Exiting the Airbus A319 that brought me to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) January 31, 2014, was the happiest part of my trip to LA, at least up to that few moments. I hadn’t been claustrophobic during the flight from Chicago, and thanks to the wonderful window seat, I wasn’t bored at all for the 3 hours and 22 minutes it had taken to get there. But it was nice to rise from my seat, one of the last few passengers aboard, and un-scrunch my shoulders. As dreary as the winter at O’Hare (ORD) had been, LAX was spacious, sunny and warm, almost a different planet. I looked around for Jerri Bergen who had promised to meet me in her official American Aviation Historical Society blue shirt, and after a few minutes, I called her on my cell phone to let her know I had ARRIVED-HALLELUJAH!
It hadn’t occurred to me that she could not come into the secure area reserved only for departing and arriving travelers. When we connected, she explained that her husband Chris was waiting for me, carrying a sign that said “Springfield” on it so I could recognize him. (Later I discovered she had called me twice to let me know that plan had been adjusted because of her obligations setting up the next day’s annual membership meeting. With my phone turned off during the flight, I had simply missed those calls; NOT a big deal. The trek from the upper floor to ground floor and the area Jerri described was about as effortless as eating a potato chip, compared with my hike from United Express to Spirit Airlines’ boarding area the day before. Chris and I recognized each other thanks in part to my rugged brown leather jacket and shiny new shoes and his welcoming sign. It was almost like meeting a brother: a brother who happened to own a Porterfield light plane I would see after lunch at Cable Airport in Upland, California. We would be meeting his wife and some other fascinating aviation people in minutes.
Already, I was playing conservative with the photography. I knew I had arrived with less photo “rope” than anticipated, so I didn’t take a picture of that legendary “HOLLYWOOD” sign on a distant mountain as Chris maneuvered his Chevy pickup truck like he was Mario Andretti or A.J. Foyt. It was a THRILL to see it, and these days, I don’t thrill easily! Chris explained how dry things had been, the long drought, that typically most of the mountains would be green instead of brown, pointed out some areas burned to the ground by wildfires that made national news last year.
Even as we approached Cable Airport I was enthralled by the buildings at the entrance and distant aircraft I saw. I would get a chance to photog the buildings after lunch. We had plenty of time. As we arrived to joint those already seated for the meal, I was delighted to meet Jerri for the first time, and then Paul Minert, a photographer who had contributed his expertise generously to AAHS over the years. The meal was a blur of conviviality and conversation.As we dined I explained to Chris my photo problem: I had limited battery life in the Sony Cyber-shot and had accidentally left my charger in Springfield. I had an extra memory card for pictures if I could just charge the battery. I also showed him the one memory card for the Canon EOS SLR camera and told him I had brought a second, fully charged battery. My concern was the need for another memory card for the Canon, because I was SURE I would run out of memory, but I could not know how close I was to being out of space until the camera TOLD me I was out of space. I would be happy to BUY another memory card like the one needed if we could find a camera shop or a Best Buy or a Radio Shack. Chris was confident he could find a way to charge my Cyber-shot, and we could probably connect with a store for another memory card for the Canon. Jerri and Chris picked up my lunch, so to speak. Afterwards, I walked out to take my picture of the front of the airport . . . . THIS, readers, is the largest family-owned publicly accessible airport in California, the seventh-oldest in the entire state! I could have spent an hour simply exploring what you see here!
Chris picked me up as I finished the second of two pictures I’d taken, and we drove to his hangar in a secure part of the airport. The first airplane I saw was the B-25, owned by Aero Trader at Chino, just visiting Cable.
Introductions were the order of the hour. One of the gents I met was Mike Polley who owned some of the aircraft hangared nearby and was co-pilot on the Mitchell.
We then entered a double hangar where an awesome array of historical aircraft are maintained. I could have spent an hour taking pictures here, but there was no time.
