Sunday, November 16, 2014

CALIFORNIA: Airfield in El Monte christened as San Gabriel Valley Airport during air fair

Peter Amundson, chairman of the Los Angeles County Aviation Commission, cuts the ribbon to redesignate the El Monte Airport as the San Gabriel Valley Airport Sunday. 
Photo by Shilah Montiel

EL MONTE >> Officials renamed Los Angeles County’s airfield in El Monte as the San Gabriel Valley Airport on Sunday during an air fair and open house.

Known for decades as the El Monte Airport, officials said they hoped the new name would better reflect the regional role of the small aviation hub along Santa Anita Avenue.

While the San Gabriel Valley was once home to 10 small airports, only two — the San Gabriel Valley Airport in El Monte and Brackett Field Airport in La Verne — remain.

“This airport, though physically located in El Monte, is of immense but mostly unappreciated benefit to the whole San Gabriel Valley,” said Peter Amundson, chairman of the Los Angeles County Aviation Commission, which unanimously approved the name change. “With that thought, it is only fitting today that we rename this airport the San Gabriel Valley Airport.”

“This name change reminds the residents of cities of the San Gabriel Valley that this airport is their airport,” Amundson said. “I think the best is yet to come for San Gabriel Valley Airport.”

The airport was built in 1936, Los Angeles County Department of Public Works Aviation Division Chief Richard Smith said. Los Angeles County bought the airport in 1969 for $3 million.

“When you consider that this facility now generates more than $40 million in economic annual output and supports almost 200 jobs inside the airport and in the surrounding communities, it’s really come a long way,” Smith said.

The five county-operated airports — in El Monte, La Verne, Compton, Pacoima and Lancaster — are important to the local economy, Amundson said. “They’re invaluable in case of disaster.”

During the Station Fire, for example, fire fighting aircraft used the airfield in El Monte as a base of operations, Smith said.

“For future disasters, these airports will continue playing that critical role of making sure we’re able to move equipment and goods around as we link communities together, and frankly, that’s what this who name change business is all about. It’s about creating communities. It’s about marketing the airports’ services to the 31 cities and five unincorporated county communities that make up the larger San Gabriel Valley.”

City officials from Arcadia, San Marino, Monrovia and Monterey Park took part in the ribbon cutting, along with representatives from the San Gabriel Valley Airport Association.

Before and after the ceremony, hundreds of guests perused dozens of aircraft ranging from World War II-era warplanes to modern planes and helicopters.

One crowd favorite was the a Russian-made Antanov An-2, which is the largest single-engine biplane ever built with a wingspan of 59 feet.

Families were invited to climb in and take an up-close look at the unique, massive, yellow airplane, called, “Big Panda ‘Monium.”

Martin Moreno of Pomona visited the airport for the first time Sunday with his wife, Marlene, and their two children, 9-year-old Anna and 4-year-old Izaak.

“It’s a nice little Sunday out with the kids,” he said.

The brother and sister agreed on their favorite aircraft, a silver, single-engine Piper Cherokee airplane decorated with a Batman paint job. Many other children also gravitated toward the Batman-theme airplane.

The air fair an open house also featured a classic car show and live entertainment.

Owners chatted with guests about their machines, and some allowed visitors to climb in the cockpits. Airplane and helicopter rides were offered, along with flight lessons and other aviation-related goods and services.

“I see a lot of young future pilots in here, and even better, a see a lot of grown pilots that are just waiting to start their careers or start their hobbies in flying,” Smith said.

“If you’ve ever want to experience the art of flying, the fun of flying, you can do it right here,” he said.

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