My fascination with aviation started as a young child. My father was U.S.Air Force stationed in England at Bentwaters. He was a Master Sargent and the shop manager that worked on ECM(electronic counter measures) for F-4 phantoms during the Vietnam era. Earlier he had worked on B-52s and other aircraft. Growing up on a U.S. Airbase meant you saw fighters everyday. The sound of f-111s and F-4s in full afterburners got in your blood and the yearly air shows didn’t help much either. Many times I saw RAF Lightnings preforming demos at R.A.F Bentwaters. That I will never forget.
After moving back stateside we settled near Vandenberg A.F.B. and that is rocket central!! The early 80’s saw the expansion of the South Launch complexes as the Space Shuttle program was to move in. Seems they needed Vandenberg as a space port for launches so that they could achieve polar orbits as they can launch to the south over the ocean unlike Cape Canaveral where they can only launch east. Sadly the Challenger accident moth-balled that whole program.
The whole Central Coast of California seems is hooked on Aviation. I ended up working at an airport Hilton and we had access to the ramp out the back door. Back in the 90’s after the Gulf War we had several A-10s passing thru SMX and the kills on the noses made you wonder what it was really like. I talked with several A-10 pilots but we kept it focused on air shows. SMX also had yearly air shows that drew classics as well as modern military jets. I remember walking thru Sentimental Journey as a static display one year. But my best memory was the 50th anniversary of the P-51 Mustang. We had something like 45 Mustangs show up and all weekend long they did group fly-bys. One local guy named Lefty Gardner had both a P-51 and his beloved P-38 ‘White lighting’ based at SMX. I often got out on the ramp and went over to the P-38. Me and that old girl had a relationship going on!! Sad to hear about her crash. But Red Bull racing has bought her and she on her way to a full restoration!!
When I was 20 I started my training for my private pilots license. I completed ground school and took a few introductionary flights at LPC but when I learned the true cost of flying(I was not going to do it professionally) I had to give up my dream. I had other friends who were doing the same so I got to fly right seat on several occasions.
After moving away from the Central Coast of California I settled in Las Vegas as the growth and cost of living was unbelievable. That was in the early 90’s. My love for aviation took a back seat as I had recently married. But the proximity of McCarran started to pull me back in. I discovered the viewing area on Sunset road and found myself wanting to go down and sit and watch the landing aircraft every Sunday afternoon. Burning rubber and Av gas in the air made me excited and opened my eyes to the unbelievable opportunity before me and the rest is history.