How do you recruit new flight attendants for a top-secret airline with service to places like Area 51?
Not very secretly, as it turns out.
Military contractor AECOM made headlines around the world this week after posting a “help wanted” ad for the hiding-in-plain-sight air service it runs between McCarran International Airport and certain, ahem, undisclosed locations in Nevada and elsewhere.
The flight attendant job listed on the company’s website required at least a high school diploma, basic knowledge of math and computers, good public speaking skills and the ability to “push and pull heavy hinged aircraft doors weighing up to 80 lbs.”
Qualified applicants also must be “level-headed and clear thinking while handling unusual incidents and situations (severe weather conditions, including turbulence, delays due to weather or mechanicals, hijackings or bomb threats).”
What’s the clearance, Clarence?
Las Vegas-area candidates with prior flight attendant experience were preferred. “Active top secret clearance highly desired,” the ad said.
The job posting has been removed, but not before being featured in USA Today and picked up by news organizations as far away as India.
In an email Thursday, an AECOM representative said the listing was taken down because “the position has been closed.”
The ad did not specify where the flights in question would take off or land, but the company is widely known to ferry personnel from Las Vegas to Area 51 and other secret military sites.
The flight service, nicknamed Janet Air after the call sign its aircraft use, maintains its own secure parking lot and terminal off Haven Street on the west side of McCarran. Its fleet includes at least four unmarked 737 passenger jets, each with a distinctive red stripe on the fuselage, along with several smaller twin-prop commuter planes.
Allegedly, of course.
When asked what she knows about Janet Air, McCarran spokeswoman Christine Crews said: “The planes are white with a red stripe. They come and go.”
No drink service
Working as a crew member for the secret flight service sounds pretty boring to former Area 51 worker T.D. Barnes.
Based on what he’s been told by former Janet Air flight attendants, the job mostly entails making sure no one gets on the plane who doesn’t belong there and being ready in case of a midair emergency.
“They don’t serve drinks or anything like that,” Barnes said.
There was no Janet Air — and there certainly weren’t any flight attendants — back when he was making regular trips to Area 51 while working for the CIA.
He said workers would fly to the site from Nellis Air Force Base on a Monday morning and fly back on Friday evening. “A few of us flew up on a Beechcraft Queen Air that we had concealed in a small building on the back side of the McCarran runway just off Sunset Road,” Barnes said.
Despite the worldwide fascination with the place, he said a lot of the time he spent at the secret base on the dry Groom Lake bed wasn’t terribly exciting.
“If there wasn’t something going on, I’d be twiddling my thumbs,” said the 80-year-old Henderson resident and author of the new book “The Secret Genesis of Area 51.” “When I was out there, it was one of the boringest jobs I ever had.”
Other openings available
Still, if you’re interested in a career with Janet Air, AECOM has also posted job openings for an air traffic controller and an airfield manager — assuming you qualify for top-secret security clearance.
Though Barnes can’t speak to what’s going on at the secret base these days or what the commute is like for current workers there, he said he can clear up one mystery.
“There has always been a lot of speculation on what Janet stands for,” he said. “Many have always thought it was an acronym for something.”
The most popular theory: Just Another Non-Existent Terminal.
As usual, though, the truth is out there — and a whole lot less interesting. Barnes said Janet was just the name of Area 51 Commander Richard “Dick” Sampson’s wife.
The secret’s out
Secret though it may be, Janet Air’s flight operations can be tracked with some minimal internet sleuthing.
The “airline” for workers at Area 51 and other secure military facilities in Nevada and elsewhere even has its own Wikipedia page, complete with aircraft tail numbers that can be plugged into the tracking website flightaware.com for at least partial information on recent trips.
The aircraft themselves have become marginally famous in their own right, with their distinctive red stripe and conspicuous lack of other markings save for the tail numbers.
They operate out of the nation’s eighth-busiest airport, coming and going from their own secure terminal just east of the Strip.
It’s no wonder everybody seems to know about Janet Air, said T.D. Barnes, who last worked for the CIA at Area 51 in 1975, 38 years before the government officially acknowledged there even was such a base.
“Back when Area 51 didn’t exist, they kept it a lot more secret than they do now,” Barnes said.