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Owner's Corner

Lloyd Stephens, Aircraft Owner and Board Member WVFC


Beyond Harris Ranch

It’s not as if the weather hasn’t been good enough for flying already this year, but the really good flying weather is coming up as we approach summer, and it’s likely you may want to have some destinations to fly to.  As we all know, the “$100 hamburger” is just a justification for a flight, with a little food thrown in.

In an effort to provide you with a little information about destination restaurants, the Club just recently signed up for a membership for you with Fly In, Dine Out (  FIDO is designed to tell you locations of restaurants at different airports, whether they are on the field or, if not, how far they are from the field.  You can access this site by clicking on the link to their webpage, then click on “Member Login.”  Your club authorized e-mail is, and your password is WVFC1901.  (This info is also on the Club’s website.)  I didn’t find their site particularly easy to use, and somewhat lacking in information that I might want to know, like hours that the restaurants are open.  I thought it might be nice to share with you a few of the places that I have flown to that make good destinations for meals or other interests.  By now you probably know that you can fly to restaurants at Half Moon Bay, Watsonville, and Harris Ranch, but here are a few other places that you may not have visited:

San Luis Obispo (KSBP)  This is one of my all time favorite destinations for lunch, or more, at the Spirit of San Luis restaurant located right on the field.  It is quite elegant and the prices are not exactly low, but they’re not exceptionally high either.  It’s open 7 am to 8 pm, Sundays from 9 am.  You can check out their menus on this site:  but there is a plethora of very good restaurants in town, as well, and it’s an interesting place to browse.  The problem is getting there.  The last time I tried it, the bus only came 3/4 of a mile from the airport, so you pretty much have to take a cab or rent a car.  If you are going to do that, you might even consider spending the night at Morro Bay, where you could check out Morro Rock or Montaña de Oro State Park, or go down to Pismo Beach.  It’s about 50 miles up the coast, but Hearst Castle is also a popular destination.  This time of the year the poppies are decorating the hillsides in the area, so it’s really pretty flying in.

Santa Rosa (KSTS)   Another great destination for lunch or dinner is the Sky Lounge Steakhouse & Raw Bar right at the airport.  Park at the Santa Rosa Jet Center (Kaiser Air) parking area north of the terminal building and walk over to the restaurant.  They’re open for BL&D 365 days/year from 8 am to 9 pm.  They have a sushi bar and serve a lot more than just steaks.  Sarah says that everything they serve is wholesome, local and fresh.  They also have a nice patio where you can sit outside right next to the terminal ramp when the weather is good.  

The folks at the SRJC are very friendly.  If you decide you want to stay the night their fuel is less expensive than some other places and they will waive the $10 tiedown fee with a fuel purchase.

Petaluma (O69)   The Two Niner Diner, right on the airport, has been a favorite breakfast/lunch destination of pilots for a long time.  Although there have been reports of some problems with service, owner Dan Kelly said he has hired some new waitresses and has been working to resolve these issues.  I was there for lunch on May 1 and both the club sandwich and service was good.

Willows (KWLW)   I would be remiss in not mentioning Nancy’s Cafe at the airport in Willows, just off Interstate 5 between Sacramento and Red Bluff.  Nancy’s has long been a destination restaurant for pilots, and also a favorite food stop for travelers in both directions on I/S 5.  Not much to look at from the outside, the inside is rustic with an aviation theme.  The menu is pretty much traditional American food.  Not what I would call gourmet, but tasty, nonetheless, and pretty reasonably priced.  And yes, they do have burgers (with Certified Angus Beef) but, hey, go for it--you can have a New York steak sandwich for only $9.99.  They are open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.  You can see all their menu items and read about their history at: 

Modesto (KMOD)   Yeah, I know who wants to fly to Modesto for lunch.  Well, I seem to like to do practice instrument approaches out in the central valley and Modesto is one of the places I do that.  So, if you get tired of flying around, you might try stopping for lunch at Huckleberry’s.  No, it’s not on the airport, but it’s only a mile away, so here’s the deal:  take a right turn off of 28R and go to Sky-Trek.  You will probably have to purchase 10 gallons of fuel for them to waive the ramp fee (but you get to credit this to your account at WVFC).  They have three crew cars and, subject to availability, they will give you one to go to lunch.  They will also give you directions (it’s not too hard--turn left out of the airport onto Mitchell, go to Yosemite, turn right, Huckleberry’s is on the left).  (The folks at Sky Trek try to treat everybody well, whether you fly in a Cessna Skycatcher or a G650)  Huckleberry’s is sort of a log cabin kind of restaurant with a little Cajun flair, but the food is reasonably good.  

