Air Force Plant 42
With 9,000 employees, Air Force Plant 42 is the Antelope Valley's second-largest employer, after Edwards Air Force Base. Plant 42 has 3.2 million square feet of industrial space and has a replacement value of $1.1 billion. Some of the plant's work involves production of spare parts for military aircraft, with other projects including maintenance and modification of aircraft such as the B-2 bomber and F-117 stealth fighter, and production of the Global Hawk and other unmanned craft.
Air Force Plant 42 is at Palmdale, CA, north of Pasadena in Los Angeles County. It is operated by Lockheed, Rockwell International, Northrop, and Nero. AFP 42 is located in the northeastern portion of Los Angeles County, California, within the Antelope Valley of the Mojave Desert, approximately 80 miles north of Los Angeles. It has over 6,600 acres (the government owns 85%) and includes approximately 4.2 million square feet of floor space (the government owns 45%). The site includes multiple high bay buildings and airfield access with flyaway capability. The facility also has one of the heaviest load-bearing runways in the world.
In 1940, the Palmdale Airport was activated as a U.S. Army Air Corps Base for use as an emergency landing strip and for B-25 support training during World War II. The installation was declared a surplus facility in 1946 and was purchased by Los Angeles County for use as a municipal airport. The installation was reactivated by the Air Force in 1950 for use in final assembly and flight testing of jet aircraft, and was later repurchased from Los Angeles County.
The concept for AFP 42 originated in the challenge of flight testing high performance jet aircraft over heavily populated areas. In 1951, the USAF purchased the site and awarded a contract to Lockheed Aircraft to develop the master plan for the site. The plan was to construct a facility that would meet the requirements of full war mobilization and augment the industrial production potential of the major airframe manufacturing industry in southern California. Following approval of the Master Plan in 1953, the Palmdale Airport officially became Air Force Plant 42; ownership of the installation was transferred to the Federal Government in 1954. With USAF encouragement, Lockheed signed a lease in 1956 for 237 acres to use Palmdale Airport for final assembly and flight testing. Since then, the plant has supported facilities for the production, engineering, final assembly and flight testing of high performance aircraft. During the 1980s it was used by Lockheed to produce the U-B/TR-1 and support the SR-71. Northrop produced the F-5E, and Rockwell supported the B-1B.
Northrop Grumman's B-2 final assembly and modification facility is at Palmdale. The Department of Defense, in February 1995, announced its plan for providing depot support for the B-2. The plan includes a mix of commercial and organic sources for providing various functions and/or maintaining various components. For example, the engines are to be maintained by the Air Force, software support is to be provided by commercial sources, and airframe maintenance is to be provided by Northrop Grumman at Palmdale, California.
Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility is where all the individual parts, pieces and systems of the Space Shuttle came together and were assembled and tested. Upon completion, the spacecraft was turned over to NASA for transport overland from Palmdale to Edwards Air Force Base, California. NASA's Dryden Flight Research Facility at Edwards Air Force Base is the site of the mate-demate facility for mating or demating the spacecraft and the shuttle carrier aircraft.
Approximately 250 major subcontractors supplied various systems and components to Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility. The structures of the orbiter were manufactured at various companies under contract to Rockwell International's Space Transportation Systems Division, Downey, Calif. The upper and lower forward fuselage, crew compartment, forward reaction control system and aft fuselage were manufactured at Rockwell's Space Transportation Systems Division facility in Downey and were transported overland from Downey to Rockwell's Palmdale, Calif., assembly facility. The midfuselage was manufactured by General Dynamics, San Diego, Calif., and transported overland to Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility. The wings (including elevons) were manufactured by Grumman, Bethpage, Long Island, N.Y., and transported by ship from New York via the Panama Canal to Long Beach, Calif., and then transported overland to Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility. The vertical tail (including rudder/speed brake) were manufactured by Fairchild Republic, Farmingdale, Long Island, N.Y., and transported overland to Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility. The payload bay doors were manufactured at Rockwell International's Tulsa, Okla., facility and transported overland to Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility. The body flap was manufactured at Rockwell International's Columbus, Ohio, facility and transported overland to Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility. The aft orbital maneuvering system/reaction control system pods were manufactured by McDonnell Douglas, St. Louis, Mo., and transported by aircraft to Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility. They were also transported by aircraft from Rockwell's Palmdale assembly facility to the Kennedy Space Center.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration had been paying the Air Force for use of Plant 42 facilities for the shuttle work. NASA decided in February 2002 to shift space shuttle overhaul and modification work from Palmdale to Florida.
During the 1990s, airlines operated out of the Palmdale Regional Airport, comprised of the terminal and parking lot on leased land. The last airline pulled out in 1998. Los Angeles World Airports [LAWA] owns 17,000 acres east of Plant 42 that was acquired for an airport. The city of Los Angeles bought the land in the 1960s when it planned to build an airport in Palmdale, but the airport was never built. In March 2001 Los Angeles County hired Tri-Star Marketing to prepare the presentations needed to bring air-passenger service back to Palmdale Regional Airport. However, the regional transportation plans formulated by the Southern California Association of Governments focus on having airports in Burbank, Ontario, Irvine and El Toro handle the excess air-passenger service for the Southern California region.
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