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Area 51 - Black Jets: A History of the Aircraft Developed at Groom Lake, America's Secret Aviation Base Hardcover – 15 Mar 2014

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Zenith Press (15 Mar. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0760344264
  • ISBN-13: 978-0760344262
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 1.9 x 26.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 330,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

BILL YENNE (San Francisco, CA) is the author of three dozen works of biography and historical nonfiction, including many books on military history, and he has been a contributor to encyclopedias of both World Wars. His previous books on combat aviation and the Boeing Company include Superfortress: The B-29 and American Airpower in World War II (written with legendary U.S. Air Force commander General Curtis E. LeMay), The Story of the Boeing Company, and The American Aircraft Factory in World War II. Most recently, he has written B-52 Stratofortress: The Complete History of the World’s Longest Serving and Best Known Bomber (2012) and Area 51 – Black Jets: A History of the Aircraft Developed at Groom Lake, America’s Secret Aviation Base (2014), both for Zenith Press.

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Phillip Buumpass on 21 May 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very interesting book, features many of the black jets from the past few decades but maybe not one for conspiracey theorists!
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1 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mrs Angela Bowe on 2 Jun. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
He liked it as it was what he wanted me to get him for his birthday present and i had to put it on a faster post to get it in time.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 23 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
First-class illustrated history of an American legend 27 Mar. 2014
By Peter D. Tillman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
"It's a place steeped in mythology, where the most astonishing machines on Earth were tested ..." -- from the io9 review (link at first comment), which is the one you should read first. I really, really liked the book -- and the photos! -- and commend it to your attention.

The real Area 51 was at Groom Lake, near the Nevada (atom-bomb) Test Site, which became Kelly Johnson's secret test-flight airbase in the 1950s, at the suggestion of the CIA. The U2 spy plane, the SR-71 Blackbird and the F-117 Stealth fighter were all tested here. Along with many other, stranger aircraft. Groom Lake was also the home base for the USAF's secret MiG fighter wing, to train our pilots who would face MiGs in combat.

Quote: "Area 51 Black Jets" essentially exists because of a CIA document that was declassified in 2013. The Central Intelligence Agency and Overhead Reconnaissance: The U2 and OXCART Programs, 1954 - 1974 was written in 1992 as part of the CIA's semi-classified internal official history. It had been circulated among aviation buffs for some time, but in highly redacted form. A FOIA request from the National Security Archive resulted in the release of a new version, one that reveals the location of Area 51, and that the government actually calls it *Area 51*. [endquote]

A must-read for Kelly Johnson "skunk works" fans. And for the photos! Amazon's preview (above) is pretty extensive, and worth looking through to see if this book is your sort of thing (it is for me).

Updated 06/13/14 to an actual review, now that I've read the book. Highly recommended to military aviation fans.

Happy reading--
Peter D. Tillman
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Area 51 -- demystified and ampped up 5 Jun. 2014
By Joseph May - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Whether you know it as Dreamland, Paradise Ranch, Groom Lake or Area 51 it is a facility shrouded mystery. Shedding light of many of the dark projects there, as well as many others less in the dark, author Bill Yenne also takes the reader through their history and importance. This book only just published  Area 51 Black Jets  begins in 1940 with the designation of an inhospitable 3,000,000 acres of land in southern Nevada as an Army bombing and gunnery range before describing a complicated evolution where areas where pieced out for a variety of government programs. The advent of the Cold War and nuclear weapon experiments brought increasing secrecy to the vast areas as well as the specified area for aeronautical experimentation as well as testing, Area 51.

Yenne blends detail and historical overview pleasingly with passion and excitement. He has a lot to tell from which must have been an immense research effort. Once through with the book it is amazing to realize there were only 192 pages as it seems like so much more must have been read given the context and revelations regarding the aircraft and programs described within. Yenne also includes 140 color photos, 90 b/w images as well as 18 diagrams in this richly made book with so many of the pages possessing background images or textures. Many sources were used for the photos but particularly those from the author’s collection as well as those of Tony Landis and Terry Panopalis underscore the finer points and are not commonly seen elsewhere.

No less than 21 aircraft are discussed (see the table below) with many more mentioned to lesser extent. Program names (sometimes shifting program names) as well as designers and pilots are there to see. Importantly, the impetus of the research as well as the resulting importance of the results are told by Yenne so one can synthesize the merits of each program into a final analysis  not only the statistics.

