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Area 51 designated with a new name

Jan. 22, 2008 - 06:28PM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 22, 2008 - 06:28PM  |  
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The Air Force's classified test range at Groom Lake, Nev., has never lacked for evocative nicknames — it and its restricted airspace have been called Dreamland, Paradise Ranch, The Box and, most famously, Area 51. Now there's a less romantic moniker to throw on the pile: "Homey Airport," according to a few civilian aviation journals.

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The Air Force's classified test range at Groom Lake, Nev., has never lacked for evocative nicknames — it and its restricted airspace have been called Dreamland, Paradise Ranch, The Box and, most famously, Area 51. Now there's a less romantic moniker to throw on the pile: "Homey Airport," according to a few civilian aviation journals.

"Homey Airport" now appears as the official name for a certain air base near a certain dry lake bed in Nevada, according to reports in the Web site of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, as well as the Daily Aviator blog and others. New editions of flight planning software and civilian aviators' GPS gear lists the name and the official designation "KXTA" — which online wags have speculated stands for "extraterrestrial airport." (The "k" designation indicates only that the field is in the U.S., according to the Federal Aviation Administration.)

Capt. Jessica Martin, a spokeswoman for Nellis Air Force Base, which sits 85 miles south of Homey Airport and is responsible for the airspace and any ground facilities, said that "we already know about the designation, but it doesn't have any effect on operations at the base."

Martin said she didn't know the origin of the name "Homey Airport."

Featured in movies, TV shows and video games, Area 51 is likely the most famous top-secret facility in the world and a favorite component of UFO and military conspiracy theories.

The Department of Defense didn't even acknowledge the base existed until 1994, when former base employees sued the government and claimed they'd been poisoned by hazardous materials used at the base for research into stealth technology.

Although the base and its work have long been highly classified, many of the aircraft tested there through the years are publicly familiar: the U2 and SR-71 Blackbird spy planes and the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter all flew first off the long runways and dry lakebeds at Groom Lake.

Some enthusiasts believe that work continues there today on advanced aircraft — including unmanned aerial vehicles, high-speed reconnaissance craft and even high-altitude blimps — though alien conspiracy buffs also speculate that Area 51's high profile has forced officials to move much of the top-secret stuff to the Army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.

———

Staff writer Michael Hoffman contributed to this story.

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