I've noticed for a while that Groom Lake added a flight to the Tonopah Test Range on Mondays. To be clear here, this is not a flight from McCarran to
Groom Lake or Tonopah, but a 737 flight between the two bases (Groom and the TTR).
Normally flights from McCarran to Groom Lake lie when they file the flight plan. That is, all the planes leaving McCarran file to fly to the Tonopah
Test Range (KTNX), even if most actually go to Groom Lake. They use the Tonopah Test Range as a cover story (cut out, plausible deniability, etc.).
WWW278 is filed as a flight from KTNX to KTX (AKA a round robin). However the routing is
KTNX BTY060030 CENIT Q13 LEAHI KICHI TPH KTNX.
Airnav doesn't include the origin and destination in the routing, so I added it.
Flights to the Tonopah Test Range generally have TPH (the civilian Tonopah Airport) in the routing, so that is how I know the flights are from Groom
Lake to the TTR.
Sorry to be so wordy, but if I didn't explain this, somebody would ask.
So now to the business at hand. For the month of December 2011 through today, they have been flying between the bases. At this point, you can make
your guess as to why.
1) They fly a Janet from Palmdale (PMD) to Groom , but not to the TTR. So perhaps some California workers are taking a flight from PMD to Groom Lake,
then a flight from Groom Lake to the TTR instead of flying direct. This is likely because the PMD flight to Groom is also only on Monday. The problem
with that theory is there is no corresponding flight from the TTR to Groom so that the California employees can catch the Groom to Palmdale flight to
2) They are transferring a black program from Groom Lake to a gray program at the Tonopah Test Range. Assuming this is done by the Nevada employees,
then there is no issue with them getting back from Tonopah to McCarran since there are regular flights. Of course, why wouldn't the Nevada employees
just fly directly to the TTR in the first place? Well perhaps they use the 737 to move some gear.
As a side issue, one of the Beech Janets had to fly IFR today, so it showed up in the tracking.
This was a flight from the TTR to Groom. Ah yes, time again for a lengthy explanation. Sometimes they declare the code for Groom Lake to be TKM when
the do the flights between bases. There is no official TKM code for Groom Lake, though TKM is listed in FAA literature.
[In the Honneywell database, Goom Lake is known at XTA.] I'm assuming the IFR flight was due to poor weather.
But this brings up another possibility. We know there are Beech flights between Groom Lake and the TTR, and vice versa. So why the 737 flight between
the bases. One possibility is the 737 can carry more cargo, so they can't use the Beech for that leg of the trip. Since they are not taking cargo
from The TTR to Groom, hopping on a Beech flight to get back to Groom is fine.
The calculus isn't quite right here, so feel free to make your own guess.