Flying Flying Wing

The Flying Wing & Bond Bread
A chance to see a 60 year old UFO fly doesn’t come by that often, so the big event this weekend was a drive out to the Palm Springs Air Museum to see the original N9M flying wing prototype fly.

The old Northrop flying wings are one of the few planes I still obsess over. I still vividly remember the flying wing scene from the 1953 War Of The Worlds (and the audience in the Orange Theater cheering when L.A. City Hall gets blown up) and getting worked up over something that looked like it stepped off of the front cover of a vintage SF pulp magazine. Cue a lifetime of general obsession over retrofuture technology that was just too ahead of its time to be of any practicality. Somewhere I still have a beat-up poster of the B-49 that lasted through three years of high school dorm living.

N9MB Flying Wing Anyway, one of the few remaining flying wing third-scale prototypes was restored a few years back and makes the occasional flight demo here and there. Even after all the pictures, films, etc. I’ve seen of it, I couldn’t help but sputter out an “illbegoddamned” when it took off.

Here’s the requisite Flickr set from the day and some some short movies I took (pass 1, pass 2, pass 3)

Of course any trip to Palm Springs requires two additional things… Modernism and the Sonny Bono statue.

Palm Springs modernismSonny

Long Beach Airport cafe

I’ve blogged about the Long Beach Airport (LGB) before – vintage terminal, free wireless, and happy times on JetBlue. I’ve never been to the cafe before though, so it was time for another round of coffee, pancakes, and bacon.

Long Beach Airport terminal

Pancakes @ LGB cafe

The food was your basic above-average diner quality and the wait staff kept the coffee flowing. The real winner though is the view out of the window where you’ve got a panoramic view of almost all airport operations. I could easily sit here, drink coffee, and stare out the window all day. Did I mention the free Wi-Fi?

Just down the street from the LGB terminal is the old McDonnell-Douglas aircraft plant. Boeing took it over when they they bought out McDonnell-Douglas and renamed the MD-80 descendants the Boeing 717. Boeing shortly phased out the 717 soon enough anyway. Still, the real tragedy is that the giant “Fly DC Jets” neon sign on the roof is no longer lit.

Old McDonnell-Douglas aircraft plant

Older photos of LGB

Hawthorne Airport cafe

I’ve been obsessed with airport cafes lately (yeah, I know I know… “lately”) and I finally have a chance to catch up on some of the local places. First up is Nat’s Airport Cafe at Hawthorne Municipal Airport (a.k.a. Jack Northrop Field). The corned beef hash was perfunctory but amazingly inexpensive – breakfast barely cracked $5.

HHR’s terminal building is classically 1970s civic down to the zig-zag walkway shade out front and the big Saturn mural on the side. There free wi-fi if you need it and a small museum on the northwest side of the field.

Hawthorne Airport terminal
HHR corned beef hash

Flying Large

The Airbus A380 is getting all the press for being a mega-sized aircraft (albeit a delayed one now), but fifty years ago there was another double-decked aircraft that arguably set-aside gracefulness for double-decked haulage – meet the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser.

I don’t mean to slag on the A380 though. I do love the neo-Kubrickian interior. I can’t wait to fly one somewhere.


Things I Like (May 2005)

1. The “op-art carnival vs. 1970s futurism” design aesthetic of Braniff Airlines.


2. The “Visual Music” exhibition at MOCA in Los Angeles. Don’t miss the companion book.


3. The ridiculously charming and catchy Volkswagen Jetta ad known as “Independence Day.”


4. The fantastically groovy 1966 cult German television show Raumpatrouille.


5. Logic System. YMO spin off band that circulates around moogsploitation, straight-up technopop, and leftover tracks from the Cosmos television series. I somehow picture this playing at a western-themed truck stop in Japan somewhere.