January 8, 1942: Palmdale Airport Becomes Plant 42

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  • Air Force Flight Test Center

The Army Air Corps leased the Palmdale Airport from the Palmdale Irrigation District, and Works Progress Administration workers began construction on a 9,000 foot concrete runway, a 5,000 foot auxiliary runway, and a hangar. Within three years the 412th Fighter Group used the hangar, later known as building 531, in the testing of jet aircraft. In 1953, it became Air Force Plant 42.

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, an arrangement commonly referred to as a "GOCO," or Government Owned Contractor Operated, or own their own buildings outright . There are eight production sites specially suited for advanced technology and/or "black" programs. Currently, the most well-known contractors at Plant 42 are Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.  Previously, the facilities were operated by IT&T; McDonnell-Douglas Aircraft; Lockheed California, Norair, a Division of Northrop; and Lockheed Air Terminal.  Plant 42 is a GOCO, contractually operated for the Air Force since 1954. But under the Obama administration, the Air Force chose to take over some plant operations that had long been performed by contractors. The airfield is now operated by the Department of Defense, with 412 Test Wing Operating Location, Air Force Test Center in command.  Plant 42 controls more than 5,800 acres of Mojave Desert land north of Avenue P and south of Columbia Way.. The western border is Sierra Highway, and the plant extends east to around 40th Street East, south of Avenue N to Avenue P, and 50th Street East north of Avenue N to Columbia Way.  It is the Antelope Valley's second-largest employer.

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