[dropcap]In[/dropcap] 1968, 31-year-old hypersonic flight specialist Thornton “T.D.” Barnes reported to Groom Lake, the remote Southern Nevada military base also known as Area 51.
He began work on the CIA‘s top-secret Project OXCART. Over the next seven years, he and many of his colleagues knew one another only by aliases. For additional secrecy, several of them lived in California, commuting to work each day by plane.
Barnes’ cover permitted him to go home to nearby Beatty, Nevada, but he couldn’t tell his wife, Doris, what he did at work. She only knew that it was top-secret. His children knew even less. “They got used to it,” he recalls. “They grew up not expecting me to talk shop when I came home. None of them knew until two years ago, when it was declassified.”
He means the CIA‘s September 2007 declassification of its Groom Lake aircraft testing, new information in spite of which questions remain. To say the least. Area 51 still is heard in the same breath as Roswell, Amityville and Loch Ness.
Aerospace historian Michael Schratt suspects that extraterrestrial technology was utilized at Area 51 and remains secret “because it will make every man, woman and child on the planet energy independent.” Schratt’s theories gained some prominence in July 2007 when he produced the following photograph:
During a recent interview, Schratt told me that the picture in fact is “a computer-generated forensic composite” that he commissioned.
But there were UFOs at Area 51, according to Barnes.
“We were the UFOs,” he says. “We were, to a great extent, the sightings being reported.”
The flying objects in question include the family of spy planes known as Blackbirds, technological marvels that could fly at heights of 90,000 feet (or about three times the altitude of DC-9s more commonly seen in that era) and speeds near 2,500 mph (think ten football fields