August 19, 2014
By Mike Collins
The fun heads west to Southern California as AOPA makes final preparations for the Chino Fly-In on Sept. 20. Chino Airport (CNO), about 40 nautical miles east of Los Angeles, is the place to meet your fellow pilots and AOPA members, learn during educational seminars, and check out aircraft and product displays. Bring your appetite, too—breakfast will be served, and lunch is free to AOPA members (RSVP required).
Chino’s airport has a rich heritage. It was built in the early 1940s as a training base for Army Air Corps pilots, explained Robert Cayce, Chino Airport operations manager. Several of the base’s original buildings not only still stand, but remain in use. “They were only intended to last six years,” Cayce said. “Now we’re some 70 years later.” The airport was transferred to San Bernardino County in the 1960s. “It was originally named Cal-Aero Field. It has steadily grown over the years.”
Today the airport sees about 186,000 operations per year. Its FAA air traffic control tower is used to train controllers for many Southern California airports. The airport’s two-day airshow, held annually in May, brought 30,000 people to the field this year.
And the airport still sees a lot of active World War II-era aircraft, whether flown by individual owners based there or one of the field’s two—yes, two—world-class aviation museums, Planes of Fame Air Museum and Yanks Air Museum. These do-not-miss museums have divergent collections and different objectives, so seeing one is not like seeing the other. Half a day is not long enough to explore both. Many of the warbirds you’ll see in these museums are airworthy and fly regularly.
Less accessible, smaller, and every bit as interesting is Aero Trader, a private warbird maintenance and restoration business. While the company has restored an incredibly diverse range of warbirds, it specializes in the North American B-25 and P-51. The company owns the B-25 type certificate and has all the engineering drawings for the World War II medium bomber, allowing its craftsmen to make brand-new parts for the model.
If you’ve worked up an appetite, stop by Flo’s Airport Café, where the area’s agricultural and aviation interests intersect. The restaurant has operated on the field for 50 years. For nearly that long, a group of Southern California pilots have flown in for breakfast every Thursday, continuing a tradition started by Civil Air Patrol members. Attendance ranges from 10 to more than 30, and other pilots are welcome to join them. But you will need to arrive early; they usually eat and depart by 7:30 a.m.
In the 1980s Lockheed Martin built facilities on the field for a C-130 modification program; today the complex is home to Encore Jet Center, one of the field’s FBOs, and used for aircraft storage. Don’t be surprised to see sprinklers, tractors, and good-looking grass on the field; a portion of the airport property is used as a sod farm.
Admission to AOPA’s Chino Fly-In is free. Members can assure a free lunch by completing the RSVP form online, and volunteers are appreciated.
Mike Collins has worked for AOPA’s media network since 1994. He holds a private pilot certificate with an instrument rating.
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