Meinrad "Swiss Mountain Bat" Eberle atop Tikaboo Peak, 9-7-99
.......Sand Spring Dry Lake close to Rachel NV, 7 September 1999: After a night enriched by a spicy steak, half a dozen Franks (from a grill that had to be started twice), tasty chips, sweet apples, bubbling Coke, cold (ah!) Miller beer , fluffy-stuffy plain bagles and a surprise visit by the Sheriff and his lightbar-flashing 4WD vehicle, the three Swiss hikers Raffi Bloechlinger, Dino Regli and this writer decide to check out the Li’le Alie’Inn nearby. Now, the town the latter is in is armed to its teeth. Or at least so I was told recently. So if you are not hungry in there, they beam you to some forlorn 640th rock from the sun. But I WAS hungry and ready to support local economy with a few bucks, so we were safe.
The eggs tasted well and the reporter sitting at our table was quite an appearance: He looked as if he had spent the whole night out there, lurking along the restricted border of the best-known secret base on this planer, toting heavy cameras. He introduced himself as Peter Menzel, currently on assignment for the Smithsonian Institute for a story about...people out here, in the desert, hanging out at that bar and grill place close to Area 51, where skies are ripped open by fast black secrets.
Now we do not know that place out there, do we, folks?
No wonder then that after a few exchange of words, hints and fingerpointing towards a certain photograph of a cammo-clad Bat (standing in front of a blue Chevy van) hanging in frames on the wall of the Inn, we were in on the project of Peter. And had to sign off all that paperwork, of course, where you trade your rights in case of your pixx being published and such. But Peter looked very trustworthy, so we took to our pencils, somehow bewildered about looming stardom ahead.
We decided to breeze to Groom Lake Road later on, to be interviewed and pictured by Peter. And to check out if our shiny metal 16" x 10"-postcard put up for the Inhalation, er, -Installation Commander by joint Swiss-American Hiking Team was still at the 45 MPH sign of upper Groom Road, featuring next to spicy greetings a rendition of the "SR-75 Mothership" (sighted over Spring Dry Lake in mid-altitude by Rachel resident(s) around 6 AM only a few days ago, according to Don Emory of the Area 51 Research Center).
To make sure that no human soul abducts the sign ducktaped to our lawnchair, we had chained the latter to the speed limit signpost, using three Master locks and three foot-long, fingerthick chains in galvanized Home Depot edition. Actually, for our forthcoming trip to Tikaboo Peak, I had shopped for another shiny metal postcard down in the City of Sin and Eiffel Towers: Would have been the third such postcard to be deposited, er, lawnchair-chained within the last four months, at the following address: Eastern Groom Lake Road, 45 MPH Speed Limit Sign, Lincoln "Now leaving USA" County, Nevada.
Actually, after having raided the alleys of Home Depot in our desperate (but successful) search for two 16"x10" aluminum plates suited for our purposes, we - forgot one of them after spraypainting it on a parking lot south of the City, grr. That explains why we could not tell the Base Oleander, eh, Commander about our intercepts. So sorry, really (anyone got his name, rank, to allow us proper addressing NEXT TIME?).
Lawnchair chained to 45 MPH speed limit sign at Groom Lake Road, plus loveletter by Interceptors "AF-2", "Navigator" and "Swiss Mountain Bat" to the Installation Commander (actually, it's a spray-painted sheet metal piece..), 9-5-99: The shiny thing put up by us right after our Reveille Peak Experience survived the entire Labor Day weekend, untouched by the Cammo Dudes for three consecutive days, imagine! In the afternoon of 9-7-99, upon checking out Groom Lake Road again prior to dusting to Tikaboo Peak Basecamp, the sign was gone. But those footprints around the speed limit sign.....people by the dozens apparently took notice of it!
The sign was still there.
Together with virtually hundreds of footprints around it.
Imagine the scenery: The postcard did not get delivered to the Commander during 48 hours. So dozens of people must have seen it, taking pictures, walking around and around the sign, maybe praying to the Madonna of the Black Budget, who knows. And the three of us? We were ROFLing back and forth, right on the spot.
