Area 51 Timeline
A Timeline Of The Growth Of The Secret Base. Last Revision 1996

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April, 1955:
Lockheed test pilot, Tony LeVier, under orders from Kelly Johnson, searches for remote site to test the U-2. He finds Groom Lake and returns with Kelly Johnson and a representative of the CIA. Johnson decides to place the runway at the south end of Groom Lake. Work begins on the facility there under the direction of Lockheed Skunk Works. (1) 

July, 1955:
Work on "The Ranch" is complete at a cost of $800,000. It consists of three hangars, control tower, mess hall, runway, and numerous mobile homes. The first U-2 was shipped out on July 23. (1) 

August 4, 1955:
First flight of the U-2 at Groom Lake. (1) 

November 17, 1955:
A C-54 transport, enroute to Groom Lake from Burbank, crashes into Mt. Charleston killing all aboard, 9 civilian workers and 5 military. (5) 

Fall, 1956:
Six pilots from SAC start training at Groom Lake in the U-2. (1) 

April 1957:
A U-2 with radar spoofing equipment crashes during testing near Groom Lake, killing the pilot. (1) 

June 20, 1958:
Public Land Order 1662 is enacted by Roger Ernst, Assistant Secretary of the Interior, withdrawing 38,400 acres (60 square miles) for use "by the Atomic Energy Commission in connection with the Nevada Test Site." The area, 6 miles North/South and 10 miles East/West, form the first "box" around the Groom base. 

September 21, 1959:
The USGS snaps a photo (13-146) of Groom Lake as part of a routine mapping program, which is still available. 

November, 1959:
A full scale mockup of an A-12 is shipped to Groom Lake, via truck, for radar signature testing. (4) 

September, 1960:
Construction begins on a major expansion of the Groom Lake facility to accommodate the A-12 (OXCART) program on behalf of the CIA. This period of construction would not be complete until mid 1964. (4) 

September 7, 1960:
Work begins on lengthening and strengthening the existing 5,000' runway to 8,500'. It was completed November 15. (4) 

Late 1961:
Colonel Robert J. Holbury, USAF, is named Commander of the Groom base. (4) 

Early 1962:
The fuel tank farm is completed with a capacity of 1,320,000 gallons. (4) 

January, 1962:
The existing restricted airspace over Groom Lake is expanded. (4) 

February 26, 1962:
The first A-12 Blackbird is brought to Groom Lake via truck for testing. (4) (Ben Rich says January, 1962) 

April 26, 1962:
First flight test of the A-12 Blackbird at Groom Lake. (4) 

July 9, 1964:
An A-12 (#133) crashes on final approach to Groom Lake. The pilot ejects at an altitude of 500'. (4) 

Beginning 1965:
The OXCART construction project is now complete and the base population has reached 1,835. (4) 

February 27, 1965:
First flight test of the D-21 drone launched from a Blackbird at Groom Lake. (1) 

December 28, 1965:
An A-12 (#126) crashes immediately after takeoff from Groom Lake. (4) 

January 5, 1967:
An A-12 (#125) runs out of fuel 70 miles from Groom Lake, crashing, and the pilot killed after ejecting. (4) 

August 28, 1968:
The US Geological Survey snaps an aerial photo of the Groom Lake complex as part of a routine high altitude survey. This photo, since published in numerous places, was available to the public until early 1994, when it was withdrawn from release by the government. 

Mid-November, 1977:
"Have Blue", the F-117A Stealth fighter prototype, is shipped to Groom Lake for flight testing. (1) 

December 1, 1977:
First flight of the "Have Blue" at Groom Lake. (2) 

May 4, 1978:
One of the two "Have Blue" prototypes crashes at Groom. (2) 

July 11, 1979:
The second "Have Blue" prototype crashes 35 miles from Groom Lake. (1) 

May, 1981:
First production F-117A airlifted to Groom Lake for testing. (1) June 18, 1981:
First flight of the production F-117A Stealth fighter at Groom Lake. (1) 

February, 1982:
First flight of " Tacit Blue" (demonstrator for stealth technology) at Groom Lake. (7) 

April 20, 1982:
The first production model of the F-117A crashes at Groom Lake during Air Force acceptance tests. (1) 

October 15, 1982:
Beginning of acceptance flight tests with second production model of F-117A. (1) 

Early 1984:
The Air Force seizes 89,000 acres to the north and west of Groom Lake, pushing the border far from the base. 

1984:
First Stealth fighter squadron moves from Groom Lake into new facilities at Tonopah Test Range. (1)

August, 1984:
In Congressional hearings concerning the land seizure, the Air Force representative (John Seiberling) makes the statement that while the Air Force had no legal authority to seize the land (as far as he knew) the decision to do so was made at a much higher level than his. He would only go into the details in a closed session. (5) 

1985:
Tacit Blue program ends. (7) 

1987:
Congress finally authorizes the Air Force's land seizure. (2) 

July 17, 1988:
A Soviet spy satellite takes a photo of the Groom Lake area destined for release in a number of publications, including "Popular Science" and "The Lazar Poster." 

May, 1989:
Robert Lazar's first interviews are broadcast on KLAS-TV in Las Vegas. Lazar stated he had been hired to reverse engineer extraterrestrial craft at a facility at Papoose Lake, just southwest of Groom Lake. Lazar's appearance focused the first widespread public interest on the Groom Lake area. 

October 18, 1993:
The Air Force files a notice in the Federal Register seeking to withdraw another 3972 acres from public use to curtail public viewing of the Groom base from Freedom Ridge and Whitesides Peak. (3) 

April, 1994:
"Popular Science" magazine appears, featuring a satellite photo of the Groom Lake base on its cover and containing a lengthy article on the base and its history, thus igniting mainstream media interest in the facility. 

April 10, 1995:
Freedom Ridge and Whitesides Peak are officially closed to all public access. (3) 

January, 1996:
The Bechtel Corporation is reported to have begun work lengthening the secondary runway (14L-32R) by 5,000'. (3) 

Sources: 
1. "Skunk Works" by Ben Rich, published by Little, Brown & Company, 1994. 

2. "Dreamland - the Air Force's remote test site" by Peter Merlin, an article in "Aerotech News and Review" 4/1/94. 

3. "Groom Lake Desert Rat" by Glenn Campbell, various issues. 

4. "The OXCART Story" by Thomas P. McIninch, a declassified history of the program from the CIA. 

5. "Los Angeles Times", November 19, 1955. 

6. "Alien Contact", by Timothy Good, published by Morrow, 1993. 

7. Air Force press release 01-04-96

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