From 1975 through 1986 my son Richard and I lived at various California desert airports. These accommodated small aircraft and glider operations.
When John Travolta was done with his DC-3 it came to roost at California City to be used as a skydiver’s airplane. I got one ride in it and inherited a piece of the interior tables when it was gutted to make way for all-on-the – floor seating.
The family that owned and operated it was unusual to see in the desert, as they were natives of Norway, and I kept marveling how the lady copilot could keep her peaches and cream complexion while flying a DC-3 full of sky divers.
She also had the wisdom to never learn to type, so that she was not stuck in the office doing the paperwork, while hubby got all the flying time.
One really famous world record flight that I literally had a hand in was with helping Bob Harris achieve a world record altitude flight in his sailplane. For those not involved with any aviation a sailplane is an aircraft with long wings and no engine.
I was the wing runner on a perfect wave day, and sent him off to 42,000 feet – a record still in the Guinness Book of Records.
Many films have been made in the Antelope Valley in the past 40 years. I got to watch while Disney studio filmed some acrobatic sequences at Crystalaire with the making of Flight of Noah’s Ark.
The unusual thing about that film was that one of the wheels came off the stunt plane and the pilot went to Edwards for a perfect belly landing, without foam.
We tracked one of the tires about 1 ½ miles away in the scrub brush, by finding the bounce marks.
I later saw the movie in Wisconsin and was reminded of all the good times in El Mirage flying my Diamant (fiberglass sailplane) and as an employee cleaning restrooms and raking rocks off the runway.
The one personal relationship that lasted some years was with Velma French who ran her granddaughter Lisa Welchel’s fan club. Lisa came out to take glider flying lessons at Crystalaire when she was 15, and I kept writing to her grandmother until Lisa got married and the fan club was discontinued. I still have several photos of Lisa in her younger days.
In Rosamond, I had a short conversation with Christopher Reeves, when he left one of the rental gliders untied, and unattended. That could have been quite costly if a dust devil came along, as had happened to other pilots, but Chris seemed not to care.
Earlier I had been working at Crystalaire when The Aviator was filmed, and was impressed with the fake wood plane being crashed by dropping it from a helicopter.
During this time Richard was being “home schooled” and I took the opportunity to show him around some of the exotic locations of the Antelope Valley.
We had a tour of the Pearblossom Pumping Plant, where the water flows down from the Delta to the aqueduct, and is pumped over the mountains to Perris ,Ca.
We had a tour of the LAX approach control, and Richard got to play on the practice console using the roller ball as if it were a big video game.
He also went through a Youth reform school as a visitor and saw how all the time is spent there. He was impressed that the boys who were confined there had all their time scheduled down to the minute and were watched all the time.
There were no celebrities there, as it was not a rehabilitation center for substance abusers.
Richard did get one flying lesson when we lived at Turf Soaring in Arizona, but I never had the money to let him carry on the tradition of having several pilots in the family, what I did was give him a computer, and time to develop his passion for games and programming.
There was always lots of time at the end of the day when you live in a trailer at the side of the runway.