Inside I was introduced to a successful veterinary clinic owner and his Stinson L-9B. The type was totally new to me, though it was actual: a militarized 108 Voyager.
The Porterfield belonging to Jerri and Chris is currently “sans engine”
and I’m sorry I took only one picture; also just two quick snaps of a North American L-17 Navion. The conversation was freewheeling as I tried to bridle (to CONTROL) my enthusiasm because I had no idea of when I’d be out memory card and up the creek, so to speak, without a paddle. Even so, I was having a terrific time every minute!
Jerri and Chris taking time out from the busiest day of the week, preparing for the next day’s meeting of the American Aviation Historical Society had to be a major distraction, and one happily (for me) concluded when it was time for me to visit Chino and Flabob airports. I would be joining them later for dinner at a nearby hotel AFTER visits to the other airports and AFTER being checked into the Double Tree Hotel where a room (which turned out to be more of a suite) had been reserved for me.
Pictures from Chino have already been posted at http://akmgallery.wordpress.com and two posts from our visit to Flabob will be posted by the end of February.
I didn’t take a camera to the dinner gathering because I intended to RELAX and enjoy the company of intelligent aviation professionals, a few of which could be speaking at the annual meeting the next day. Special mention must be made of four. The first, a kid I had known as Ryan Reeves a talented modernist poet and English instructor at Benedictine University during the years he spent in Springfield, probably 10 years ago, surprised the bejeebers out of me when he came up to me as I was chatting with someone and said something like “Conger, what the heck are YOU doing out here?” It was a terrific reunion. I had known of his interest in aviation when he was living in Springfield. We had sat on my front porch and talked history a few times. Now we were much=involved with aviation history. He is general manager at Lux Air Jet Centers’ FBO in Goodyear, Arizona! He is also president of the Phoenix Wing of AAHS! He and his father (who was part of the “delegation” from Phoenix) own a Cessna 150. With them was their friend Harry Border. We shared the same table. It was an incredible dinner and conversation to match! Harry bought a copy of my book Springfield Aviation from Arcadia Publishing, and later he picked up the check for my dinner. WHAT A GUY!
The other gentleman was Tony Jones, CEng, FRAeS, Public Relations Director of Air Britain, the outstanding British organization founded in 1948. Attending with his wife, Tony would talk to our membership about strengthening the ties across the pond for the benefit of both groups. Somehow, I engaged them after dinner as they sat with Jerri, Chris and a few others, told them of my interest in English history and aviation, mentioned two wonderful Eeglish friends David Welch and Barry Tempest who had visited my home and aviation collection in Springfield . . . . . and my love of Gilbert & Sullivan’s musical theatrical productions . . . . . and facing Tony and Mrs. Jones sang part of a song from G&S’s H.M.S. Pinafore . . . “For he himself has said it / And it’s greatly to his credit / He remains an English man.” I’ll spare you the rest. It must have lasted 90 seconds and when I was done, it was a thrill to hear some unexpected applause from diners at a table near our group. TOTALLY unexpected and the thrill (with my feet on the ground) of the entire visit to LA. Not long later, it was time to head back to lodging for a good night’s rest before my day would begin with a flight in a restored Stinson L-5 Sentinel from Cable Airport to Chino where AAHS was having its annual meeting and Planes of Fame Museum was having its monthly Flying Day.
I had come a long way since 3:15 am when I arose from that folding cot at O’Hare Chicago. Every minute on the ground in LA was damn near rapturous! I felt embraced by a new dimension of conviviality and mutual respect and appreciation. As I sipped two beers from the Double Tree’s bar (Budweisers in bottles) and watched . . . I can’t remember what I watched . . . . I believed nothing waiting for me in the next 24 hours would “top” my first day in California. But I was wrong. . . . . . . . .
COMING IN PART 4 of Visit to AAHS — LA from the Back Seat of an L-5 and an Unforgettable Annual Meeting. Stay tuned . . . . .