Plan! 42, Palmdale
This is the secret aircraft capital of the universe. The U-2 and SR-71 were built here, as were the B-2 and F-117 stealth aircraft, and it’s almost a certainty that other, still-secret prototypes and aircraft are currently being designed and built here. The airport adjacent to Plant 42 has daily flights out to Area 51. In other words, here’s where they build the stuff flown at Area 51. And, as mentioned in the previous listing for Edwards Air Force Base, a lot of weird things are seen in the late night skies above this area.
If it’s an American top secret aircraft developed in the last four decades, odds are that it was developed at Plant 42. This sprawling facility near Edwards Air Force base was the birthplace of stealth and likely several other technologies, and aircraft, that we still don’t know about.
Plant 42’s origins date to 1940, when the Army Air Force converted the Palmdale airport into a base. In 1950, the Air Force converted it to an assembly facility for jet aircraft, and in 1953 officially became Plant 42. According to an Air Force press release, “Air Force Plant 42’s production flight test installation is specifically tailored to the production, flight testing, modification and depot maintenance of the nation’s most advanced aerospace systems built under government contract.” Plant 42 employs approximately 8500 people.
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Not everything at Plant 42 is military-related, however. The Space Shuttles were built at Plant 42, and undergo periodic refurbishing there. Other advanced NASA research vehicles, like the X-33, were also built here.
What’s There: Plant 42 is not a single “plant,” but instead several different facilities inside a common restricted area encompassing 5800-acres. While most of the facilities are privately owned, they are operated under the control and direction of the Air Force. Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, and Northup-Grumman have facilities at Plant 42; EG&G also operates inside Plant 42 and is believed to be the supplier of security guards and other support services. EG&G also operates “Janet Airlines” flights from the adjacent Palmdale airport; these flights are believed to go to Area 51 and the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada. (See the description for EG&G in the MARYLAND section and the entry for Janet Airlines terminal in the NEVADA section for more information on Janet Airlines.)
There are eight main production facilities and numerous smaller buildings. From public roads, the visible facilities are enormous hangars clearly intended for aircraft construction, much like the hangars used for commercial aviation construction (such as the Boeing facilities in the Seattle area).
There are two 12,000-foot runways at Plant 42; according to Air Force press releases, these are capable of handling aircraft weighing over 1,000,000 pounds and surviving a magnitude 8.3 earthquake.
The airspace above Plant 42 is restricted and off-limits to all unauthorized civilian and military traffic. Under an agreement with the Air Force, the adjacent Palmdale Airport can accommodate a certain number of civilian flights each day.
Key Facilities: While the buildings inside Plant 42 have no external signs to identify them, the road signs around Plant 42 point to individual buildings and identify them by plant number. Plant 10 is known to be the current home of Lockheed’s famed Skunk Works (responsible for the U-2, SR-71, and F-117 stealth fighter). It is safe to assume they are working on a new generation of similarly amazing aircraft inside Plant 10.
Secret Stuff: As with most other high-security installations, the most interesting things happen late on weekday nights. Air Force 0-5 and C-141 transport planes sometimes depart here at such times; these are believed to be carrying disassembled aircraft bound for sites such as Area 51 and White Sands. Also, large covered flatbed trucks leave Plant 42 in the wee hours and travel toward Edwards.
There is a large “Quonset hut” structure and aircraft hangar near the runways that are believed to be operated by EG&G. Twin-engine commuter aircraft have been observed arriving at and leaving from the facility, and control tower radio communications indicate some of these flights are bound for the Nevada Test Site. Since the Nevada Test Site is adjacent to Area 51, it is believed that some of these
flights are actually carrying Plant 42 employees to Area 51. Normal engineering practice would call for key design engineers to be present when a new aircraft is undergoing tests, so the presence of Plant 42 engineers when their designs; are being tested at Area 51 would be expected.
Getting a Look Inside: No way in hell. In fact, the security here is proactive and highly aggressive even if you are on public property near the facility. If you are parked for any length of time along a public road adjacent to Plant 42, don’t be too surprised if you get a visit from a security guard who will remind you of the laws against photographing or sketching the facility. You might even be told to move along by a Los Angeles county deputy sheriff.. (Reportedly this is to prevent someone from copying the license plate numbers of cars entering or leaving the plant.) Such a hardassed approach to security is a strong indication that highly classified stuff is iindeed going on inside Plant 42.
Getting There: Plant 42 can be accessed by taking either the Avenue M or Avenue N exits off Highway 14 from Los Angeles and traveling east. The roads surrounding the faci lity are often confusing; be alert for the sometimes abrupt transition from public property to the restricted area around Plant 42, as this can occur several hundred feet before a security checkpoint. Fences along the side of the road and a change in the color of the road pavement indicate you are approaching the Plant 42 boundary. Even if you cross the border by accident, you could be arrested for trespassing even if you turn around and leave before reaching a security checkpoint.