Monday, February 28, 2011

Plane Spotting under Clear Skies in California

The most elusive commodity in the City of Angels is the very sunshine Los Angeles builds its reputation around. Smog, fog and haze generally rule the air above the city where landing at Los Angeles International Airport in a brown swirl is as routine as the traffic on The 405 just to the east of the field. I lived there in the mid-90s and well remember one day to the next when the sun seemed only to come out at dusk and then just in time to set on the Pacific horizon. The temperature was always as advertised, along with the weather itself, rarely ever a rainy day but the skies above were best viewed after take-off heading back to wherever the disappointed tourist came from.

One Sunday afternoon last December was a day right out of central casting. There was hardly a cloud in the sky and the weather was a comfortable 75 degrees. This is the kind of day the travel brochures boast of and the realtors use to lure unsuspecting citizens in to god awfully pricey real estate. For me I couldn't have dialed up a better day for one of my favorite activities of all time, plane watching.
I'd already been to the beach and captured some glorious sunsets the Friday before, including this one. Saturday was the day for one of the ultimate music fan pilgrimages, a trip to Neverland Ranch to see what I could see of the former home of the late Michael Jackson. Today was a day, relatively speaking, to relax by the side of one of the greatest international airports in the world and watch airplanes from the four corners come and go under text book California sunshine.

"Funeral Hill" on the south side of the airport is in El Segundo just along the surface road that marks the beginning of The 105 freeway running east towards Norwalk. It got this colloquial name due to the Douglas Funeral Home that sits across the road at the top of the hill that offers unfettered views of the entire southern half of LAX. The skies were clear enough to see the "Hollywood" sign and all of downtown while laid out before me were the international gates as well as the terminals for American, Delta, Continental and United.

It was early afternoon and I had largely missed what is known as the "Asian Invasion" when the major Pacific Rim carriers launch for Korea, Japan and China. Air New Zealand and V-Australia were cooling their heels on the west side remote stands waiting to start the journey south long after dark and long after I will have left for the day. I did see China Airlines head in to the sun bound for Taiwan but the real show for me was to be the similar exhibition of European airlines headed east for all the usual places. British Airways and Lufthansa were in plain sight and would surely lift off before the sun set.

Ever since I was a child, so my parents tell me, I always wanted to know "where dat one going?" whenever they took me on an outing to the airport. I've been in love with airplanes ever since. Seeing a recognizable international flag carrier launching in to the sky lifts my spirit and imagination.

I know where dat one is going and I wish I was on it!

Gotta go!

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