Up Close With Janet, the Super-Secret Airline

Jul 15, 2019

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It’s the secret airline hiding in plain (or should I say, plane) sight.

Little is officially known about Janet, the call sign of a government-contracted air carrier that ferries employees to secret US military sites. Janet is known as “the most mysterious airline in the world,” and that’s all that outsiders can be told about it. Some of its planes can regularly be seen at the Las Vegas airport, from where it ferries people, likely working on secret projects, to military-controlled sites like Groom Lake, home of the infamous Area 51.

Although the missions and purpose of Janet’s flights are a closely-held government secret, the planes themselves largely depart from commercial airports. Janet maintains a big presence at McCarran International Airport, where TPG recently took a behind-the-scenes tour.

But before you think we are secret government agents: That was a behind-the-scenes tour of the airport, not of Janet. While being shown around LAS, our team got possibly as close as a normal civilian can to Janet’s understated 737s. If you didn’t know better, you’d think those were normal 737s — a little small, maybe: Janet flies the rare model 600, the shortest of all 737s around today. Their lack of airline titles might make you think they are private jets, not a rare sight at LAS, where high rollers like to arrive in style. But no. If you see an adorably pudgy, short 737 in all white with a red stripe down the fuselage, you’re looking at Janet.

You don’t need to be an AvGeek to see these mysterious Janet birds though. Just look out a right-side window on most landings at McCarran and there’s a good chance you’ll spot one. Here’s what you should look out for:

Janet operates a fleet made up primarily of former Air China 737s Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/TPG
Janet operates a fleet made up primarily of former Air China 737s. Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/TPG.

 

Although the airline is highly secretive, plane spotters stationed in hotels on the Vegas strip can see its aircraft unobstructed. Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/TPG.
Although the airline is highly secretive, plane spotters stationed in hotels on the Vegas strip can see its aircraft unobstructed. Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/TPG.

 

A Janet plane on the grounds of LAS. Photo by Zach Griff/TPG.
A Janet plane on the grounds of LAS. Photo by Zach Griff/TPG.

 

Janet planes use civilian registrations and fly largely in commercial airspace and traffic patterns. Photo by Zach Griff/TPG.
Janet planes use civilian registrations and fly largely in commercial airspace and traffic patterns. Photo by Zach Griff/TPG.

 

A Janet plane takes off, destination unknown.
A Janet plane takes off, destination unknown. Photo by Zach Griff/TPG.

 

Featured photo by by C. van Grinsven/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

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