One of the great benefits of being in charge of a magazine like Popular Science is that a lot of doors are open to me. The name and prestige of the title make it possible to walk around the razor wire and see prototypes and experiments generally kept hidden from the general public. But until the National Geographic Channel asked me to do that same thing with a camera crew, I had no idea how secret certain things really are.
"Top Secret," part of Secret Access Week on the National Geographic Channel, is our effort to get inside the world of black-budget, off-the-books military hardware. Many of you are familiar with Area 51, where top-secret planes are tested. What you may not know is that there's another facility, Plant 42, that's even more interesting, and for the show's premiere, that's where we went. Plant 42 is the manufacturing facility outside Los Angeles, maintained by the U.S. military as a place where private companies can build prototypes under military contract. It's where Lockheed Martin has its skunk works, alongside private facilities for Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and others.
Palmdale, the small, eerily clean and orderly town where Plant 42 sits alongside Edwards Air Force Base, is part of a huge corridor of airspace that extends all the way into orbit and is controlled by its own air traffic control system, so that the military can fly as fast and high as its new toys allow. We did everything we could to figure out what those toys were. I drank with the pilots at a local bar, we camped out at the end of a test-flight runway in the middle of the night, and we chartered a small private plane and snuck into the air space for a moment.
And eventually, we negotiated our way inside Plant 42, and there, we saw the future, not least the autonomous X-47B warplane, our cover story from August. But it's the process of visiting a place like that that truly blew my mind. We underwent background checks, had our vehicles searched, were under tight control at all times, and had to submit our footage for review at the end of each day. We went to enormous lengths to get in, but it turns out the hardest part of filming a show about "Top Secret" places is getting out.
"Top Secret" premieres Tuesday, October 9 at 8pm PT/ET on the National Geographic Channel. Also check out America's Money Vault, a look inside the Federal Reserve's massive system for creating, protecting and destroying money, on Thursday, October 11 at 8pm PT/ET, also on the National Geographic Channel.
Just show us the flying saucers please.
color me paranoid but I don't think I would walk up to a Top Secret crash site and especially start handling the wreckage without some safety precautions. Gieger counter, Organic Vapor Monitor, gloves, Respirator, something. You have no idea what kind of experimental propulsion systems they are working with. Would you walk into a burned out meth lab and start picking up tubes and broken glassware? Just saying, be smart, be safe.
Oooo, so informative and spooky,..........not.
I bet the gov. moved out all the "flying saucers" before they let him in, or its somewhere else (incert Twilight Zone theme song)
Stop posting non-articles that provide little to no actual information. Also you may want to hire some new editors as spelling mistakes are rampant.
I'm glad you used this article to just promote your new show without telling us a single bit of new information. This is also not the first (or second or third...) that is just an add. Please change this. This site already has enough intrusive adds all over it. We don't need articles that are adds too.
If you would like to my ideas on how to make this site enjoyable again send me an email and I'll be happy to chat!
Haywall, while you're nitpicking on grammar, read up on sentence structure. In your last sentence, insert "see" after "to" and add a comma( , ) after "again".
Your message would've had the desired effect if, while you were trying to be so smug, you had bothered to perfect in yourself, what you had sought to perfect in someone else.
Also, three times, you used "adds" instead of "ads".
You did all this while "trying" to rag on someone else's post. Come on, playah ! Get your game together. Peace.
From what I saw in the trailer I think they found a car, truck or even an ATV that someone set on fire. The area was just off a what looks to be a well traveled road and looked too small to be a plane or even a UAV. Not much of a Top Secret project hunter if you ask me.
I have a family member that works at Edwards AFB ( I can't say where, just that it involves some real cool stuff ) and it drives me nuts that he can't tell what all goes on where he works. And by the time his confidentiality agreement is up I'll be dead.
Thanks for pointing out my mistakes, but at the same time, I don't have editors nor am I trying to make money and hold readers. I'm not perfect but I find it hard to hold a site in high esteem when it continues to post terrible "articles" that seem to have been looked over as much as my comment (not at all). I like what the roots of PopSci were, but they continue to stray.
