Located in plain sight and the former employer of thousands of Long Islanders, Northrop Grumman nevertheless maintained many secrets—but don’t ask its former workers, as they may tell you their promise to never divulge what went on in its aircraft and aerospace production hangars is still to be kept.
Today, the location is home to Grumman Studios, where some of Hollywood’s biggest stars take part in the making of major motion pictures—only yards from everyday traffic on South Oyster Bay Road and Routes 106/107. Want to know more? Here’s a breakdown of some of the secrets of Grumman—including some looks inside those hangar walls…
Polo before planes
Ever wonder what the space that is currently home to Grumman Studios was before it was the Grumman Aircraft Corp. hub? The space used to belong to the Central Park Hunt Club (the community of Bethpage was known as "Central Park" at the time), and used for polo. Pictured: An aerial view of Grumman Airport in Bethpage.
Grumman's impact on World War II
It's no secret that military airplanes were produced at Grumman, such as the Wildcat and Hellcat fighter planes -- but do you know how many? Over 17,000 aircraft were built in Bethpage during World War II, and more than half of the enemy aircraft destroyed by the Navy and Marines during that conflict were taken down by pilots flying Grumman Hellcat planes.
'Maverick' flew a Grumman fighter
Tom Cruise may not be a Bethpage local, but the F-14 Tomcat his character flew in the film "Top Gun" was, indeed, designed and manufactured by Grumman.
Grumman, bringing humankind to the moon
You may know that Grumman built spacecraft, but the actual Apollo Lunar Module Eagle -- the first to land mankind on the moon -- was designed and assembled at the Bethpage facility. Between 1969 and 1972, six Grumman lunar modules transported 12 astronauts to and from the surface of the moon.
What's in that big blue ball?
If you've ever driven past Grumman and wondered what the "blue ball" is for, it's got history, and it was once more than just circular signage. Built in 1958, reportedly as an antenna shelter, it became a sort of space simulator during the early 1960s, used to create navigation techniques intended for astronauts. However, it eventually became little more than a storage depot -- and an iconic symbol for its parent company.
Grumman 'tiny' contribution to mail delivery
The next time you see your local mail carrier scooting around in one of those tiny mail trucks -- formally known as "Life Long Vehicles" (or LLVs) because the cars are expected to operate for at least 20 years -- know that Grumman designed that as well. The Grumman LLV is currently the most common vehicle used by letter carriers for curbside and residential delivery of mail in the United States. (Pictured: Leonard Rothenberg, President of LLV division of Grumman, looking over part of the day's vehicle production in 1988.)
Ghosts of Grumman?
Grumman Memorial Park was established in Calverton to honor the company's aviation and aerospace advances. Local legend has it that ghosts can be seen while driving by the area, and paranormal Investigators claim there have been signs of extraterrestrial activity. Some believers wonder whether former employees who died and were buried at nearby Calverton National Cemetery haunt the area, while others whisper that testing of top-secret equipment, a strong magnetic field or even a passageway to another dimension is behind mysterious sightings.
Spider-Man, The Avengers, Angelina Jolie and Grumman
Today, the former aircraft and aerospace production buildings employed by Northrop Grumman are used as a studio -- Grumman Studios -- for filmmaking, performances and rehearsals. Grumman Studios has had a hand in hosting some of the production on such major movies as "Salt," "Amazing Spider-Man" and "The Avengers." (Pictured: Jamie Foxx, left, with Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2.")
Hangar turned million-dollar studio
Stage One of Grumman Studios Stage One (formerly "Hangar One," where fighter jets were once assembled) is over 37,000 square feet in size, and cost a million dollars to soundproof for production. If you watched the televised NBCUniversal productions of "The Wiz Live!" and "Peter Pan Live!," you saw how wonderfully the room could be dressed -- but pictured here (on Feb. 17, 2016), it's bare, ready and waiting for its next big gig.
Dressing rooms of the stars
This hallway was once home to offices where Grumman executives made decisions, some of which were likely classified in content. Today it's where performers go to dress and get their make-up done. (Feb. 17, 2016)
Of all the rooms in the dressing room/make-up hallway, this particular space -- now an office for show production -- still boasts a double-armored, government-class 5 vault door as its entrance. Although now host to a small desk with a computer, a sign reminds guests that this administrative center once could protect its occupants from "forced entry" and "radiology techniques." (Feb. 17, 2016)