August 24, 1933: Beginning of Palmdale Airport

  • Published
  • US Army Air Forces

Construction began on a Government Landing Field northeast of Palmdale. The 160 acre facility was constructed by the Department of Commerce to be an emergency landing field for commercial air traffic. A local dirt strip on the site was replaced with four-way 3,300 foot oiled runways. The facility soon became the “U.S. Palmdale Airport” and eventually evolved into Air Force Plant 42.

Palmdale Regional Airport had a small airline terminal and a hangar. The airport terminal sat at the southwest corner of the airport and began civilian operations in 1971. The FAA's Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center was next to the facility.  The airport was included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2011–2015, which categorized it was a primary commercial service facility based on enplanements in 2008   Federal Aviation Administration records stated the airport had 10,392 passenger boardings   The airport had two main runways, runways: and both were over 2 miles long. They were built to withstand an 8.3 Richter Scale earthquake, making it one of the world's strongest runways. Another smaller runway, 72/252, is used as an assault strip.

Plant 42 is owned by Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and operated as a component of Edwards Air Force Base, which is 23 miles to the northeast. Most of its facilities are operated by private contractors to build and maintain military aircraft and their components for the United States and their allies.  Plant 42 has 3,200,000 square feet of industrial space and a replacement value of $1.1 billion. Some of its facilities build aircraft, including the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk and other unmanned aircraft.  Others maintain and modify aircraft such as the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit bomber. Still others make spare parts.  Aerospace contractors at Air Force Plant 42 share a runway complex, and either lease building space from the Air Force or own their own buildings outright.  There are eight production sites specially suited for advanced technology and/or "black" programs. The most well-known contractors at Plant 42 are Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.  Previously, the facilities were operated by McDonnell-Douglas Aircraft; Lockheed California, Norair, a Division of Northrop; and Lockheed Air Terminal.

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