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Definitive Area 51 Runway Length

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posted on Aug, 26 2006 @ 08:09 AM
I do realise that this thread is largely redundant now as runway 14R/32L at Groom Lake is now not used, but I am sick and tired of seeing it described as the longest runway in the world which is simply not true.

The most important point is deciding from which two points to measure between, ie. whether to include the poor quality asphalt run-off or the old concrete extention.

Here are the measurments I have made on Google Earth:

  • Remaining active length before closure - 6,600 ft
  • Total runway length including cosed sections - 12,400 ft
  • Total concrete strip length - 24,100 ft

The runway is now totally closed and all traffic uses 14L/32R, yet before its closure its length changed many times.

Runway 14R/32L was built in 1960 for the A-12 project, replacing an older runway used by the U-2s as it wasnt strong enough to hold up the weight of a blackbird. Its original length was 8,500 ft plus a 10,000 ft run-off. In the Mid-1980s the runway was extended from its south end as the lake bed end became flooded during the wet months, its total length was 13,530 ft plus the 10,000 ft run-off. As the new runway was completed, runway 14R/32L was slowly closed. In 1991 the northerly end was closed clipping it to a length of approximately 10,000 ft, the run-off was also closed. Eventually the runway was totally closed at an unknown date. These figures were gained from Peter W. Merlins history of Groom lake.

So between the mid-80s and 91 when the runway was at its longest it was between 12,400 and 13,500 ft long. So how long is that? Lets compare it to some other well known runways:

  • Denver Intl. - 16,000 ft
  • Edwards AF Base - 15,013 ft
  • Heathrow, UK - 12,801 ft

So the runway at area 51, even at its longest was still over quarter of a mile shorter than that at Edwards and almost half a mile shorter than that at the commercial airport Denver Intl.

Conclusion: The runway at Groom Lake was not the longest in the world.

I'd quite like to know other peoples views on my measurments and any additional history they have about the runway at area 51. Hope this clears up a few misunderstandings too.

posted on Aug, 26 2006 @ 10:48 AM
According to Area 51 Standard Operating Procedures, Landing Area Rules, dated 1 December 1968, runway 14/32 was 8,625 feet long with a 6,000 foot asphalt extension to a concrete turnaround pad followed by another 5,000 feet of asphalt. The asphalt overrun was not lighted, and therefore not considered "remaining runway" during hours of darkness.

As for the longest runway in the world, perhaps we should consider lakebed runway 17/35 at Edwards Air Force Base, with a length of 7.5 miles.

posted on Aug, 26 2006 @ 11:28 AM
Thanks shadowhawk. Are these Area 51 Standard Operating Procedures, Landing Area Rules online or do you have a paper copy? If so where did you get it?

That information, with a couple of quick measurments on GE, fits with my previous assumption that the place in the pic below is the southerly end of the old runway and the point from which it was extended in the mid-80s.

That runway at edwards truley is massive but I was only really taking into account paved runways. If we include lakebed runways as well then we can look at the two marked on groom lake:

  • 03L/21R - 10,200ft
  • 09L/27R - 11,200 ft

I never realised they were so long!

[edit on 26/8/06 by gfad]

posted on Aug, 26 2006 @ 10:11 PM
Exactly right, George. The southern extension on the old Runway 14/32 (later 14R/32L) was added on just below the turnoff to the South Trim Pad.

On the old runway 14 jet aircraft could, if necessary, be cleared for a takeoff roll starting from the mid-lake turnaround pad. If you want to count the additional section as active runway, it only bumps it up to 14,625 feet.

Runways 03/21 and 09/27 each have left and right (L&R) components so they are more properly:


03L/21R used to be a little longer than 03R/21L, but it was shortened to match its neighbor sometime between 2003 and 2005.

Runway 32 is considered the "calm wind" runway for use when surface wind velocity is less than 10 knots. When surface wind velocity is 10 knots or more, the runway most aligned with the wind will be selected.

The lakebed runways are used when crosswinds prohibit a landing on the main runway. Lt. Gen. Robert Bond had to use one of the lakebed runways for landing during his first F-117A orientation flight on 15 March 1984.

