A story by Popular Mechanics in 1997 reported the Air Force had moved its once most secret military site, Area 51, from Nevada. The article was titled “The New Area 51” and says the site moved to a neighboring state. Turns out the story was very wrong. Aired on May 22, 1997, on KLAS TV in Las Vegas.
Popular Mechanics says the Air Force has abandoned its best known secret base and is moving its operations to another secret spot in Utah, known as Area 6413. The magazine apparently forgot to tell the Pentagon.
“I’ve been watching this terminal for four years and I’ve never seen any significant change,” Area 51 activist Glenn Campbell said. “There’s 800 to 900 people commuting there every day. We’re talking 12 to 14 fights to Groom Lake and maybe eight to 10 to Tonopah.”
Campbell lives across the street from the air terminal at McCarran International Airport used to transport Groom Lake workers. “Janet” planes continue to come and go at McCarran, arriving from the secret Area 51 base to unload Las Vegas based employees. Campbell is seeing no change to suggest anything is different.
“The story is nonsense. You know, it’s just rubbish,” Campbell said.
And in the town of Rachel, which straddles the Extraterrestrial Highway, locals say they still see a steady flow of base workers, as well as odd things flying around in the sky. The folks at the Little A’Le’Inn say everything is business as usual.
So how did Popular Mechanics arrive at this conclusion? Apparently, they did it without talking to the locals or the Pentagon.
The magazine says Area 51 is obsolete because the next generation of high performance military aircraft won’t need long runways. They’ll just hop up out of the mountains of Utah.
Congressional sources with access to the so-called black budget say this report is nonsense. For one thing, it would cost at least $5 billion to move the Groom Lake facility, a huge sum in the era of budget downsizing.
Aviation experts also say there are plenty of roles that could still be fulfilled at Area 51.
The Air Force will not leave Groom Lake unless it’s forced to do so.
That’s where Jonathan Turley comes in.
Turley is the attorney for former base workers who say they were exposed to toxic chemicals burned in open pits at Groom Lake. A lawsuit filed by the workers is now before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Turley says the Pentagon has used national security as an excuse to hide evidence of its environmental crimes. But he adds the entire area could be declared a Superfund site, meaning it’s so contaminated, the military would be forced to move. It’s possible, he says, but not imminent.
“Area 51 is still a mystery,” Campbell said. “We don’t know the projects going on there but there’s no overt indication of anything changing. Same number of workers coming and going. Same material coming and going.”