September 24, 2012

Photo Essay: Planespotting at Santa Monica Airport

With no access to a car, I missed the space shuttle Endeavour fly over LA.

It's the kind of event that only happens every 10, 20, 40 years.

And I missed it.

And I'm pretty sure it flew right over me. Though, in my two-story building with no roof access, I don't know how I would've seen it.

And I spent all day on the phone trying to get a car, any car.

So this past weekend, with a rental car at my disposal, I had the sky on my mind as much as I did the road.

Though no comparison to space travel, I decided to explore LA's history in aeronautics at the Santa Monica Airport (otherwise known as Clover Field), from which the first flight to ever circumnavigate the globe took off (and returned). It predates LAX (and its predecessor, Miller Field), and it shares in LA's aviation history with the nearby Hughes Aircraft Company Campus and the long-decommissioned Venice airstrip.

Santa Monica Airport has an imposed weight limit, so you'll never see large commercial aircraft landing at or departing from its short runways, but it hosts several small, corporate and private jets (including actual lear jets) and owns and displays many historic planes. It even houses a flying school.

Once a year, the Santa Monica Airport is open to the public - to flyers and non-flyers alike - to explore its runways and aircraft, on the former Douglas Aircraft Company campus.

Here's a glimpse into what you might see:

There are houses right next to the airport (which makes you wonder where their noise abatement measures come into play), but one must remember that there used to be nothing out there. Unlike LAX and its neighboring ghost town Surfridge, in the case of Santa Monica, the airport came first, and the community built up around it.

There are no space shuttles at Santa Monica Airport. But it has seen its share of historic events, and as a visitor, I feel like I caught a glimpse into its past, and didn't miss out on entirely everything that has taken to the skies of LA.

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