Serial Number: UB-42
One of the Beechcraft King Airs, this plane was originally sold by Beechcraft to M.S. & C. Realty on behalf of a regional aircraft company in Killeen, Texas called Rio Air. When Rio went out of business in 1987, the owners sold the plane back to Beechcraft.
The airplane company turned around and sold the plane to the Department of the Air Force the same year.
Serial Number: UB-37
This plane no longer exists. It crashed seven miles southeast of the Tonopah Test Range on March 16, 2004. One pilot and four passengers were killed when the pilot suffered a heart attack enroute from Groom Lake to the Tonopah Test Range. The accident report lists the departure airport as a question mark. The narrative of the crash report is as follows:
“The Air Force Materiel Command Beech 1900 crashed while on a routine support mission from a remote classified airstrip on the Nellis range to the Tonopah Test Range. It departed at 03:43 for Tonopah. After reporting the runway lights in sight, the pilot configured the airplane for the approach and initiated a circling maneuver to the right for a visual straight-in approach to runway 32. During the turn the pilot suffered a sudden cardiac death. Half way through the turn the airplane began a gradual descent until it impacted the ground. The airplane broke up and burst into flames. Investigation revealed that the pilot had violated federal policy and directives, willfully deceived flight medical examiners, suppressed significant medical information and ingested inappropriate medications for a deteriorating and dangerous health condition. The pilot had high blood pressure and failed to report it, and denied taking medications to his Federal Aviation Administration flight physical examiners.”The pilot’s name was David D. Palay, and the passengers were Derrick L. Butler, Michael A. Izold, Daniel M. Smalley, and Roy A. Van Voorhis. All of the passengers were contractors working for JT3 LLC, a range-support firm run collaboratively between EG&G and Raytheon.
Serial Number: UC-163
This plane replaced N27RA, which crashed enroute to the Tonopah Test Range. The plane was originally leased by Mesa Airlines from Beechcraft (which is a subsidiary of Raytheon) from 1991 until 1997.
In 1997, the plane was deregistered in the United States and exported to France, although the Raytheon Aircraft Credit Corporation maintained ownership over the plane during its time overseas. In January of 2002, the plane arrived back in the United States and was reregistered on March 19, 2002. During its time in France, the plane appears to have remained under lease to Mesa Airlines.
In 2005, the lease between Mesa and Raytheon ended, and the Department of the Air Force purchased the plane from Raytheon on November 16, 2005.
Serial Number: BL-54
This plane was sold outright to the United States Air Force in 1982, but to an unusual outfit: DET 1, AFEREG, PO Box 528, Mercury, Nevada 89023. Mercury Nevada is the “company town” for the Nevada Test Site. At the time of the sale, the land at Groom Lake was under the control of the Department of Energy (who control the test site), so DET 1, AFEREG could possibly be an old forwarding address for Groom Lake.
In 1986, for unknown reasons, “DET 1, AFEREG” sold the plane back to Beechcraft in 1986 who, in turn sold the plane to one “Horace William Horton” of PO Box 27465, Las Vegas, Nevada on October 28, 1986.
Two years later, Mr. Horton sold the plane directly to the Department of the Air Force at PO Box 459, Clearfield, Utah. Thus, a triangular relationship between Beechcraft, “DET 1, AFEREG,” the Department of the Air Force, and Mr. Horton emerges: one that directly links one to another.
Serial Number: BL-61
This plane was sold in late 1983 from the Beech Aircraft Corporation (the manufacturer) directly to the (presumed) Air Force outfit at “DET 1, AFEREG” – the same address that shows up in relation to N654BA.
A public records search of the address comes up with very little, but one interesting tidbit does emerge. Box 528, Mercury, NV (the DET 1 address) was also the listed address for a notary named “Nancy A. Martin.” Martin’s name shows up in the Lincoln County Recorder’s office attached to the names of seven men (William J. Hull, Jr., Kenneth Learned, David Palay, Thomas E. Taylor, Robert R. Armstrong, Donald R. Domkoski, and Lawrence Rountree) who’d been deputized by the Lincoln County Sheriff. These men were presumably Groom Lake security forces who’d been deputized by the Lincoln County Sheriff so that they had authority to arrest anyone getting too close to the base. Most of these deputizations were revoked in 1994.
So, we know that DET 1, AFEREG is an outfit that purchased Janet planes in the mid 1980s. We also know that the PO Box of the Detachment was used by a notary named Nancy Martin to notarize Groom Lake’s security forces’ deputization oaths. But, the name of the outfit changes on the notarizations – as of 1992, Box 528, Mercury, NV (Martin’s address) was attached to DET-AFFTC, not DET 1, AFEREG. This acronym makes more sense. It is unclear what AFEREG stands for, but AFFTC is well-known. It is the Air Force Flight Test Center, headquartered at Edwards Air Force Base. DET means “detachment,” so Box 528, Mercury, NV is a detachment of the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base.
Here we come to the question of David Palay. This man shows up in three places. First, he was one of the people who’d been deputized by the Lincoln County Sheriff – his oath originated from Box 528 in Mercury. David D. Palay also shows up in every single FAA file for a Janet plane. In June of 1996, Palay filed change-of-address forms for every Janet, informing the FAA that the aircraft were now based at “Box 1504, Layton, UT 84041-6504.” His title on these documents is “Program Manager.” Finally, the name David D. Palay shows up as the pilot of doomed N27RA – the Beechcraft that crashed near the Tonopah Test Range when Palay had a heart attack en route from Groom Lake to TNX.
Serial Number: BL-62
Like several other Beechcraft Janets, this plane was purchased by DET 1, AFEREG directly from the Beech Aircraft Corporation in December of 1983. Certification forms were filed with the FAA by John W. Broadaway, “Airlift Manager,” in early 1984.
In 1986, the same thing happened to this plane as N654BA: for unknown reasons, Broadaway, now “Program Manager” for the USAF, sold the plane back to Beechcraft. Again, Beech Aerospace Services in turn sold the plane to one “Horace William Horton” of PO Box 27465, Las Vegas, Nevada on October 28, 1986. In 1989, Horton sold the plane directly to the Department of the Air Force, PO Box 459, Clearfield, Utah 84015, which is presumably attached to Hill Air Force Base, an Air Force Materiel Command base north of Salt Lake City (Air Force Materiel Command, headquartered at Wright Patterson AFB is in charge of the Air Force Flight Test Center).
1996 saw David D. Palay, “Program Manager” change the listed address of the aircraft to “Box 1504, Layton, UT.”