posted on Apr, 28 2006 @ 11:49 PM
The Department of Defense declassified the existence of the F-117A and released a single photo on 10 November 1988. As far as I can tell, no photos by
civilians appeared until 1989.
The Los Angeles Times ran an article on 29 April 1989 headlined "Flights of 'Stealth' Planes Spotted in Desert." It claimed that residents of
Mojave, near edwards Air Force Base, had seen "flocks of the Air Force's most secret [F-117A] fighter jets" flying overhead during daylight hours.
The article did not include photos. Sometime later, a Mojave schoolteacher took a grainy photo that showed a single F-117A banking away. It was widely
published in various newspapers.
James C. Goodall and Tony Ray Landis visited Tonopah Test Range on 24 August 1989. "This was the first time I ever saw an F-117A," wrote Goodall in
F-117 Stealth in Action (Squadron/Signal Publications, 1991). They approached the main gate and told the security guards that they were planning to
take photos from just outside the TTR boundary. The guards helpfully provided some information about the morning's flight schedule.
They took a series of photos that showed the F-117A flying in the company of a T-38 chase plane. The shots were somewhat fuzzy because of the
distance but were better, in many respects, than the photo released by the DoD. Some images showed the airplanes from the side and others were taken
from below, providing the first good view of the planform. The T-38 provided a good size reference. These photos were published in the 4 December 1989
issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine.
I don't believe any civilian photos of the F-117A were published prior to declassification.