Airspace around Area 51 in Nevada will be closed to news helicopters and drones this week in anticipation of the so-called “Storm Area 51" event that started as a joke but has morphed into a potentially dangerous situation.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has posted temporary flight restrictions (TFR) for two areas near Area 51 controlled by the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of Energy. As the Drive points out, even police and medical helicopters are banned from the area without getting special permission, and the U.S. Air Force will likely have drone-jamming equipment ready and available.
Over 2.1 million people have signed up for a Facebook event called “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us,” which encourages people to break into the restricted military area in order to “see them aliens.” The Air Force’s Area 51, roughly 75 miles north of Las Vegas, has served as a long-held fascination for conspiracy theorists who believe that extraterrestrial life forms are currently being kept there. While the site has a messy and complicated history, especially when it comes to nuclear weapons, it’s unlikely that the U.S. government holds aliens at Area 51.
There are a number of events that have popped up around the original Storm Area 51 Facebook joke, and the person behind the joke has now disavowed the bizarre stunt and warn people not to show up. One of the largest events, Alienstock, will now just be a music festival in Las Vegas instead of an attempt to illegally storm a U.S. military facility, but it’s unclear how many people might arrive at Area 51 anyway this week despite the warnings.
Area 51 is just a small part of the U.S. military’s Nevada Test and Training Range, 4,687 square miles of government land that’s only slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut. The first area with the temporary flight restrictions is on the southern end of the Test and Training Range and will be enforced from Thursday, September 19, until Monday, September 23. Anything flying up to 18,000 feet is prohibited.
The second area with temporary flight restrictions is close to the towns of Mercury and Rachel, Nevada, and will be in effect from Wednesday, September 18, until Monday, September 23. The flight restrictions for that area only go up to 7,000 feet because commercial planes sometimes fly over this space as an approach to the Las Vegas airport.
If you’re thinking of heading to Area 51 this week, you should probably just forget about it. The Air Force isn’t going to tolerate anyone trying to trespass on its property, even if you think it’s just a joke.
Air Force spokesperson Laura McAndrews recently told the Washington Post that the area “is an open training range for the U.S. Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces.”
“The U.S. Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets,” McAndrews continued.
Two Dutch YouTubers were arrested last week after allegedly trespassing in portions of the military installation, but they’re just lucky to be alive. Back in January, a man was shot dead after going through a security checkpoint in the area, though details around the case are still sketchy.
Yes, it’s funny to think about a bunch of people storming Area 51 in an attempt to see aliens. But even if you try, you’re not going to get very far. The original Facebook joke said that “we can move faster than their bullets.” But I assure you, you can’t.