Until we tracked a white Jeep speeding southward on a dirtroad close to the Medlin Ranch, leaving behind no dustcloud.
Now that cat drew our attention but good: With pedal to the metal, our Expedition Vehicle (EEVEE) exceeded the local 45 MPH speed limit to zoom in on the Security Patrol dashing towards safe havens behind the restricted border.
Got the government on the run.
With his immediate promotion to act as upper turret gunner of our our EEVEE, Raffi took to our EOS 5 boasting 300 mm image-stabilized zoom lenses. Lock on target. Fire. Got multiple hits on the Jeep upon it leaving that deep, wide dip close to K-Mart, while we appeared on the rim just in time for Look-Down, Shoot-Down: TOPGUN goes dirtroad. Call it the Motha of all Chases. And great snapshots, too (I do luv those image-stabilized gizmos, he he).
The chased vehicle appeared on the hillock to the left of the sign forest near Groom Road Ravine. Our group decided to closely follow the orange posts marking the borderline. So up we crawled thru blackish dust, avoiding the yuccas. On top of the hill, we took to our cameras for snapshots of the Dudes monitoring us with binocs from inside their Jeep on the opposite viewpoint. Ahaa, something NEW: In thick black letters, the word CALF was painted onto the hood of the vehicle. Now that was puzzling. Very mind-challenging. Almost overloaded our circuits. CALF…. Young male bovine species. No wonder then that the five of us could not withstand that secret mind-bending weaponry any more. Our heads smoking with endlessly spinning minds, we backtracked to the RV of Peter and Faith who offered us ice-cold Coke. The Real Thing. In exchange, we donated to them one of BATWING’s golden Roving Sands 99 Interceptor Pins. During our pow-wow in the shade of the RV, the Cammo Dudes got reinforcement - or so it seemed. Actually, it was just shift change: That day, they wore black (!) T-shirts, beige trousers and black paratrooper boots. Very stylish.
Raphael "T-Bird" Bloechlinger atop Tikaboo Peak, 9-7-99
....Tikaboo Peak, 8 September 1999, 05:30 AM: Three Swiss hikers equipped with a full array of image-stabilized binoculars, photo/video cameras courtesy of CANON, Uniden Bearcat 3000 XLT scanner, Sony tape recorder and (last but not least) brandnew lawnchairs with white and light blue stripes take on another day of monitoring Groom Lake, the most popular secret airbase ever. Since last October, this is the third purely coincidental return of the Swiss team to that Area 51 viewpoint: The Operating Facility just always comes in their way when their (sometimes joint Swiss-American) gang gets 4WD-borne to explore the great national parks of the Wild, Wild West.
Despite the previous night ablaze with chains of fiercely flickering flares originating from widespread aerial wargames over the southern parts of Nellis Bombing and Gunnery Range, the team found enough rest to crawl completely refreshed out of their sleeping bags. Video cameras already loaded with fresh Li-Ion batteries, mounted 500 mm Celestron telephoto lenses swept towards the base. Camera taken out of the rucksack and Scanner switched on? Yawn…Yo. Camera is over there, at the lower end of the sleeping bag, Scanner leaning at the small wall built out of loose rocks for wind protection. Earlybirds starting to sharpen their opto-electronic teeth.
06:00 AM. Mild temperatures. Sips of Arrowhead water instead of that Colombian coffee at the Luxor. Biting away on a carrot. Sigh. Dull morning, this.
"Now, traffic departing off the Runway 32 is a Fastmover...the wind calm....cleared for Take-Off!"
FASTMOVER 6AM: Recorded at exactly 06:00 AM atop Tikaboo Peak on 9-8-99: "...Now...traffic departing off the Runway Three-Two is a Fastmover....the wind calm... cleared for take-off!" [Fastmover = generic term for any low but fast flying aircraft. The black project triangular craft that took off from Groom that morning at 06:00 AM is therefore not necessarily nicknamed "Fastmover". Although...you never know, right?...]
