Area 51 (Groom Lake) Timeline
Part 1 (1941-1965)
Two dirt landing strips (one approx. 5,000' and one 7,000' long) are scraped into the bare desert floor, on the east side of Groom Lake. They are used as an outlying training strip for flyers based at Nellis. The strips are abandoned at the end of WWII and quickly deteriorate.
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.
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.
July 24, 1955:
The first U-2 prototype is shipped via C-124 transport plane from the Lockheed Skunk Works in Burbank to Groom Lake.
August 4, 1955:
First flight of the U-2 at Groom Lake.
August 19, 1955:
Executive Order 10633 is signed by President Eisenhower restricting the airspace over Groom Lake for the first time. The rectangular airspace is an extension of the Test Site airspace (known as "The Las Vegas Project") at its northeast corner and measures 5 by 9 nautical miles.
November 17, 1955:
A C-54 transport, enroute to Groom from Burbank, crashes into Mt. Charleston killing all aboard, 9 civilian workers and 5 military.
Six pilots from SAC start training at Groom in the U-2.
April 4, 1957:
A U-2 with radar spoofing equipment (#341, the first prototype) crashes during testing near Pioche, killing the pilot.
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, forms the first "box" around the Groom base, beneath the already restricted airspace.
September 21, 1959:
The USGS snaps a photo (13-146) of the Groom Lake base as part of a routine mapping program, which is still available.
A full scale mockup of an A-12 is shipped to Groom, via truck, for radar signature testing.
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 is not be complete until mid 1964.
September 7, 1960:
Work begins on lengthening and strengthening the existing 5,000' runway to 8,500'. It is completed November 15.
August 11, 1961:
The newly created R-4808 restricted airspace becomes effective, covering the Test Site and Groom Lake. Use is restricted from the surface to FL600. The restricted airspace over Groom Lake remains 5 by 9 nautical miles in size.
Colonel Robert J. Holbury, USAF, is named Commander of the Groom base.
The fuel tank farm is completed with a capacity of 1,320,000 gallons.
January 15, 1962:
The restricted airspace directly over Groom Lake (R-4808) is expanded to 22 by 20 nautical miles. The basis of the expansion was a request by the Department of the Air Force citing an immediate and urgent need due to a classified project. This creates the "Groom box" as it exists today.
February 26, 1962:
The first A-12 Blackbird (#121) is brought to Groom via truck for testing. (4) (Ben Rich says January, 1962)
April 26, 1962:
First flight test of the A-12 Blackbird (#121) at Groom Lake.
The first 5 CIA A-12 pilots (Collins, Ray, Skliar, Sullivan and Walter) arrive at Groom Lake.
May 24, 1963:
An A-12 (#123) crashes due to pitot icing 14 miles south of Wendover, Utah. The pilot, Collins, survives.
July 20, 1963:
An A-12 finally achieves Mach 3 in testing.
August 7, 1963:
First flight of the YF-12A (#1001) at Groom Lake. The YF-12A was a Mach 3 interceptor, based on the A-12 design.
July 9, 1964:
An A-12 (#133) crashes on final approach to Groom. The pilot, Park, ejects at an altitude of 500' and survives.
The OXCART construction project is now complete and the base population has reached 1,835.
December 28, 1965:
An A-12 (#126) crashes immediately after takeoff from Groom. The pilot, Vojvodich ejects and survives.