Jan 15, 2007

Mystery Runway

I love Google-Earth. Today, I'd like to use it to enlist your help in solving a mystery. We can call the game "Name That Airport" ... As the winner, you will receive a free, virtual flight to the airport in question in the imaginary aircraft of your choice (some conditions apply - such as having a copy of Google Earth at your disposal).

Today's mystery airport is located approximately 160 miles northeast of LAX (...the following measurements assume I'm reading the GoogleEarth scale markings correctly). The airport comprises 4 runways - one of which is the reason I first noticed this airport during departures from Los Angeles. It is huge and shaped like a triangle. Again, if I read the Google scale indicator correctly, the widest end (Runway 19? There are no standard markings on it), must be about 500 ft. wide, and the clearway around it must be at least 1,500 feet wide. The runway itself is about 12,000 feet long. Judging by the shadows etc. there are some significantly large buildings/hangars at the south end. There is also something at the north end, but I have no idea if it's a building or something else (from one angle it looks like the road goes underground at this structure).

Anyways, here are a series of screen shots taken in Google Earth. If someone has a good atlas or the aviation charts of the region, maybe they'll know what this is. (You should be able to click on these photos to get a larger image.)

Photo 1: From 13,000 feet. Notice the compass rose in the top right corner; the scale range in the lower left; the camera altitude in the lower right corner:

Photo 2: From about 60 mile up
- the route markers might help locate this on an atlas:

Photo 3: Northeast sector from LAX:


IFR Pilot said...

Well, after a bit of digging, I am happy to report that I have the answer to your inquiry. This is the Lockheed-Martin Helendale Avionics Facility. It is on the site of the old Helendale aiport. Read more about it here and here.

Aluwings said...

Wow - that's fascinating. It would explain why there seems to be 2 or 3 aircraft-shaped objects around the Operations Complex. I assume these are various models under investigation for radar reflectivity.

I declare 'ifr pilot' the official winner of the first (and probably only) episode of Name that Runway - or in this case not-a-runway. IFR pilot, enjoy your free virtual flight! Fly safe.

Aviatrix said...

Ha ha ha. I have a whole pile of such mystery airports, depicted in photographs taken out of the side of airliners. The funny thing about becoming a pilot is that it teaches you to see airports. I'll lean over the person in the window seat and say "hey, what's that airport down there?" And all they say is "what airport?" (And then before too long, "would you like to trade seats?") I always mean to go back and check and figure out what the airport was, but I never do.