Fresno Chandler (KFCH)   Chandler was Fresno’s main airport until 1947, when they opened Fresno Air Terminal, but is now exclusively used by general aviation. The terminal building, and some of the surrounding buildings, were built during the mid to late 30’s by WPA, and are considered to be some of the best remaining examples of architecture of that period.  The terminal itself was built in 1936-37 in the Streamline Moderne style.  It has an Art Deco interior and Beau Arts style lampposts outside.  Although it doesn’t blow you away, it is like stepping back in time.  There is a breakfast/lunch cafe in the terminal: Tailspin Tommy’s.  Don’t expect gourmet food, but it’s not bad and the cafe does have its charm:  they are closed Sunday and Monday, 10 am to 2pm Tu-Th, and 7-2 Fr & Sat.  For more on the historical aspects of Chandler Field:  

Hawthorne (KHHR)   I used to fly into Hawthorne from time to time when I went to LA.  It was a sleepy little GA airport with a nice little Cafe, Nat’s, and a Flight Service Station right next to transient parking, which was $4/night.  They also had pretty low cost fuel.  Times have changed.  Millionaire came in and took over the whole field and tried to develop it as an alternative to LAX for business jets.  Prices went up--a lot (but haven’t they everywhere).  Millionaire has now morphed into Jet Center Los Angeles and Nat’s is gone.  In its place is a sparkling new restaurant, the Eureka Tasting Kitchen, part of the Eureka restaurant chain.  You can read about it here:  For me, Hawthorne was a good alternative to some of the other LA Basin airports because you can walk out of the terminal, take a couple of left turns, walk over to the other side of the runway, and you are at a Metro Station where you can go Downtown or, in the other direction, down to Manhattan Beach.  Although the Jet Center says they are GA friendly, they do have a $30 facility fee and tiedowns are $30/night.  The facility fee is waived if you buy a minimum of 15 gallons of fuel (even from the self-serve island), and you get 1/2 off the first night’s tiedown fee.  (When it was Millionaire I was able to convince them to give me several nights tiedowns for half off, but no telling what the Jet Center folks would say.)  It’s still a better deal than Santa Monica.  They do have some restaurants there, as well (Typhoon in the terminal building, and the Spitfire Grill across the street), but you will be paying a landing fee of $5.48 per each thousand pounds of certificated gross weight, or part thereof, in addition to any tiedown fees.  (They actually have a company, Vector Aircraft Solutions, that takes photos of departing aircraft and then they bill the registered owner--so maybe not the best idea in a flying club plane.)

I was recently asked if I knew any good place to fly to for a nice romantic weekend.  I immediately thought of the Benbow Inn near Garberville.

Garberville (O16) Garberville is about 188 nautical miles to the NW of Palo Alto, a bit inland from Shelter Cove.  The Benbow Inn is not too far away and, if you stay there, they will pick you up at the airport.  The Inn is an historic Tudor style hotel (almost more of a bed and breakfast) located on the Eel River.  It would be hard to find a place much more romantic.  It has been years since I stayed there, but it was a really pleasant and unique experience.  You can find out much more than I can tell you on their website:   

Before I go, there is one more restaurant that I’d like to tell you about, and that’s the Proud Bird, located just off the arrival end of Runway 25L at Los Angeles International (KLAX).  No, I’m not suggesting that you fly in to this one, except on a commercial flight, and it’s nowhere near the terminal building, but if you have an interest in aviation history (most pilots do) and a good appetite, you should go there for lunch or dinner.  They have a yard full of aircraft, both actual and mock-ups, and you can watch the big boys land on the LAX south runways from your table.  The food is very good, but the real attraction, which is not emphasized on their website, is the absolutely amazing collection of historical aviation and space photographs displayed on every wall in the restaurant.  You could spend three days in there and not see all of them. It’s almost more of an aviation museum than it is a restaurant.  They even have private rooms dedicated to various aviation heroes.  If you go for dinner between 4 and 6 you can order from the “Early Bird Special” menu (it’s under “sunset menu” on their website), and save quite a bit on the bill.  Check it out:

Happy Flying