The Liberty Gazette
February 2, 2010
February 2, 2010
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Mike: Forty miles east of Los Angeles in Southern California’s “Inland Empire” lays a small airport. Known as Cal Aero Field during the 1940’s, Chino Airport is surrounded by dairy farms, which seem to be quickly giving way to housing developments. Army Air Corps pilots trained here during WWII. The movie Twelve O’clock High was filmed here and Picadilly Lilly II, a B-17G used in the movie still resides here as part of the Planes of Fame Museum’s collection and is undergoing restoration to flying status.
Chino has two aviation museums, Planes of Fame and Yanks Museum. My first flight was here in a Bellanca Citabria at the age of 15. After that flight we went to the local airport eatery, Flo’s Airport Café, an icon of what an airport café was in aviation’s golden age and nearly synonymous with Chino Airport.
Serving home-style food at a reasonable price, Flo’s opened in 1957, long before my first flight and it has prospered in good times and survived in bad. People fly to Chino from all over for Flo’s biscuits and gravy for breakfast or a burger for lunch. Many celebrities hang out at Flo’s and since the car and motorcycle clubs have also discovered it, on weekends it can be difficult to get a table.
Flo’s at one time tried to expand, opening a second café in town but that flopped. They had the same menu but people wanted the exciting aviation atmosphere and the place in town lacked that uniqueness. People enjoy watching airplanes take off and land, and with 540 aircraft based at Chino, and over 450 take-offs and landings a day, the café is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat while heading out on a trip or when pilots return. Pictures of famous and not-so-famous airplanes and pilots adorning the walls have witnessed many a colorful hangar-flying tale. Imagine the stories they’ve heard, real and inflated, of Walter Mitty heroism and adventure.
Linda: Airport restaurants are getting harder to find. In this corner of Texas the Brazoria County Airport offers terrific treats in the aviation atmosphere. The very popular Aviators Grill has “food worth landing for” bringing fliers and non-fliers alike to David Wayne Hooks airport in Spring. A busy café at Lufkin’s Angelina County Airport offers a variety of delicious delights, along with BBQ at their monthly fly-ins. And this list would be incomplete without the unmatched 50’s-style diner experience at Southern Flyer Diner in Brenham, winner of the 100 Dollar Hamburger’s Airport Restaurant of the Year award for the last four consecutive years. Owners Jack and Janet Hess work hard to make your visit memorable, with famous chicken-fried steaks, burgers, homemade onion rings and the best shakes you’ve ever had.
Mike: It’s important to note that no airport restaurant survives solely on fly-in customers. Without the strong support of the community and a thriving airport those ventures, no matter how good they are, are short-lived.
Linda: If you’ve seen the new Denny’s commercial it’ll make sense to you that Mike’s idea to write about Chino and airport restaurants came after I told him about that commercial.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.