AOPA Pilot Magazine
August 2007 Volume 50 / Number 8
Museums and paniolo fajitas
Chino, California, has a spot in popular America culture, but the picture is usually derogatory. People in Los Angeles used to joke about Chino because it was way out in the sticks 40 miles east of the Hollywood Bowl. How could anyone live with the smell of the cows? The local dairy farmers ignored the jibes, as their area, which was called the Chino Preserve, produced milk and dairy products for the Southern California markets. Now cows are being pushed out as developers take over land near the airport.
Songwriters put Chino into their songs. Robert Hunter wrote the following lyrics for the Grateful Dead: "Got a wife in Chino, babe, and one in Cherokee. First one says she's got my child but it don't look like me." Just in case you're curious, the name of the song is Friend of the Devil.
Rap music artists mention Chino. They're painting gangsta-word pictures by referring to the slang name for the California Institution for Men, a men's prison that opened out in the sticks in Chino in 1941. Chino was part of the back-story in The OC, an American teen drama television series that aired on the Fox network from 2003 to 2007. In The OC, Ryan Atwood, a 16-year-old from Chino, runs away from his group home and is taken in by Sandy Cohen, "an idealistic public defender," who lives in Newport Beach. You get the idea. With this subtle whitewash in mind, I flew down to take a look for myself.
What to do
Prado Regional Park is located three miles south of the airport on Euclid. Down Central, left on Edison, and right on Euclid. The park is big, green, and has a large fish-filled lake. There I found camping sites with showers, two golf courses, horseback riding, hiking, boating, horseshoe pits, and even a dog training facility. There's an Olympic Shooting range, the shooting venue for the 1984 Olympic Games.
I strongly suggest a Saturday experience at the Planes of Fame Museum, especially one of the museum's monthly flying exhibitions. In addition to the flying airplanes, the museum also has four large hangars that contain rare and unusual airplanes. What other museum has both a Japanese J8M1 Shusui "Swinging Sword," and a German Messerschmitt Me 163 B "Komet?" These rocket-powered single-pilot airplanes measured their endurance in the minutes and seconds their rockets burned, and were last-ditch attempts to fight off Allied bombers during World War II. Very rare.
Yanks Museum is located at the west end of the Chino ramp. Yanks focuses exclusively on America aviation history and technology. Although there are lots of airplanes outside the Yanks building in various states of disrepair, don't let that keep you from visiting. Yanks is open Tuesday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Two museums, a good airport restaurant, a nearby park, and the opportunity to explore epicurean delights such as paniolo fajitas should be enough for any pilot to want to fly to Chino.
Where to eat
I visited with Jeff Baker of Alliance International Aviation Inc. to thank him for his service when I arrived, and to get some idea of where to go to find the secret Chino. Baker is the AOPA Airport Support Network (ASN) volunteer at Chino. Baker and Jennifer, his granddaughter, recommended driving into Chino proper to cruise up Central Avenue for lunch. Jeff recommended Carino's Italian Grill (at 3801 Grand Avenue) and Centro Basco (at 13432 Central Avenue), a Basque-style restaurant that some believe offers the best Basque-style dining experience in the area.
I set out. Right on Euclid, left on Edison. I was making good time and was soon at the corner of Edison and Central where I spotted the Ruben S. Ayala Community Park and Golf Center. A passing glimpse showed skateboard parks, basketball nets, and a golf practice range. Had I gone straight on Edison I would have arrived at Carino's after Edison morphed into Grand Avenue but I turned right and headed up Chino's main drag. I very quickly crossed Chino Avenue and spotted a sign announcing that there was a Farmer's Market every Wednesday right there at that corner. Too bad I was there on Friday. I drove up tree-lined Central Avenue until I crossed "the 60" one of southern California's many freeways. I'd heard about Honolulu Harry's and I spotted it on the north side of the 60. I pulled in. H.H.'s turned out to be just what I was looking for. I lunched on grilled red snapper, grilled veggies, and Spam fried rice. Never heard of this dish? Check into your Hawaiian history. It became a favorite during World War II. I almost decided on paniolo fajitas imagine a melding of Mexican and Hawaiian tastes but will return for that gastronomic adventure. After lunch I headed back down Central, stopped at one of the four Starbucks in town for a shot of caffeine before setting course for the park.
If you don't want to wander into town, there are two restaurants on the airport. Flo's Airport Café opened in 1957 and serves its famous biscuits and gravy from 5:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. Chino Airport Lounge is also located on the field.
Where to stay
There are numerous hotels and motels in the area. See AOPA's Airport Directory and the local Chamber of Commerce for more details.
Chino Airport (CNO) is located 38 nm east of Los Angeles International, 56 nm west of Palm Springs International, and 5 miles south of Ontario International. Chino has three runways 8R/26L is 7,000 feet long, 8L/26R is 4,858 feet long, and 3/21 is 6,023 feet long. It's a big airport that's located in its own Class D airspace under Ontario's Class C airspace. There's a cutout in the Ontario Class C airspace to enable Chino pattern work on the north side of the airport.
I approached from the west, flying from GPS waypoint to waypoint as shown on the backside of the L.A. terminal area chart before descending to 2,500 feet msl near Mt. San Antonio College to stay below the floor of the Ontario airspace. I'd picked up VFR flight following and the L.A. basin controllers helped me spot conflicting traffic. The visibility around Chino and other airports in The Inland Empire can go down to near IFR. The Inland Empire is centered on the oldest cities in the region: Ontario, San Bernardino, and Riverside. Hazy conditions are frequent D-Brite radar displays in the Chino tower help during special VFR conditions. The tower is manned from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. local time.
I taxied in off Runway 26R to Championship Aviation. I was treated well (the red carpet) and the office staff took care of hooking me up with Hertz so a rental car was waiting when I arrived at 9:45 a.m.
There's only one 100LL dealer on the field so the price is a little higher than other local airports such as Corona or El Monte there is a self-service island near Alliance International Aviation. Pumping your own will save 70 cents a gallon.