Oh, That Area 51

The outing of Nevada’ secret air base may be news, but it’s not new

Area 51 at Groom Lake, Nevada.

The media is beside itself with the news that certain information about Area 51 — like the fact that there is such a place — and the aerial goings-on there has recently been “declassified.” But the reaction of most aviation enthusiasts has been .

An e-mail exchange with T.D. Barnes, president of Roadrunners Internationale, an organization devoted to “preserving the history of the aviation pioneers and programs that developed the U-2, A-12, and YF-12″ reveals that…nothing new is really being revealed. He writes:

In 2010, I led an Oxcart Legacy Tour to Washington, where we did a panel presentation at the National Air and Space Museum as well as at numerous other agencies. During our presentation at the CIA, Dr. David Robarge, Chief Historian moderating our panel, officially lifted the restriction on the use of the name Area 51.

This current flurry is about the name no longer being redacted on formerly declassified documents. This is a common practice. For example, the existence of the A-12 Oxcart planes was declassified in 1991, the missions in 2007, and the identities of us working on the project in 2010. This is just now showing up in document releases, but we’ve had some of these documents on our websites for months.

The Agency is acutely aware that much of the Cold War legacy was never recorded and is being lost with the passing of the participants. That was one of the purposes of the legacy tour and a prime purpose of our Roadrunners Internationale website, which is supported with material by the agency.

Thank you, Mr. Barnes.