Palmdale – Air Force Plant 42 (PMD)

The towering hangars, giant runways, and mammoth buildings of Air Force Plant 42 are to California’s Antelope Valley what the Empire State Building and other recognizable skyscrapers are to Manhattan. These buildings tower over the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale, forming the core of the military aviation industry that characterizes the desert valley.

Built during the massive military expenditure increases of the early 1950s and funded by the Air Force, Plant 42 was intended to significantly increase the aerospace industry’s industrial capacity. Space at the complex is leased by the Air Force to contractors such as Northrop, Rockwell, and Boeing, who have manufactured everything from B-2 stealth bombers to Global Hawk unmanned spy planes at the plant.

In the early 1990s, Lockheed Martin’s “Skunk Works” – the advanced aviation division of the company responsible for the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes, and the F-117A stealth fighters – moved its headquarters from Burbank to Palmdale, joining other military contractors at Plant 42. There are regular Janet flights between PMD, Las Vegas, Groom Lake, and the Tonopah Test Range. Usually, these Janet flights occur in the smaller Beechcraft planes, but the larger 737s are also not uncommon.

©2006 Trevor Paglen