Aviation and Space Club Takes Flight to the Boneyard


GCC Aviation and Space Club.

Rikard Kohler, Staff Writer

Turbulently flying more than 60 people across the mountains to the Mojave Desert, the Aviation and Space Club of GCC had its third annual Mojave fly-in on Oct. 12.

Ten planes flew students, club members, friends and instructors to the Mojave Air and Spaceport.

President of the Aviation and Space Club Gerald “BJ” Lange said that the purpose of the Fly-in is “to create a fun educational experience for members of the club, and also to serve as a networking opportunity.”

The day started early for participants, as they had to wake up before sunrise and make their way to their assigned airports, which included Bob Hope (Burbank), Camarillo, El Monte, Van Nuys and Whiteman (Pacoima). Departing from Burbank with his 5-year-old Cessna Citation Mustang, a private jet with dual jet engines, was Glendale College aviation instructor Edwin Sahakian.

Because Sahakian’s jet flies faster than the nine propeller planes, the seasoned pilot was scheduled to fly two tours with five passengers each time. His first tour departed around 7 a.m., but with thick fog covering the airports, all departures were delayed.

However, instead of just sitting around waiting for the fog to clear, Sahakian took the time he was given to inform the passengers about how his airplane worked.

“It is all computers basically,” said Sahakian. “It is like a big video game.”

When the fog had cleared enough and the visibility had increased for about half a mile, Sahakian’s jet was cleared for departure at 7:50 a.m.

During the 30-minute flight to Mojave, Sahakian allowed passengers to steer the jet in mid-air, providing an interactive co-piloting experience.

“To have us [students] actually fly in his jet, how many instructors actually do that?” aviation major Jennifer Vazquez asked.

Arriving at Mojave Air and Spaceport first, Sahakian led his passengers to the airport diner for breakfast and quickly returned to his plane to fly back to Burbank and pick up a second group of passengers.

After an hour, as more people started to show up and the rest of the planes arrived, the event’s goal to promote comradeship soon took over when laughs and jokes were shared over breakfast burritos and coffee.

The 2014 Mojave Fly-in was not exclusive to people with ties to Glendale College. Students from USC and friends of those in the Aviation and Space Club also attended.

The main event at the Air and Spaceport was a guided tour of the famous Boneyard, which is the final stop for decommissioned airliners. From the window of the van, passengers could see everything from commercial Boeing 747s of airlines that no longer exist to unidentifiable wrecks.

Sahakian explained that the decommissioned planes at the “Boneyard” are stripped of anything resalable, from engines to coffee machines. These parts are used to upgrade active airliners. Companies are buying these used parts since anything new has to be inspected, which can result in a new coffee machine costing around $2,500.

“It is just like a car,” said Sahakian. “They take out the useful parts and they resell them.”

However, this is not just a place for companies to scavenge for cheap parts. Hollywood has used the Boneyard several times to shoot scenes for movies like “SWAT” (2003), “Con Air” (1997), and “Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man” (1991).

After the tour, Cameron Robinson, a club member and pilot who acquired his flying certificate through the GCC Aviation program three years ago, started flying passengers back from Mojave in his own Cessna 172N, a one-propeller plane.

Smaller than Sahakian’s jet, Robinson’s plane is more susceptible to turbulence and made the flight back quite bumpy Inexperienced flyers, who have flown only on commercial airlines before, would experience this flight, least said, adrenaline pumping.

Club co-adviser and aviation instructor Rob Newman said that pilots and other people within Aviation share a certain comradeship, and the Aviation and Space Club is no exception.

“We try to bring camaraderie, events and obviously fun into what we do,” said Lange.

The club tries to engage people involved within aviation and space at GCC, and make the experience special. For example, they work with the FAA to hold seminars – last year more than 200 people attended the seminar organized the club– and holding special events, like the Mojave Fly-in.

“[Last year] we had a whole-day seminar,” said Lange. “We had a world class and world-renowned keynote speaker that came in and taught the seminar.”

Club treasurer Nicolette Hanson praised how active and sociable the club is, and how she loves being around people sharing her passion. She explained that the option to actually get to fly is rare within community colleges and the program at GCC offers students a special and unique experience.

“[Aviation is] something I am passionate about, plus it pays the bills,” said Hanson.

Lange explained the many benefits that come with learning to fly through the program offered at the campus, saying that it is one of the cheapest ways to become a pilot in the Los Angeles Area. However, he is concerned with the fact that students do not know about the program, and that the college’s Aviation Department has three planes that aspiring flight students get to fly on their way to becoming certified pilots.

“We want to help build this [aviation] program, because it is a quiet secret and it should not be that way,” said Lange.