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Pahrump Mirror
Pahrump, Nevada
May 29, 1997     Pahrump Mirror
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May 29, 1997

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o i nursaay, rday 29, 1997 Pahrump Valley Gazette Tonopah remembered -- you'll someday return Jim Butler Days tends to make me reminisce. I first arrived in Tonopah in 1962. That's a 35th anniversary for me except I didn't stay. I was here for only a few months at that time. I was in the Air Force stationed at Stead Air Force Base. The base used to be about 10 miles north of Reno on U.S. 395. The base was referred to as a "host" base because my group was not part of their assigned mission. The base was in the Air Training Command and I was in the Air Defense Command. Our particular unit worked out of the "blockhouse" and was called READS (Ree- ads), Reno Air Defense Sector. At the time we were a major part of the North American Air Defense Command, NORAD. Our primary mission was to watch for missiles that were inbound for the United States, particularly over the North Pole. However, we had quite a variety of secondary missions. The X-15 flights were monitored by us and we supplied radar tracking for these flights which often occurred around the Tonopah area. There were many satellite radar stations that fed into our mainframe computer (all tubes, back then). Winnemucca, Fallen; several stations in Idaho and Tonopah. I worked on the communications networks to all these locations out of Stead AFB. Every now and then the Tonopah radar site would be short of manpower and a request would come into our office requesting temporary help. Most everyone would conveniently disappear when one of these requests came in. I was somewhat fascinated with the idea of going "remote" and volunteered to assist the Tonopah station. Little did I know then that I would eventually finish out my NORTHERN EXPOSURE by Dave Downing life in this podunk little town. I was not even aware of the famous saying in Tonopah, "Once you've been here, you'll someday return." I was sent to Tonopah on temporary duty on a 30-day assignment and wound up staying about 120 days. That was as long as you could be allowed to remain on "TDY" or, temporary duty. I loved it, but I was here with the knowledge that I could leave just about any time I wanted to. On the other hand, any place in the world is what you make it to be. Our station was located on Radar Hill, north northwest of town. I now live a stone's throw from the road that leads to the radar station, Radar Road. I always shake my head as I turn daily on this road to go home. There were no homes here then, of course. Just desert. Tonopah has changed a lot from the 1962 days that I romped around town. There was no Scolari's Supermarket, no Station House Hotel/Casino. In fact, none of the busi- nesses that are here now existed back then. A-Bar-L, Brown's Photo Emporium. No museum but the library was still here in the same building it is now. The Mizpah was alive and well, complete with live keno, $10,000 limit. It's been through a couple of owners and a major renovation since then. The hardware store was here but I don't know if Jim Wolfe owned it back then. I doubt it since he's about the same age as I am. (You're gettin' old, Jim!) I wrote a letter to my then-fiance that "Tonopah's not the end of the world, but you can see it from here." Many of the mines are capped now but in 1962 they were all open. You could jump into the Belmont shaft if you felt like falling nearly 2,000 feet. Bobbie's Buckeye Bar was certainly here. I went there once -- once -- and met Bobbie. She was a fine lady indeed. No, I didn't partake of the business' primary func- tion. But, admittedly, only because I was broke at the time. That's another story. I'll tell you about it some time. The old "return" story came true to me. I returned in 1985. I left a 25-year newspaper career with the Associated Press and the Gannett Corp. (USA Today) to join the then secret Stealth program at the Tonopah Test Range. I fell in love with Tonopah all over again and my wife and I decided this is the place where we'll meet our Maker. I'm still working full time for the government, but once ink is in your blood you can never get rid of it. So here I am. Again. The End of TWA Flight 800 by Richard Rcul On a July evening in + 1996, TWA Flight 800 took off from New York's Kennedy Airport, bound for Paris, France. During its climb-out, at approximately 12,000 feet over Long Island Sound, the Boeing 747 fuselage abruptly broke apart. The wreckage, including 230 men, women and children, plummeted into the water. An extensive investigation was launched by the Na- tional Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The aircraft wreckage, piece by piece, was laboriously recovered and re-assembled in a hangar at Calverton, Long Island. The "black boxes" were recovered but communicated very little information; power was instantly interrupted to both the cockpit voice recorder and the aircraft data recorder. There was an acoustic note that came through the fuselage to the cockpit at a speed of 2,000 feet per second at the instant before termination. The NTSB investigation centered on a nearly empty fuselage fuel tank that might have exploded, but they were unable to identify an ignition source. The NTSB also received nearly a hundred reports of a missile on an intercept course with TWA Flight 800. FAA radar tapes showed the same thing, a missile traveling at an estimated 1,500 mph approaching and then the aircraft disappeared from the radar screen. Several airline pilots in the Phila- delphia area also reported observing