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Plant 42/Palmdale Regional Airport
Airport type Military, co-located public airport
Owner United States of America
Operator United States Air Force (military)
Serves Palmdale, California
Elevation AMSL 2543 ft / 775 m
Coordinates 34°37′48″N 118°05′04″W / 34.63°N 118.08444°W / 34.63; -118.08444Coordinates: 34°37′48″N 118°05′04″W / 34.63°N 118.08444°W / 34.63; -118.08444
Direction Length Surface
ft m
4/22 12,001 3,658 Concrete
7/25 12,002 3,658 Concrete
72/252 6,000 1,829 Concrete
Sources: AirNav[1]
Sign by one of the gates into Plant 42.

Air Force Plant 42 (AFP 42) is a federally owned military aerospace facility under the control of the Air Force Material Command (AFMC) in Palmdale, California. Aerospace contractors at Air Force Plant 42 share a common runway complex and either lease building space from the Air Force (commonly referred to as GOCO, or Government Owned Contractor Operated), or own their own building outright. There are eight separate production sites specially suited for advanced technology and/or "black" program projects. Currently the most well known contractors at Plant 42 are Boeing, Lockheed Martin (home of the legendary Skunk Works), and Northrop Grumman.

Plant 42 established in 1953 and then managed by the USAF in 1954.[2]

Located in the southern Antelope Valley, Plant 42 is strategically located near Los Angeles area defense and aerospace contractor companies, as well as Edwards Air Force Base's high-speed test corridors used under the direction of the base's Air Force Flight Test Center (AFFTC). It is 65 miles (105 km) from the LA Civic Center and 37 miles (60 km) from Edwards' flightline.[3]



Plant 42 controls over 5,800 acres (23 km²) of Mojave Desert land north of Avenue P and south of Columbia Way (Avenue M). The western border is Sierra Highway, and the Plant extends east to around 40th Street East south of Avenue N to Avenue P and 50th Street East north of Avenue N to Columbia Way (Avenue M). It has two runways: 4/22, and 7/25. Runway 7/25 was built to withstand an 8.3 Richter Scale earthquake, and, because of its status as one of the world's strongest runways, is a tremendous asset to the Antelope Valley and to California's infrastructure and economy. Plant 42 currently has an employment level of around 6,400 and has a combined annual payroll of over $320 million (USD). It generally ranks third overall as the Antelope Valley's largest employer, trailing only Edwards Air Force Base and Los Angeles County in the number of workers employed.


The property now called Plant 42 was first activated as an emergency air landing strip in 1940 prior to the entry of the United States in World War II. It also provided B-25 training to military aviators during the war. Declared surplus by the federal government in 1946, it became a commercial airport for Los Angeles County. The outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 caused the Air Force to reactivate the property for use in final assembly and flight testing of military jet aircraft.

Both the U. S. Air Force and its aircraft contractors needed a location away from major population centers - due to sonic booms, other noises and security concerns - but close enough to the major centers of aircraft design and production, while having excellent flying weather the year around. The land which became Plant 42 fit the bill perfectly from the perspectives of all the concerned interests in military aircraft and national defense. Consequently, the Air Force agreed to purchase the land from Los Angeles County in 1951. Lockheed put together a master plan for the property per its Air Force contract, and after the approval of this master plan in 1953, the County transferred ownership of the land to the Federal Government in 1954. Since then Lockheed, looked upon with favor by the Air Force at this time, established its permanent presence at Plant 42. Its first step in doing so was to sign a lease in 1956 for 237 acres (1 km²) for use in its Air Force support programs of manufacturing aircraft and flight testing.

Skunk Works

Lockheed's famed Skunk Works (black project workers), which developed such aircraft as the U-2, SR-71 Blackbird and F-117 Nighthawk, is at Site 10 of the complex (actually private property with secure access to Plant 42 airfield), near Sierra Highway, and relocated to Plant 42 from its original Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport (now Bob Hope Airport) site in Burbank after the end of the Cold War. Its present hangar was constructed in 1968 and the outer walls of the structure were put up in a matter of days. Its hangar originally was built for the Lockheed L-1011 Tristar passenger jet project.

Civilian air transport operations

In 1989, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), a department of the City of Los Angeles, and the U.S. Air Force came to an agreement concerning use of the Plant 42 complex's facilities and land for commercial use. The agreement allows a maximum of 400 flights per day. LAWA has used Plant 42's facilities in past years when at one point in the early 1990s several airlines used the Palmdale Regional Airport terminal sited on Plant 42. This civilian terminal was unused from 1998 to 2004; on December 29, 2004 civilian use resumed when Scenic Airlines began scheduled service to North Las Vegas, Nevada, although that service officially terminated in January 2006. United Airlines began daily service to San Francisco International Airport in June 2007 but suspended flights in December 2008 upon the expiration of grants which subsidized the service.

Current projects

Current projects include design, engineering, pre-production, production, modification, flight testing, servicing and repair mission related activities to the following:

Past projects

Past projects included:

and many, many others besides these few.

Public airparks

Blackbird Airpark Museum[4] and the adjacent Palmdale Plant 42 Heritage Airpark[5] have recently been opened on Plant 42 property along Avenue P (both are free to the public) with displays of the SR-71, U-2, Century Series fighters and other aircraft designed, engineered, manufactured, and flight tested at its facilities.

The Blackbird Airpark Museum is an extension of the AFFTC Museum at Edwards AFB, while the Heritage Airpark is operated by the City of Palmdale. Both are manned by retirees who had previously worked in the aerospace industry, some actually having worked on the aircraft displayed at the two parks. All of the aircraft have been carefully restored for public display. Operating hours of the airparks are the same - Friday through Sunday (except in inclement weather) from 11:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. Pacific Time. On Federal Government holidays both airparks are closed. The two airparks are located at Avenue P and 25th Street East near Site 9.

FAA operations

The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) operates its Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) at its site on Plant 42 by Avenue P and 25th Street East. This center controls and tracks aircraft for the western United States, and covers non-local aircraft communication needs flying over California, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. The center's staff, which also is made up of personnel in other locations outside the Antelope Valley, was recognized for outstanding service in the FAA and aviation industry in 2004.

See also



External links



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