This article by Brad Howard originally appeared on Task & Purpose, a digital news and culture publication dedicated to military and veterans issues.
Way out in Nevada, the secret base from "Independence Day" -- yes, Area 51 -- is hiring a pilot for the only airline that flies direct to the secluded destination. Janet Air -- as in "Just Another Non-Existent Terminal" -- flies a nondescript red-striped fleet of 737s from Las Vegas to various sandy, high-security government outposts where, as in Vegas, what goes on there stays there.
The job posting in question is looking for a 3,000-hour pilot with an active top-secret clearance and little interest in what their passengers do at work. According to salary research site Glassdoor, the average salary of a pilot at AECOM, Janet Air's parent firm, was $80,454 a year -- enough to really enjoy nightlife on the Strip with those wacky scientists you'll presumably ferry to work in the mornings.
Used for testing stealth aircraft, new weapons and (in popular fiction and conspiracy theories) alien spacecraft, the base also known as Groom Lake -- or at least, Area 51, Groom Lake's most notorious annex -- also attracts a fair amount of tourists who are looking to make "first contact." Most just end up making contact with the highly trained security force that patrols the base's border.
"The range is used for the testing of technologies and systems and training for operations critical to the effectiveness of U.S. military forces and the security of the United States," Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told Task & Purpose in a statement, when asked about the purpose of Area 51 and its surrounding environs, probably for the millionth time.
The emailed response from Air Combat Command spokesman Col. Todd Vician, however, was more tantalizing. "There is an operating location near Groom dry lake," he wrote, but "some specific activities and operations" out there, "both past and present, remain classified and cannot be discussed."
Hey, man, $80K to ferry spooky customers on short hops from Sin City doesn't sound half bad. But knowing the truth about little green men in the desert? That'd be priceless.
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