Southern California G.A. Waits Out Fires


GA pilots have been doing their share in the battle against wildfires in California – largely by staying out of the way. “People are being pretty sensible about it,” Roger Griffiths, airport manager at Gillespie Field in El Cajon, Calif., near San Diego, told AVweb Friday Though local pilots have been grounded by temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) in place to support firefighting efforts, the skies above San Diego County are buzzing with activity. Aircraft ranging from helicopters and single-engine air tankers (SEAT) to a DC-10 and a 60-year-old Martin Mars flying boat brought in from British Columbia are being used to attack the fires, which forced the evacuation of more than a million people last week. Griffiths said two of the three runways at his airport were closed and turned into parking ramps for helicopters, as many as 30 at a time.

But not all GA activity has stopped. And even amid the fires, the show must go on. Evelyn Hall, co-owner of Chuck Hall Aviation at Ramona Airport, about 20 miles northeast of San Diego, told AVweb her husband Chuck was able to take off from there in his P-51 to meet up with an F-16 for a heritage flight at an unnamed air show. The couple runs Chuck Hall Aviation, which has been busy fueling tankers and helicopters. Ramona Airport Manager Bo Donovan said the TFR over his airfield was lifted Friday night until daybreak Saturday, allowing GA flights. Donavan said Friday night was the first time the FAA lifted the TFR, saying it’s a “good first sign” things will be returning to normal soon.