a missile. A coinci- dental Trident launch from a submarine off the Florida coast was ruled out. The FBI virtually eliminated a shoul- der-launched terrorist missile because of the altitude and were considering the possibility of a ship-launched, ra- dar+guided missile. But there was no evidence of a mas- sive explosion from a missile warhead. Pierre Salinger, an international correspondent in Paris, suggested that a U.S. Navy missile launch might have gone astray. He quoted the Internet as his source. This theory was immediately debunked by the White House, the NTSB and the FBI. It now appears, however, that he may have been right! There is a highly-classified Navy program in the final stages of development, called "Cooperative Engagement Changing Patterns by RichardReul EIIIIIIIIIIIIm |:IIIIII::III! IIIIIIIIIIIIII EIIIIIIIIIIIIE Capability"(CEC), it uses the AEGIS radar system and remotely interlocks two or more Navy cruisers and destroy- ers in a radar detection, guidance and defense network. This makes it possible to destroy an incoming, low-flying cruise missile in a very complicated war situation. For a system test, the Navy needed an environment of shallow water with some "land clutter", commercial aircraft and other friendlies. There is a Military Warning Zone, W 105, that embraces sparsely-populated eastern Long Island. The FAA was informed that Zone W 105 had gone "hot" 31 minutes before Flight 800 took off. This meant that a restriction was placed on this airspace and all commercial traffic would be routed around it. Something was going on in that Zone that might endanger aircraft. Flight 800's route was just northwest of Zone W105. James Sanders has pieced the whole thing together in his soon-to-be published book: The Downing of Flight 8'00 (Zebra/Kensington). Jim is a retired law enforcement offi- cial, whose wife is a senior flight training instructor for TWA. Through various contacts in the NTSB and FAA be- managed to track a debris path from the right side of the aircraft and through the fuselage. He obtained swatches of seat fabric from Rows 17-19 and had them independently analyzed. Morton-Thiokol, a missile manufacturer, con- firmed that they were consistent with the residue left by solid propellants. Sanders believes that a drone was launched over Shinnecock Bay to simulate an invading cruise missile. It headed into Zone W105. A Navy cruiser picked it up and launched a missile, with an inert warhead, to intercept it, using CEC technology. The CEC guidance system failed and the intercepting missile was on its own, no longer under human control! It left Zone W105 and, looking for any likely target, slammed into TWA Flight 800. There is, and will be, a deadening silence from the U.S. Navy and the White House. The implications are horrendous...death benefits for the crew and passengers...reimbursement to TWA for the aircraft...possible punitive damages...severe constraints on Navy testing. Far better for the government that the destruction of TWA Flight 800 remains a mystery! Author's Note: This column was based on an article in Penthouse Magazine. t Don't take that flood diet away; plant something! I wish I had cartoonist abilities. But seeing that I don't, all I can do is try and paint a word picture and let you go from there. I saw a cartoon in one of them new-age mags that I thought was neat. Especially as we are still hearing about the aftermaths of the Northern Nevada floods. The cartoon on the first panel depicts a goldfish hap- pily swimming in its bowl on top of a table. It musta been in someone's living room in the flood-affected areas as you can see the flood waters partly up the table legs. The next panel shows the waters almost up to the fish bowl and the goldfish still swimming away. The last panel shows the waters well over the top of the now vacant fishbowl. My kinda cartoon. Them people up there are missing a bet with their concern about getting rid of all the silt and mud the flood depostted. Don t they know this ts nature's way of revital- izing the soil? Now all they got to do is pop some seeds into it and they soon will have themselves a garden. Ancient civilizations living along the Nile and Yangzee rivers learned this a long time ago. Saved themselves a lot digging and getting the ground ready like us so-called modern people do, especially if they're married. I stumbled onto this "letting the dirt lay business" back Slim Sez by Slim Sirnes in my singles days when stuffstarted to sprout in the front room. I must admit, I'm having a bit of a problem now with Ditto. She breaks out the vacuum cleaner and has it fired up before the ashes from my pipe hit the floor, lven after I tell her that they're good for the rug and that ashes were an important part in the soap-making process way back when. These spoiled modern wimmen, they don't know nothing. From what I hear there are still a lot of sandbags still in place up in the flood-prone areas. One guy being inter- viewed on the tube said he was going to leave them in place for a couple more weeks til the next hundred-year flood came by. Too bad they hadn't followed a suggestion I made a few years back. Where, instead of using sand bags, they used panty hose filled with sand. Sure would be a lot more visually appealing than a bunch of plain old sand bags. I think we're going to have an early spring and I'm not basing this prediction on some dumb groundhog's action. She went outside on Groundhog Day. Didn't see her shadow, which I wished she had, and started going through all the seed catalogs planning what we were going to plant and do in the yard this year. And here I was looking forward to be able to put it off another six weeks.