Tuesday, July 22, 2008

New Area 51? Popular Mechanics Visits Mojave

In case you haven't haunted you local newsstand lately, Mojave is once again heralded in print, this time as the cover story in the August edition of Popular Mechanics, under the banner of "Inside the New Area 51: Mysterious Test Flights / Secret Prototypes / Next-Gen Spacecraft". Inside, despite the hype, is a fluff piece that does a reasonable job at giving an overview with only a small smattering of errors (ie, the article says there's only one large military contractor here...however, both Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems have operations here). XCOR and Gary Hudson's Protoflight are strongly represented, as are several other flightline companies, but the cover hype doesn't really do justice to the truly amazing things that happen here. The article mentions a visitor - the writer refers to him as either a tourist or an aviation paparazzi, a term I'm sure I've been called on occasion - on a Harley shooting his digital camera at the Rocket Racer through the fence...something that surely wouldn't happen at the real Area 51.

Maybe I'm nitpicking, but it's not just the cover text that has my head shaking...it's the badly photoshopped cover art: since when does the sun rise occur so far north? (For the non-pilots, runway numbers reflect compass headings, and the artist made the sun come up at 030 degrees!) Mojave doesn't have a Runway 03, it has a Runway 08, and I suspect that in grafting in the image of the Rocket Racer, the artist took a little too much liberty. So, for the record, at the left is the real runway number, with the real Rocket Racing League Velocity SE touching down, albeit when it first arrived at Mojave and still had that ancient piston engine hanging off the back....

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