Photos and video courtesy of Christopher McGreevyWhen Christopher McGreevy saw a business jet flying over his mountain cabin near Bakersfield on Monday, he had to tune in to his aviation radio to find out why.
When he heard chatter about a photoshoot in Star Wars Canyon, the hobbyist aviation photographer decided he had to go see it for himself - and bring his own camera.
What he captured the following day was a Dassault Falcon 8X ripping through the desert sky - and dipping into a notorious proving ground for the world's most skilled aviators.
The French aircraft maker often mentions its fighter jet DNA when marketing the performance of its cutting-edge business jets. So what better place to showcase those features than by flying where military pilots train?
McGreevy said the Falcon 8X landed on Monday at Inyokern Airport (KIYK), a small public-use facility that doesn't even have a control tower. That in itself is a rarity.
"I've never seen a plane like that there," he said.
McGreevy watched the Falcon 8X perform a reconnaissance run over the canyon on Monday, but the real action would take place over the following two days.
What is Star Wars Canyon?
Formally known as Rainbow Canyon, its 130 miles of narrow turns have been a mainstay for fighter jet pilots, as well as the occasional military transport plane, since World War II. Its nickname of Star Wars Canyon, aka Jedi Proving Ground, comes from the pilots who compared it to the bombing run on the Death Star in George Lucas' first installment of the original Star Wars trilogy.
For aviation lovers, the canyon located in Death Valley National Park provides a rare vantage point for spectators on the rim of the canyon to watch military jets perform low-flight maneuvers at eye level or even below, sometimes from a distance close enough to even see the facial expressions of the pilots.
However, the deadly crash of a Navy F/A 18-E Super Hornet in the summer of 2019 that also led to a group of French tourists on the ground being burned has led to a halt in military aircraft training procedures in the canyon.
However, with many installations nearby, fighter jets still train in the area and the airspace is not closed.
McGreevy himself has flown through the canyon, tagging along with a friend in a Cessna 172.
"Things do go in there," he said, "just not giant business jets."
Flights through Star Wars Canyon were likely for a photoshoot
While officials with Dassault Falcon Jet did not respond to requests for comment ahead of the publication of this article, McGreevy's photos and videos show an Albatros L-39 owned by Cinejet tailing the Falcon 8X during its run through Star Wars Canyon.
Cinejet filmed dogfight scenes for the reboot of Top Gun, among other notable aviation-related video projects.
As far as the flights themselves, McGreevy estimates the jets made around 15 trips through the canyon before landing for fuel and lunch before going back up again.
"At first, they came around a couple of times low," he said of the first pass on Tuesday. "Then I guess they felt comfortable and started diving in."
The photographer said what he believes to have been family members of the Falcon 8X pilots, as well as camera crews, watched the flights from a hill on the rim of the canyon.
The flights continued on Wednesday, but all of McGreevy's footage is from Tuesday.
Among others to watch in awe of the Falcon 8X business jet carving through Star Wars canyon, according to McGreevy, was the pilot of a U.S. Marine Corps F-35 fighter.
The crew flying the Falcon apparently got a kick out of that, as McGreevy overheard on the radio: "They said, ‘We've got a looky-loo here," he said.
Video of Falcon 8X flying in Star Wars Canyon
More Photos of Falcon 8X flying in Star Wars CanyonPhotos and video courtesy of Christopher McGreevy