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High Desert Hangar Stories | The Antelope Valley defines this hobby, attracts visitors from all over

It was about 100 years ago, or a little more, that a phenomenon started that would continue to grow to epic proportions here in the Antelope Valley.

While pursuing my other hobby of chasing trains and photographing them, I fell in with a group of railroad workers who gave us the nick name “foamers,” whatever the heck that means. I think it was their way of calling us “those crazy guys with cameras and who appear to have no jobs or a life.” LOL!

NASA’s SOFIA takes off from Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif. The Antelope Valley offers ‘plane spotters’ an experience unlike anywhere else in the world. (Photograph by Bob Alvis)

When it comes to aviation, especially here in the Antelope Valley, we have had generations of shielded eyes looking to the skies to see what hot rod with wings was punching a hole in our skies.

After World War II when “Plane spotting” went from being a war time assignment and became a pastime, the people of the AV started to realize that out at that old dry lakebed some pretty cool stuff was taking wing and that a glimpse of some ‘Buck Rogers’ technology was always worth the effort to see. As many of our families were a part of all that technology, it also added the fun aspect of saying “Hey that’s the plane my mom/dad is working on!” and it was much like a prized baseball card to a kid pointing in the sky at a sleek design that had a family connection.

So here we are today and things have not changed much, and on a daily basis somebody can be seen craning their necks or running outside to see what the entire racket is flying over. And for the diehards, cameras are clicking and comments are being shared as the carbon copy of flights day after day is never short of these plane spotters looking for a once in a lifetime catch of something unusual.

Over the years we have had a wide variety of exotic aircraft, thanks to the dozens of contractors taking advantage of the valley’s exceptional flying weather and unique geography that aided research and development. But it was a challenge to keep up with all the new designs that were showing up during the year. As a plane spotter myself, I believe the 1960s was the best, even though when the black wings took to the skies it was always a must see show that had hundreds fixated on the roar and afterburners crossing Sierra Highway.

Today our skies are a mishmash of commercial traffic way up there and a constant racetrack of military birds in the middle turning heads and civilian aircraft and operations making up the rest of the daily smorgasbord of flight operations in our skies. With all the technology around, we now even have hobbyists tracking air movements and specific aircraft and making daily logs of air traffic.

Here in the AV, we even have groups dedicated to watching the skies that identify themselves from a location or a title that is connected to some aspect of chasing planes and sharing that passion with others. Many times, people from around the world will read up on said groups and travel here, like a young man did last week who came all the way from Warsaw, Poland, to sit at a famous corner at Avenue N and Sierra Highway! In many ways what we have going on daily has no comparison in many parts of the world and people are fascinated with our “daily air shows.”

Attendees watch the opening ceremony for the centennial air show at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., June 10, 2017. The base hosted the air show and open house to celebrate the 100th year of Scott AFB. Over 50 aircraft, ranging from WWI’s Curtiss JN-4 Jenny to the currently utilized KC-135 Stratotanker, came to Scott, the fourth oldest Air Force base. Demonstrations included the Black Daggers, “Tora, Tora, Tora,” and the USAF Thunderbirds. Opened in 1917 and previously named Scott Field, the base has seen its mission evolve and expand to encompass a multitude of priorities, including aeromedical evacuation and communications. Today, Scott is home to 31 mission partners and provides around-the-clock logistics support and rapid global mobility, carried out primarily by U.S. Transportation Command and Air Mobility Command. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Clayton Lenhardt)

Now all this talk has brought me to a question in need of an answer when it comes to all of us who need a better nick name than “plane spotters” as that title is more appropriate to those around major airports and standard military bases. That works just great for them, but here in the “Aerospace Valley” I believe we are in need of a better nick name that better reflects our unique region and its dedicated band of wing nuts that just can’t let a sighting or a sonic boom go without sharing it with the rest of the valley! Pretty sure there is a cartoon character or a fitting mascot that would fill the bill that some of you could come up with and I would look forward to whatever colorful name you folks could come up with that would morph into a title to poke a bit of fun at we bent necks of the Antelope Valley!

I have my own ideas and would like to share but as an old guy my suggestions are already dated out of the gate. My ideas probably won’t fit what the younger generations would feel was a more hip nickname. So it’s up to others to find that name, so we can form an identity that will let the world know we are all part of a special fraternity of plane spotters that call the Antelope Valley home.

Funny, watching Wayne’s World some time back I was taken in by the scene when Wayne and Garth were on the hood of their car as 747 flies over them on a landing. Nothing new to us here in the Antelope Valley because many of us do the same thing every evening as SOfia from NASA leaves Plant 42 on its way north! Of course, I don’t know if we scream and yell as it passes over, but it appears people still get pretty excited LOL!

So there we have it. The masses of those who chase planes are pretty much chase planes themselves, and like the pilots of “chase planes” we are also performing in the capacity of sharing information with others about what we are seeing and hearing and letting it be known that it’s a hobby we fully embrace and always will, as long a sleek aircraft and one of a kinds take to the skies over the Antelope Valley.

Until next time, chaser Bob is out!

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