- The Federal Aviation (FAA) is shutting down airspace above Area 51 in rural Nevada this weekend.
- The FAA says the temporary flight restrictions are for “special security reasons.”
- Though the viral Storm Area 51 raid has been canceled, alien fans are still having an official Area 51 celebration in Las Vegas.
The Area 51 raid may technically be canceled, but throngs of people—UFO enthusiasts, curious travelers, casual trolls—are still planning on descending upon rural Nevada this weekend to take part in alien-themed celebrations, both sanctioned and unsanctioned. And the government is planning for the swarm accordingly: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is shutting down airspace above Area 51 while the nearby parties take place. Just in case.
The FAA sends unclassified notices to airmen (NOTAM) to warn pilots of potential hazards along flight routes that could jeopardize the safety of their flights. Earlier this week, the FAA issued two NOTAMs banning all aircraft from flying above the areas south and west of Rachel, Nevada, near the Nevada Test and Training Range, a military training area used by the U.S. Air Force. The bans run from Wednesday, September 18 to Monday, September 23.
The FAA says the temporary flight restrictions are for “special security reasons.” No pilots can operate aircraft in the affected areas—the exact coordinates of which are listed in the NOTAMs—except aircraft working in support of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Mission.
The bans are likely a precautionary measure to account for the considerable spike in visitors to the sleepy Nevada region this week. Over the summer, a college student organized “Alienstock” (tagline: Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us), a viral Facebook event that invited people to raid the classified defense site on September 20. After more than 2 million RSVPs to the joke event drew everyone’s attention—including that of the Air Force, which issued a statement “discouraging” everyone from attempting to enter the facility—the event’s ringleader, Matty Roberts, mercifully called it off last week.
Roberts backed out not because of government pressure, necessarily, but due to infrastructure concerns; the prospect of potentially hundreds of thousands of people showing up to a military testing area for a prank was, needless to say, a bit dicey.
“[Alienstock] was either going to go one of two ways,” Roberts told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We saw the red flags and we pull out, or we could have ignored those and have it turn into a Fyre Festival 2.0 on our hands. That’s not something I want to be part of.”
So Roberts and his band of merry pranksters are instead flocking to the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center on Thursday, a day before the scheduled raid, for the “Area 51 Celebration”: a free, hastily planned music festival with a “classified lineup” that’s nevertheless much safer and more logistically kosher than a bunch of strangers from the Internet meeting in the middle of the desert. Plus, it’s sponsored by Bud Light.
The residents of rural Nevada, meanwhile, still plan on tourists showing up to their neck of the woods, which could partly explain the FAA’s ban. Connie West, whose Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel was set to hold Alienstock, told the Review-Journal that the event is “still going full blast” and that she’s considering legal action against Roberts.
“I’ve paid it out of my pocket because nobody had any money,” West said. “I’ve got a $17,500 down payment to security, and half of that is nonrefundable.”
So if you’re curious about the long-promised proceedings taking place in and around Area 51 this weekend, at least something is going down. You just might not want to fly there.
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