My buddy Pete joined me for some fun in the LA area. Pete is a commercial pilot but any form of aviation appeals to him so we have a lot in common. We had a full day available to go exploring. One part of the day was allocated to a helicopter trip but the rest was open time for us. Our first stop was Santa Monica airport.
I was introduced to this great place by another friend, Paul, who was, coincidentally, introduced to me by Pete. It is a short distance north of LAX but is the total opposite. Santa Monica accommodates everything from light sport aircraft to some pretty substantial corporate jets. What it also accommodates is visitors. A nice terrace area is laid out at the terminal building providing a great spot to watch operations with the runway only a short distance away.
The tower frequency is piped to the terrace so you know what is going on. There are vending machines and bathrooms to cover both ends of the spectrum and, in the past, I have seen the airport police officers handing out stickers to kids. The place is so welcoming you see lots of parents show up with their kids to watch the planes. As a UK based pilot, Pete found this to be an amazing improvement on his usual experiences at small airports.
I didn’t actually take my camera initially. I wasn’t sure how long we would be there. As it turned out a couple of cool jets including a nice Gulfstream came in while I was cameraless. No matter. I did get it after a while and got a few shots of traffic before our plans took us onward. Before we left, we did walk across the road to the Museum of Flying. Santa Monica was the home of Douglas Aircraft for many years. The museum was sadly closed when we were there but there was a nice DC-3 on a pole along with an A-4 and an F-86 so something nice to see.
After spending a bunch of time around LAX, it was time for something different. Paul asked whether I had ever been to Santa Monica airport. I hadn’t so we took a look online to see what others might have seen there. It seemed pretty promising and there also appeared to be a viewing deck!
The trip to Santa Monica from LAX is a short one and we got there in no time. The field is on top of a hill and you come under the approach end of the runway as you drive up the hill. Sure enough, there was a viewing deck and a very nice one. It had a long balcony along the side of the apron, there were plenty of picnic benches, some good vending machines and there was a restaurant as well.
This makes the spot a popular one for visitors. A number of families were there at various times during our visit. They brought the kids and some food to show them the planes. They got visits from the airport police a few times – not to hassle them but to give them stickers of planes and to encourage their interest. Now that is a pleasant change!
There was a good mix of operations. They are plenty of corporate jets in and out. Netjets and FlexJets had a few movements and a very nice gold Gulfstream showed up. Some rotary wing action was also on display with a three ship of aircraft heading out at one point together, possibly for a photo shoot. There are also plenty of lighter aircraft operating including a nice Stearman and a SIAI Marchetti SF-260.
The traffic was very intensive but it was steady and the weather was steadily improving so with access to refreshments and places to sit, it proved to be a great spot to visit.