Airport Loop Trail hike at Catalina – Whiteman KWHP to Catalina KAVX.

After letting the airplane get covered in the California dust for a week I thought it would be nice to take a flight to put oil on the cylinders, blow some dust off, and fly to a place I was rather certain few people would be.  Catalina Island, off the coast of California is only accessible by boat or airplane.  Catalina Airport has a 3,000′ runway that is atop a plateau 1,602 feet above sea level with cliffs at either end.  I figured it would be nice to fly through the Los Angeles SFRA on our way.  This is a strange process if you are unfamiliar with it.  The procedure includes squawking 1201 prior to entry into the SFRA area and requires no clearance into the bravo.  You simply fly along the SMO 132 radial at 3,500′ southbound and 4,500′ northbound right through LAX class bravo airspace.  I loaded SMO and PIJIN into the GPS and flew the leg between them verifying with the nav radio we were also on (or real close) the 132 degree radial.  We reversed this process on the return leg with the exception we did a taxi-back at Santa Monica KSMO.  The airspace in LA is rather busy with so many airports in close proximity but the SFRA was empty when we flew through it.

Once we arrived at Catalina we unloaded from the plane and took a clockwise 2.5 mile hike around the “Airport Loop Trail”.  Catalina boasts 165 miles of trails that crisscross the island to include the loop that circles the airfield.  The hike took us about an hour and 20 minutes and involved very little elevation change.  Coming from the flatland of Florida it was really neat to share the views with the kids.  The giftshop/restaurant at the airport was close as I climbed the stairs to the second level of the adjoining tower to pay our landing fee.  The attendant had one of the lower windows removed so I could pay the fee without entering the enclosed space there.  He told me that the fee had increased late last year from $25 to $35 as they had spent something like $7 mil on materials to improve the runway.  His story included the Marine Corps providing the labor, with Seabees, and Army Corps of Engineers also contributing, adding an additional $2 mil in man power to the project for free, bringing the value of the project to approx $9 mil.  Hard to say how my $35 landing fee will make a dent in their expenses and I didn’t balk at paying it!  Shortly after paying the fee we loaded up and prepared to depart runway 04.  This runway is downhill and is the preferred calm wind departure.  After we took off we made a clockwise loop around the southern portion of the island before coming back to land on runway 04.  After announcing our intentions on the unicom the gentleman in the tower reminded us that calm wind landings on runway 04 are not advised as its downhill nature.  We touched the wheels long enough to agree with him and raised the flaps before climbing for our return to the mainland.  After flying back over LAX and once we made our last position report on the SFRA frequency I contacted Santa Monica tower.  They cleared us to land not long before I requested a taxi back.  We departed runway 21 and got cleared to turn right after the coast.  A short while later we landed back at Whiteman and put the plane away in the Transient parking.  

1.9 hours logged

14.2 gallons fuel burned

Los Angeles SFRA.

GPS waypoints we used for Los Angeles SFRA.

Whiteman to Catalina airport.

Whiteman KWHP to Catalina KAVX through the Los Angeles SFRA over LAX.

Right base to runway 22 KAVX.

N7ZK sitting at the Airport in the Sky KAVX.  

Trails are clearly marked with signs like these at intersections and plastic markers along the way.


Near the approach end of runway 04 looking west over the Pacific.

Finally found what was dropping stuff all over the trail.

Success making it back to the airport after the hike!

Catalina to Whiteman airport with taxi back at Santa Monica KSMO.

Catalina KAVX – Santa Monica KSMO – Whiteman KSMO via Los Angeles SFRA.

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