Any part of the lakebed east of the old 14/32 overrun can be used for landing, if necessary. Lakebed surface west of old 14/32 "is to be utilized only in dire emergencies." If you look at satellite imagery from 2005, you can see why. That portion of the lakebed has a tendency to flood and is probably softer for longer periods of time.

In 2001, South Delta Taxiway became Runway 12/30. It is approximately 5,420 feet long.

posted on Aug, 27 2006 @ 04:10 AM
Thanks shadowhawk.

I was aware that the dry lake flooded duringt he wet season, that was the reason they extended the runway to the south anyway. Theres also that photo of the guy "fishing" on the frozen groom lake!

I picked the slightly longer 03L/21R to measure and then made an arbitrary choice on 09/27 since they were the same length. Why did they shortened 03L/21R?

posted on Aug, 28 2006 @ 09:32 PM
I'm not sure why they shortened 03L/21R. I think it was just a matter of evening them up to simplify the process of marking the lakebed.

The "fisherman" in the 6 April 1965 photo of the flooded (not frozen) west side of Groom Lake was Murphy Green of REECo Culinary Services, the Area 51 cook. In the background you can see hangars 5 and 6 and the EG&G radar facilities. From the angle of the photo, it was obviously taken from the edge of the first (6,000-foot) asphalt extension of the runway, east of the RCS pylon.

posted on Jul, 25 2009 @ 11:37 PM
This is an extremely old post but I found it fascinating and have insight as to where the incorrect info came from. So, *dig dig dig* from the depths of ATS!

I personally visited Area 51 (unauthorized) and looked down over the runways and buildings. This was back when you could park by the "lethal force" sign and walk up the hill by the sensors. =p

I stopped at the Lil A'le'inn first and got a copy of Lazar's guide book. If I recall his spiral-ring booklet claims the runway is 25,000 feet. twice as long as the longest runway at SFO [San Francisco Int'l] where I worked at the time. So as to not discredit Lazar I'm not 100% sure that's where I got the info, but I never really looked for it anywhere else, so I'm assuming it is.

posted on Jul, 26 2009 @ 02:48 PM
It was actually Glenn Campbell's guide book, or possibly Chuck Clark's which came later. In any event, the information was incorrect. The guide books were written long before we had access to detailed information about the base.

Since the runway thread has been resurrected, I'll add a little new information about the unpaved lakebed runways from a satellite image acquired on 29 June 2009. Runway 03-21 has been moved south about one mile so that it now crosses runway 09-27. Judging from the appearance of the lakebed surface, it appears the move was made because the northern end of the lakebed is susceptible to flooding. Flooding on the southwest corner of the lakebed contributed to the closing of the original paved runway 14-32 (and its infamous overrun that has caused so much discussion on this board).

posted on Aug, 2 2009 @ 07:33 AM
Well next you are going to tell me that Area 51 did not close and move to Utah????

/sarc (since so many on here claim over and over it was closed and moved, just because of bad magazine article)

posted on Mar, 11 2015 @ 10:59 AM
a reply to: gfad
I once read that runway 14L/32R at groom lake was 9 miles long which would be 49.140 feet long this info came from the old magazine that graham birdsawe used to write which surely makes it the worlds longest runway now what type of aircraft needs a 9 mile runway?

posted on Mar, 12 2015 @ 02:32 AM
a reply to: colinprill

The problem is, that information isn't true....

posted on Apr, 1 2015 @ 03:46 PM
a reply to: gfad

graham bridsawe said in the magazine that this info came from bob lazer who once said he worked at area 51 on a ufo know as the sport model at site 4 papoose lake side of area 51.

posted on Apr, 1 2015 @ 04:11 PM
a reply to: colinprill

The runway at Area 51 is just under 12,000 feet long. The rest is dry lake bed that could be USED as a runway, but it's not actual runway.

posted on Apr, 2 2015 @ 03:10 AM
a reply to: colinprill

Well I guess that was one thing Bob Lazar said that we can **prove** was BS.

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