Are you aware of how quickly one manages to swirl around, reach out for a pair of binocs and point them towards a target? We are talking split seconds here.
Our eyes glued to image-stabilized lenses, the following is the description of the aircraft that eye-and ear-witnesses Raffi Bloechlinger, Dino Regli and this writer spotted standing on the southern end of Runway 14L-32R at Groom:
-Smoothed-out overall appearance
-Massive upper main body/fuselage
-Estimated overall heigth: 12 ft.
-No shining parts whatsoever visible
-Aircraft colored in deep black
-Cockpit hardly visible, well integrated into aircraft body
-Two very high and massive-looking rear fins close to wingtips (rudders only?)
-No undercarriage whatsoever visible
-No signs of engines mounted under, at or right above wings
-No signs of engines integrated into lower aircraft body
-No engine inlets visible
The aircraft then starts rolling on the tarmac, accelerates, gets airborne swiftly to get altitude, accompanied by a distinctly audible low rumbling - but not pulsating - noise (remember the distance from our viewpoint to the Base).
Hanging a left high above Emigrant Valley, not too far away from Bald Mountain.
Previously seen in sideview, the silhouette of the craft now starts growing - into a delta shaped platform, showing us its flat, dull black belly: No engines visible there, no apparent air intakes, no fuel pods, no TARPS pods. Just a smoothed-out triangular bodywork, estimated details as follows:
-Estimated overall lenght: 100 ft.
-Estimated overall width: 55 ft.
-Estimated wing sweep: 75 degrees
Also striking: The complete lack of lights all over the aircraft: Neither any lit position-, blinking/turning red anti collision- nor any other lights of whatever color visible. Just one dark mass turning westward, steadfastly heading out of sight.
Artist's reproduction of FASTMOVER witnessed by the Swiss hikers Meinrad "Swiss Mountain Bat" Eberle, Raphael "T-Bird" Bloechlinger and Dino "Godzilla" Regli at Area 51 on 9-8-99. Copyright for both reproductions: Steve Douglass, Amarillo TX, USA, 2000, firstname.lastname@example.org Copies of the recording plus remaining rest of taped radio intercepts of that morning were sent for additional analysis to my friends Steve Hauser, D. Denk, Tom Mahood, Jim Goodall, Peter Merlin, Tony Moore, Steve Douglass, Bill Sweetman, Chris Pocock, Mike Dornheim, Stuart Brown and Richard Cooper (the latter who then brought the FASTMOVER-Story rolling by launching "SECRETS OF AREA 51", Parts 1 to 6, in UK-based AIRCRAFT ILLUSTRATED magazine, issues March to August 2000, contact address for back issues: email@example.com)
So, having decided to watch the departing craft by means of binoculars instead of (trying to) film with my 44 times digital zoom videocamera or even take (grainy!!!! anyway) photos, I now track - for the last few seconds prior to complete amalgamating into the whitish horizon - the craft's wide backside turned towards us.
But WHAT a back: Visible is a roughly segmented rear wing area (probably housing big flaps). More or less close to the wingtips: The fins (maybe just rudders, I do not know: The SR-71 had rudders, so why change a winning team?....). They leave the impression on me to be slightly canted outward and reaching higher than the main fuselage, but that effect might just have been created by wavering air over that long distance.
But topping it all off: (At least) two HUGE, just HUGE exhausts shining with red flames (still on afterburner?), integrated part of main upper fuselage, not bolted down onto wing area or such. Their shape and size? For a split-second, they did not look like your-tread-of-the-mill-round-black-hole-ones to me. For a split-second, I got the impression that they were rectangular in shape (anyway, huge they were, so huge).
One hell of a Heavy Duty thang.
With the craft having disappeared in the Western skies, we lower our binoculars, speaking no word at all for a few moments. But we had that bonfire on the Peak the previous night. Why did they launch that bird the next morning? Tight schedules? They must have seen that fire from the Base...
