Townspeople Say Town Will Survive When Stealth LeavesAP , Associated Press
Mar. 5, 1991 3:07 PM ET
TONOPAH, NEV. TONOPAH, Nev. (AP) _ Residents of this small town say they will survive despite the pending departure of their most famous feature, the Stealth fighter.
Recent government reports say the community faces tough economic times when the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing - the F-117A Stealth wing - leaves a remote desert base near here, where it has operated for years as one of the military's worst-kept secrets.
People living midway between Las Vegas and Reno say they've heard the talk of the doomsayers before - and they're not that concerned.
''Maybe the Stealth leaving will have no impact,'' said Joe Maslach, vice chairman of the Nye County Board of Commissioners. ''Maybe there will be something even bigger.''
The town has survived several boom-bust cycles: the demise of the gold and silver mines that led to its inception, the loss of 8,000 troops at the end of World War II and a failed attempt to establish a mining operation in the 1980s.
The latest chapter in Tonopah's roller-coaster economic history came in the form of an Air Force report released earlier this month, describing the impact of its plans to move the Stealth wing from the Tonopah Test Range to Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., in 1992.
The report depicted a ''worst-case scenario'' in which Tonopah would lose 31 percent of its population of 4,500, and 21 percent of its jobs.
But Maslach said the 2,695 military and civilian workers attached to the wing were as invisible to the Tonopah economy as the jet itself.
''They hardly ever came to town,'' he said.
He predicted the impact would be felt more in Las Vegas, where most of the pilots and crew members live. The wing is attached to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, and flies out of the Tonopah facility.
The Air Force report acknowledges that. Stealth crews are flown to work on Monday, live in dormitories at the range during the week, and fly home to Las Vegas on Friday.