Fleeing the Heat 2013

Fog eating LAX on hot SoCal dayWe’ve had some hot days recently in SoCal. Luckily, we can often get away from the worst of the heat with a short flight and have many options to boot. My home base of El Monte (KEMT) was experiencing temps in the mid 90F’s (35C) on Saturday:



KEMT 292047Z 23006KT 10SM SKC 35/16 A2980

That’s not the most pleasant conditions for pattern work in an airplane without air conditioning. Going to the other airports I normally use for training was not going to help much, though Fullerton (KFUL) shows a slight improvement:

KCNO 292053Z 25011KT 10SM FEW110 BKN250 40/12 A2980
KPOC 292047Z 25010KT 10SM SKC 37/13 A2985
KFUL 292053Z 21008KT 10SM CLR 33/17 A2979

However, start to look at the coastal airports and you see some hopeful temps. Hawthorne (KHHR) is only 18nm from El Monte, but 16F cooler! [You can’t fly directly to KHHR, so it is a little longer].

KHHR 292053Z 26011KT 10SM CLR 26/16 A2982
KLGB 292053Z 21008KT 8SM CLR 29/17 A2980
KTOA 292047Z 30016KT 10SM SCT200 24/19 A2982 RMK ST W
KSMO 292051Z 23008KT 10SM CLR 24/16 A2983
KCMA 292055Z 22009KT 10SM CLR 31/16 A2981
KOXR 292051Z 26008KT 10SM CLR 22/16 A2982

Hawthorne (KHHR)

HHR is GA friendly (though with some jet traffic), with a single E-W runway of about 5000′ length. It is home to both SpaceX and Tesla. Be careful of the final approach to HHR – you are very close to LAX’s airspace, so stay south of the I-105 freeway. You’ll often be asked to make straight in and report at/or above 1500′ on a 3 mile final (about when you cross the 110 freeway). All traffic patterns are to the south of the runway to avoid LAX. You’ll be a mere mile or two from jets landing on the south complex at LAX. The noise abatement procedures will lead to a tighter pattern than most people normally fly. My normal route from EMT is to fly straight out to the 605 (staying below 2500′), turn right  to follow the 105, until crossing the LA River/710, call tower and stay south of the 105 for a straight in approach.

Torrance (KTOA)

TOA is home to Robinson Helicopter, had foxes that seem to live on the airport grounds, and has two parallel runways. ATIS will tell you if two different tower frequencies are in use. From EMT, I normally fly straight out to the 605 (below 2500′ and LAX airspace), then right at the 105, until the LA River/710. from there, I turn towards the courthouse (a noticeable taller building to the SW) and CPM airport and call tower. You’ll normally be told to make a right base entry for 29R and maybe to report UCLA Harbor (or Harbor General – a hospital right next to the 110 freeway that is a good point to enter on the right base).


With such temperature differences, you can sometimes get strong winds or even fast moving fog. See the picture at the top of the article – this was taken from the pattern at HHR, as the fog slowly rolled in over LAX (note the LAX control tower just in front of the fog). In just a few minutes, the LAX mini-route was closed by this fog.

In addition, flying to several of the airports that are south of the LAX final approach course requires either a longer route or lower altitudes. For example, I often fly at 2200′ MSL to get to LGB, TOA, or HHR – that is not something that everyone will want to do.


Southern California sits between mountains, desert, and a cool ocean – it means we have big differences in weather over a short distance. Anyone who flies in the warmer parts of the interior of the US will be jealous. In most locations, you can’t get such variation, unless you have a strong front moving through (and that normally means poor flying conditions).


Now, if you really wanted to experience some breathtaking heat, we have that too not too far away {that’s 122F – ouch)

KEED 302256Z AUTO 25012G19KT 10SM FEW100 50/03 A2961

Other options

If you want to fly a little farther and get some good cross country in, consider

  • Santa Barbara (SBA) – class C often with 3 active runways
  • Oceano (L52)  – relatively short runway near famous dunes
  • Palomar/McClellan (CRQ) – lots of jet traffic, but still GA friendly
  • Camarillo (CMA)
  • Oxnard (OXR)

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