Also 'playah'? Really now? Up until that point I thought there may be some hope in this world...
Haywall, slim it. WE don't want to hear someone ragging on someone else. I'll be as gammatically inaccurate as I fliggin' want to be.
Science isn't about who is better than whom, it is about KNOWLEDGE, WISDOME, NON-PARTISAN RESEARCH, so can we please quit having a feeding frenzy and get back to science?
Article was lame, agreed. Shouldn't have had it on here to begin with.
Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.
The more I watched, the more disturbed and angry I became. Do you really want to expose this country's top secret aerospace projects? Finding and exposing them is espionage and treason.
The person you met at Ave N and Sierra Hwy may be guilty of those charges by distributing classified images. Then you show them as if it's no big deal.
Did you do any research before starting this project?
Plant 42 is not the birthplace of black aviation projects. These have a history dating back to the dawn of aviation and really became numerous during World War 2. Palmdale regional airport wasn't taken over by the Air Force until 1950. They have tried to maintain commercial flights but the airlines keep running into financial difficulty, it's cheaper to drive to one of the larger commercial airports.
The FAA control center you visited is responsible for the separation of all air traffic over southern and central California, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah, and western Arizona with the exception of military airspace and lower-level airspace. The only secrets there are for the purpose of homeland security.
The high speed flight corridor and military operations areas (MOA) are shown on all FAA aviation charts, not secret. They have been flying above Mach 1 in the Antelope Valley since the X-1. It's no secret, you can hear it, often!
MOA's are not constantly active, air traffic control regularly allows flights over some of them. Palmdale Airport is under the normal approach for Burbank Airport. As you did in your Cessna flight, permission can be granted to fly through the area. This can shorten general aviation flights by hours and is greatly appreciated by private pilots. You are not "taking your life in your hands".
The largest hanger at Palmdale Airport is owned by Lockheed and was originally built to assemble the L-1011 widebody commercial jet. The doors are not always shut, but they do cover sensitive work. Hangers you showed also belong to other aerospace companies as well as NASA. The 747 shuttle aircraft was in one scene.
When you flew over Edwards Air Force Base you commented on the dry lake runways. These have been used for years of testing experimental aircraft and the Space Shuttle landed there on its first several missions. The public was allowed in to watch. You can also make arrangements to tour NASA Dryden or visit the aerospace museum on the base. Some sensitive work takes place there, but it's not that scary to be there. I didn't see any close call while you were flying.
You stated the SR-71 was built at Plant 42, construction was at the Skunkworks facility in Burbank. The planes were then trucked to Palmdale. Photos exist of the construction and the trucking journey.
Many of the X-planes have been flown as open projects and most all of the early x-planes have been declassified. The FDL-5 is one of them, the whole thing is described online. The best known hypersonic aircraft is the X-15, it's flights and exploits are well documented.
Peter Merlin has written a great book called X-Plane Crashes, but of course you knew that, right?
Joseph Kennedy died in a WW2 B-17 drone bomb. Drones have been around since radio control was possible.
The Air Force is custodian of the Palmdale Airport, they don't operate from there. Even Wikipedia knows that.
The contractors at Plant 42 have a lot of great unclassified science stories to tell. Popular Science has reported on a great number of these through the years, including the X-47 you were shown. Why try to sensationalize the story in such a "cheesy" manner.
Do some research before you start filming. Use precious airtime to teach us and our kids about real science and aerospace. And from now on DO NOT try to disclose our countries military secrets, peoples lives are at stake!
I absolutely agree with you on this. I am sick and tired of all these "reporters" who have to "expose the truth" all the time. You would think that after the navy seals got killed because certain people blabbed that they had killed Bin Laden people would have more sense. We have secrets for a reason. Do we really want Iran, China, and Russia knowing about our technology? I would even submit that the article on the new Zumwalt class battle ship went way to far.
I completely agree with Jacob. I live in Palmdale, and i know about these projects as well. I don't work in any facilities, i'm just a guy watchin' the planes fly everyday...