Area 51: Origins
America’s once-secret air base had humble beginnings.
- By Peter Merlin
- AirSpaceMag.com, March 26, 2013
Lockheed Martin Skunk Works
Article 780, a Lockheed YF-117A stealth test aircraft, first flew on June 18, 1981, with pilot Harold Farley at the controls. The planned 30-minute sortie was cut short after 13 minutes due to a canopy warning light and overheating in the exhaust duct. Article 780 was painted light gray to reduce its daytime visual signature. Ben Rich, Lockheed’s vice president for advanced projects, wanted to deliver the production F-117A aircraft in gray, but General William Creech, chief of Tactical Air Command, wanted the airplanes painted black. “You don’t ask the commander of TAC why he wants to do something,” Rich recalled. “He pays the bills. If the general had wanted pink, we’d have painted them pink.”