• green photo icon displays next to Apex Expeditions blog posts
    Jun '20
    Area 51 as seen from the air, circa 1964. Photo credit: Collection of Roadrunners Internationale

    Best Travel Brag | A Story by Don Pisor

    Posted by

    in Of Interest

    Well, we asked for it. We knew that some of you would have some outrageous, brag-worthy experiences to share. We heard tales from remote and far-flung parts of the globe…but the one that made the judges’ collective jaw drop the farthest comes from right here in the Continental US. It involves, nevertheless, perhaps the strangest destination of all. Legions of conspiracy theorists and flying saucer fanatics would give their tinfoil hats to get inside this mysterious spot. But our winning braggart, Don Pisor, was a regular visitor.

    “In the early 1960’s, I had a job that I couldn’t tell anyone about. Now it is possible. Early every Monday morning, I and other engineers would board an aging Lockheed Constellation and travel to Area 51.”

    That installation is so infamous, and Don’s role there so hush-hush, that we reached out and asked him for the full story. Read on…

    “After graduating from Oregon State University with a BS in Math and Electrical Engineering, I went to work for RCA for a short year, then on to Litton Industries in Beverly Hills as an inertial navigational systems trainee. The project was the Lockheed P-3 Anti-submarine tracking aircraft (Lockheed Electra). Actually, this aircraft is still in production and in use by several allies! That job lasted a year until something better came along: going to Honeywell in St. Petersburg, FL, and working on the first re-entry vehicle (Dyna-Soar).

    Then we were assigned to a project that we could not discuss with anyone outside work: not even our wives and families. We were transferred to LA, and sent to work each week out in Area 51, north of Las Vegas.

    We flew out from Burbank in an old Lockheed Constellation. At times, we wondered whether it would make the flight! An hour later, we landed in Nevada. My job was to install and test inertial navigation systems on super-secret, super-fast planes: the A-12, YF-12 and SR-71. These were the most exciting aircraft of the time, and may still be the fastest (that we know about!). Many books have been written about them.

    I eventually got married, and that did not jibe well with being away 5 days a week, so I left the project and moved back to Florida, working for Pan American Airways, who ran the Eastern Test Range at Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral. That is another whole story, so I’ll stop there…after what I consider the best job I ever had!”

Leave a Comment