“Hawthorne Flight Service
Press 1 to Speak to a Preflight Briefer”
This almost makes me feel nostalgic. Through out my flight training and initial years after getting my private pilot license (PPL), I dialed 1-800-WX-BRIEF and heard this same recording many a time. Sometimes it was just a planning period trying to gauge what the weather was doing or to get the latest forecast. Sometimes it was the moment before a flight when I chose to speak to the briefer to get the weather briefing or file a flight plan.
A Flight Service Station is an air traffic facility which provides pilot briefings, flight plan processing, en-route flight advisories, search and rescue services, and assistance to lost aircraft and aircraft in emergency situations. It also can relay ATC clearances, process Notices to Airmen, broadcast aviation weather and aeronautical information, and advise Customs and Immigration of trans-border flights. In the 1960’s, there were 297 flight service stations in operation. The first automated flight service station (AFSS) was launched in Denver in 1982 and by the end of 1995, existing flight service stations were consolidated into 61 AFSSs. Today’s FSS is more virtual than physical. With apps and flight planning software, much of the charm of using the services of an FSS is fast receding. Pilots these days prefer the Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) apps as opposed to call-in or walk-in flight briefer.
Hawthorne Flight Service Center is based at Hawthorne Airport, a stone’s throw away from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Operational since 1985, the station serves the area extending from Orange County to Paso Robles, CA.
It was summer of 2003, when my flying buddy Grace and I set off to visit our friends at Hawthorne Flight Service with whom we spoke so often. Flying to Hawthorne meant transitioning the LAX Class B airspace. There are several VFR routes for the convenience of pilots transitioning through this area: coastal or shoreline route, mini route, Colosseum, or Hollywood Park route. Based on LAX airport configuration for the day and air traffic density in the region, arrival and destination airport, one of the routes can be assigned to pilots.
On this day, our assigned route was the Shoreline Route. It is quite impressive flying by LAX, with views of arriving and departing aircraft, busy SOCAL freeways, crowded beaches and downtown LA. After visiting with the Hawthorne FSS, it was time to trace our way back home. The departure from Hawthorne presents some interesting challenges as well. The proximity t o LAX meant that we had to climb to altitude quickly through a narrow space which meant a boxed climb to cruise of 3,500 ft and this time a transition through the mini route. We headed home enthused after our very successful adventures traversing LAX Class B airspace and visiting Hawthorne FSS.