain low as they exit into Panamint Valley.
All of these spots are short hikes from the parking area. Bring water, sandwiches, a good tripod, your favorite trusty photographic tools (with a long lens), extra storage media, extra batteries and/or a solar battery charger, some shade generating device, and a scanner- tuned to 315.90 MHz. Bear in mind that you’re setting up at the Jedi Transition, which is essentially a shortcut between a couple of points (Charlie and Juliet) along the longer R2508 low-level training route. The R-2508 complex handbook refers to the canyon as Star Wars Canyon and the path through the canyon connecting Owens Valley in the west and Panamint Valley in the east as the Jedi Transition. Whatever you call it, listen for jets calling in. Subjects usually enter from the west and egress east, but not always. And yes…the pilots know when photogs are there and often show off just a little bit more than usual. You’re welcome.