AREA 51 FACTS AND SECRETS

With all the secrecy shrouding Area 51, it’s time for some light to be shed. Learn more about the nicknames, entertainment, food, spy planes, and rumors surrounding this infamous site:

  • The name ‘Area 51’ derives from its marking on 1950’s Nevada Test Site maps. Today, the official name of Area 51 is Air Force Flight Test Center, Detachment 3, or AFFTC Det. 3 for short.
  • Area 51 was also referred to as Groom Lake (the name of the dry lake Area 51 was built around), Paradise Ranch (a half-serious way to entice employees to accept positions at the remote, rustic base), Watertown (the official name of the test site, given in 1956), and Dreamland (after an Edgar Allan Poe poem).
  • When Area 51 was chosen as the testing site for the OXCART, a new, 8,500-foot runway had to be built. So as not to draw attention, contractors worked under cover of night.
  • Flying at 2,200 mph, it took OXCART pilot 186 miles just to make a U-turn. To accommodate the plane, an additional 38,400 acres of land around the base had to be withdrawn from public access and the restricted airspace expanded to create a 440-square mile box.
  • Early on, the only entertainment at Area 51 consisted of a single cement tennis court and a small bowling alley. There was no television, and radio signals only made it through the surrounding mountains in the evening.
  • There is a sliver of truth to the conspiracy theory that the moon landing was staged at Area 51. Various space equipment – including land rovers and life support systems – were tested by the astronauts at the adjoining nuclear testing grounds.
  • A recent poll showed that 57% of Americans believe that UFOs are real.
  • The A-12 OXCART required special fuel in order to fly at such extreme speeds and heights. The fuel was made to withstand extremely high temperatures and would not ignite even if someone threw a match into a barrel full of it.
  • The OXCART cruised at 2200 miles per hour, but because the plane was secret it was kept out of official speed competitions.
  • The A-12 OXCART consisted of more than 90% titanium. It was the world’s first titanium plane.
  • The OXCART’s engines acted as vacuum cleaners, sucking up any debris left on the runway. So personnel would vacuum the runway before each test flight.
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