Ticking off another secret aircraft on the list, dragging it out of black shades. Quite a nice add-on to the remote desert test location’s Timeline. Next one, please?
Dino "Godzilla" Regli atop Tikaboo Peak, 9-8-99
But I did not press that button that morning.
Dunno if KLAS, BBC, ZDF-, Pro 7-, TF1 and all those other nifty US and European TV news channels are interested in the recordings. Maybe Larry King, together with William "Cold Eyed" Cohen live from the Pentagon in the upper right corner of your TV screen, flatly denying everything?
…..Zooming back to late September 1999….Needless to say that after our return to Europe, we locked the master tape recordings away in a safe deposit box at a Swiss Bank. Some thangs are just too hot to be kept at home.
A word of comfort to those who built that fast moving bird: Ladies and Gentlemen (yes, I am confident that there were female engineers working on that project in the high desert of NV and CA), sit back, exhale and smile: The White World finally knows for good about your outstanding achievement in black aircraft technology. Any bets how long it will take the USAF (or whatever agency is operating that platform) to come clear about the Fastmover and its operational history.
Doomed by a line item vetoe, the USAF recently put out of service the SR-71 Blackbird, one of the most successful reconnaissance aircraft ever built. According to official sources, there is no successor.
That September morning in 1999, things happened SO FAST. Groom caught us with our pants down, so to speak, forcing us to react immediately: I mean, in such a dramatic moment, you can’t start a discussion about what equipment to be used best, or who is filming what. Only in a feverish nightmare, one could imagine the three of us up there on the Peak, going: Hey, er….hmmm…er, folks, you heard that too? Nooo, whatta surprise, this. There is an AIRCRAFT taking off at the secret base. Folks, this is oh sooooo exciting, hurrah. A craft, a weird-looking craft down there. Huh, sooo exciting, geeze. We could try to take a picture, could we not, eh? Naah, I disagree, let us better video-tape it, we got fully loaded batteries in our CANON Hi-8, right? Where have ya just put the camera? Ah, it is over there, sitting on a stone next to the former shrine of the Madonna of the Black Budget. You pleeese walk over there, get it for me, hmm? Yup, taking video, or a picture…good idea! And a very cool one. moving pictures, ho-ho-ho….Er, you mean that is NOT my camera? Is it yours then?…..May I borrow it from you for a few minutes, ey? It is just such a dramatic occasion, this, we better stick with videotaping….
It happened way different than that, folks: IT WAS ABOUT SPLIT-SECONDS: FASTMOVER TAKING OFF! GIMME BINOXX, THAT BIRD IS ALREADY ROLLING!
You are instantly caught and left WITHOUT sufficient time to BOTH videotape AND take pictures AND binoxxing the event unfolding in front of you. Even more, NOT everybody of your team is obliged to sport the same enthousiasm for such desert adventures. You cannot force someone into milling around with a camera around the neck all the time. We are free human beings powered by our own will.
After publication of the event told above, the three of us up on NOT behaving like a buzzing group of Japanese tourists on Top of Europe opposite Mount Eiger attracted lots of flak, especially from a few (not all) contributors lurking the sceptic way in the Skunkworks Mailing List where I posted my report as well. Team member Raffi aka T-Bird has more or less disappeared from the screen since April 2000, tinkering on a new project for a river rafting trip in Alaska later this year. Dino aka Godzilla could not cope at all with all the thunder and lightning ensuing the publication of our sighting in AIRCRAFT ILLUSTRATED's "Secrets of Area 51 – Part 1 to 6", issues of March thru August, 2000: Looks like it was all a bit too much for good ole Godzilla, hmm. But I have high hopes to reactivate him later this year.
Well, so be it. At least for the first part of such a forthcoming daredevil adventure in the not too distant future, I will have to hunt tigers in the Wild, Wild West alone. Hopefully with some reinforcement by US-based Interceptors then.
Meinrad "Swiss Mountain Bat" Eberle, Switzerland
The Groom Lake Interceptors - European HQ