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JAUNTS: In and Around Ventura County | GOING SOUTH

Air of History

Tours bring public up close to planes at Van Nuys field.


If you're an aviation enthusiast or just curious about what airfields are all about, take a tour of Van Nuys Airport. It's free and the 725-acre facility is loaded with history and interesting aviation tidbits. For instance, the airport was created in 1928 on 80 acres of farmland.

Now the airport features an 8,000-foot concrete runway with an instrument-landing system, a 4,000-foot training runway and a large control tower. There are more than 500,000 takeoffs and landings a year, and about 850 aircraft are based here.

Those facts are part of the introduction you get while boarding the bus, which takes visitors behind the gates, just a couple of hundred feet from where planes take off and land.

Out-of-town folks love the Hollywood history most. Many of the field's large hangars have been used in movies, including "Casablanca," "For the Boys," "The Body Guard" and "Dante'scq Peak."

One of the tour highlights is a row of vintage World War II aircraft--known as AT 6--used during the war to train pilots. All 10 have been restored.

Throughout the two-hour tour, guide Clarice Kirkpatrick explains in detail how a plane's engine works and the difference between the various single-engine and twin-engine aircraft.

Then comes the helicopter area, where most area television news choppers are based. They come and go throughout the day, and most have a camera attached to the front.

There are also a number of fire department helicopters used in rescues and fire fighting.

The group gets off the bus and takes turns sitting inside a two-passenger craft. A flight instructor explains how the plane works while each visitor has a chance to sit inside and look at the control panel.

"People really love going inside the planes, especially kids," said tour guide Janice Goforth, also a licensed pilot. "Many of them come back and take flying lessons."


Free tours of Van Nuys Airport are weekdays at 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m., and at various times the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. Call (818) 785-8838.

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