Area 51 has seen aircraft developed for high speeds, high altitudes, low observable technology (“stealth”) as well as long endurance. Key chapters for most are likely to be the ones on the U-2, A-12, SR-71 and F-117 and they do not disappoint. The difficulties and successes of each program are there to read as well as their niches in history. Aside from the major aspects there are many intriguing details given by Yenne which underscores his deep knowledge of these subjects, like:

How “Dragon Lady” came to be the nickname of the U-2/TR-1 (and not likely what the reader may expect) as well as the dynamics of the destruction of the U-2 Gary Powers piloted that fateful day

The ugly bureaucratic nature of the SR-71′s retirement

Why the F-117 was designed as a flat panel aircraft and the technological limitations which would be overcome for the curvilinear nature of future designs

There is so much more than these chapters than these aircraft and so many historical aspects are discussed:

The novel mission, design philosophy and all-round stealth (as opposed to only the front) of the Northrop Tacit Blue (nicknamed “The Whale”)

The program start which began the Red Eagles (who flew MiGs for air combat maneuvering assessment) and migrated to the close cousin of Area 51, the Tonopah Test Range

The D-21 Tagboard Mach 3+ 5 ton drone launched from a modified A-12

UFO sightings and probable causes

The deep dark Aurora program

No less than 21 aircraft are described in this book. Some in more detail than others though the reader will not be disappointed in the division of attention.

This book is equally suited for the aviation enthusiast as well as the historian. Area 51 Black Jets addresses so many of the seemingly innumerable as well as fantastic aeronautical advancements accomplished there. It is an incredible story told well by Bill Yenne.


As is the publishing business custom, Zenith Press and On-line Bookstore provided a copy of this book for an objective review.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Not the jets that are of interest 26 May 2014
By T. C. Butz - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With all of the material that is available today about the "black jets" it seems that much of what Bill and his editors have put together repeats much of the data and the photos that have been seen before. The things that interested me the most were the photos and data he brings out about the location, geography and use of the adjacent sites for things of a nuclear nature. Also, much of the mapping etc., has only been available from more unique sources and Bill has put them all together in one place. The final chapters on some "speculative" items was interesting, and I think seemed to have been written with a little "tongue in cheek" approach. All in all a good buy with much to interest the "black jet" person, but not the "black jet" specialist.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
An Interesting, Readable Survey of Classified U.S. Aircraft 9 Aug. 2014
By Terry Sunday - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Area 51 Black Jets" doesn't contain much in the way of new or groundbreaking information about the many classified jet aircraft that have been tested since the mid-1950s at the top-secret U.S. Air Force base in Nevada designated Area 51. Most of the material has been available in other articles and books for some time, and many of the aircraft he covers are now on public display in museums.

But Mr. Yenne succeeds admirably in drawing together, in a well written, profusely illustrated and very readable volume, enough information to satisfy the curiosity of the aviation novice and to refresh the knowledge of the enthusiast, not only about the aircraft themselves but also about the facility. This is a singularly impressive accomplishment.

Always sober and to the point, as one would expect from an aviation historian and author of Mr. Yenne's stature, "Area 51 Black Jets" gives no credibility to the bizarre, sensationalistic, juvenile and utterly unsupportable conspiracy theories that have dogged operations at Area 51 since its inception. If you're looking for tales of extraterrestrials from crashed spacecraft or genetically altered children who piloted flying saucers from the Soviet Union in the time of Stalin, you'll have to look elsewhere--like in the science fiction section.

I enjoyed "Area 51 Black Jets" immensely, and it has earned a permanent place in my aviation library. If you want to know the REAL story of the mysterious lights in the sky over southern Nevada, you can't do better than to start with this volume. Congratulations on a great book, Mr. Yenne.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
An Excellent and Complete Overview of Area 51, minus the insane and irrational speculation 13 April 2014
By E. R. Eisman - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For those with a long-term interest in Area 51 and what it is -- and just as importantly, isn't -- I wholeheartedly recommend this book for its sane, objective and rational approach. The whole story is here, told well, with facts and not sensationalism. Whether you are new to this topic, or a long-term follower, you won't go wrong by reading this volume.
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