Area 51 photographed by private pilot

Area 51

Original story has been updated with additional information.

A unique view of Area 51 looking north from a small plane (Photo: Gabriel Zeifman)

MYSTERY WIRE — Imagine having an unfiltered, direct view of Area 51 and the Tonopah Test Range airport from the air, and not breaking any laws. This is what a private pilot recently got when he flew his small Cessna 150 as close as you legally can. And also happened to have a good quality camera along for the ride.

Private pilot Gabe Zeifman gives a thumbs up while flying within eyesight of Area 51 (Photo: Gabe Zeifman)

Mystery Wire spoke with Zeifman from his home near Edwards Air Force Base in southern California. Zeifman is an ATC (air traffic controller) and has been flying since he was in his teens. He maintains both a private and commercial pilot’s license.

“So I’ve always wanted to go fly out there and now I just moved down to this area out and Okay, well, let’s go do it.” Zeifman says he had not planned to fly near the base back in November of 2019, but after landing quickly in the small town of Rachel, he radioed Nellis AFB and asked for transit over the test range to continue his flight to Henderson Executive Airport. “I again call Nellis and that’s just standard for me. You don’t have to talk to air traffic control under the rules I was flying under but you’re perfectly welcome to and encouraged to so I called them and after they identified me I asked if the transitive restricted 48 06 West available? And they said, ‘yeah,’ so like, okay, well then I’m gonna do that. And then flew right along the boundary of the box. I mean, everybody has seen the the views. It was pretty awesome.”

Area 51 base looking west (Photo: Gabriel Zeifman)

Zeifman told Mystery Wire he has actually flown this route three times, taking pictures each time. He reminded me that what he did was completely legal and had clearance from Nellis to fly the route.

I asked him about the first time he saw the base with his own eyes, “The first time I saw it, I was kind of surprised because I was still probably 30, 40 miles out and just like wow, okay, well that’s it.” He added, “I’m not really seeing any activity. It’s just the runways and stuff and I think it’s pretty cool anyway, just seeing that, you know, the place that everybody knows about, talks about but you can’t really see.”

Zeifman said as he was flying along the border, his main thought was just being careful to not cross. He said if a pilot were to cross into restricted airspace it would end up being a very bad day. He gave Mystery Wire a long, but good answer about what he believes would happen if he had crossed the line in the sky, “So I wouldn’t expect anything like the dramatic like they’re going to shoot you down.”

Area 51 base looking west (Photo: Gabriel Zeifman)

“What would probably happen is first, they’re going to get you out of there. They’re going to say, ‘turn east immediately.'” Zeifman went on to talk about what penalties you might face, “First, actually, they’re going to probably give you a warning … they’ll usually give you a couple miles if you’re heading towards it. If you’re on a course to touch it, they’ll probably (give you) a heads up. boundary is five miles ahead, verify you’re familiar with the airspace, go down, stay clear. So they’re going to do their best to remind you don’t be an idiot, don’t touch it. But if you do, they’re going to try to they’re going to get you out of there as quickly as possible. And and then after the fact I would expect they call it a Brasher warning. They’re going to tell you possible pilot deviation and suggest you contact Nellis approach and they’ll give you a phone number. And then you’re expected to call them once you land. And then they would then file paperwork with the FAA … They’ll have everything. They’ll have the radar data and the communications. And from there, they can decide what they’re going to do, if they’re either going to let it go or if they’re going to suggests additional training or a license suspension. So they have all the options there. So yeah, if you if you violate it, it would be a pretty serious thing.”

I then asked Gabe about his plane. He said, “It’s a Cessna 150 it is, was built in 1965. It’s got 100 horsepower on a good day. Yeah, it’s not fast it is by (any) means. It gets around and doesn’t burn a lot of gas … But you can pretty much land anywhere. It can take off on just about anything”

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And everyone said, You’re crazy to you know, ask you’re never gonna do it. And, I mean, I guess when somebody says, ‘You’re insane, it’ll never happen,’ that that makes me just want to try it

Gabe Zeifman, pilot
Gabe Zeifman poses in front of his Cessna 150. (Photo: Gabe Zeisman)

Zeifman also shared an interesting photograph of himself standing in front of his plane. Two things are notable about this picture. First, his mask. He said his friend suggested it would be fun to just wear it and take some pictures, that there really isn’t a deep meaning to it. The second thing is the nose art on his plane. He said, “It’s a Cessna 150, it was built in 1965. It’s got 100 horsepower on a good day. Yeah, it’s not fast it is by (any) means. But it gets around and doesn’t burn a lot of gas, about six gallons an hour. But you can pretty much land anywhere. It can take off on just about anything.”

Check back often as we are working to update this story.

You can click on the images below to see larger, higher quality images. To return to see more pictures click your back button on your browser. All of these photographs were taken by Gabriel Zeifman.

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