Our Commute

On our daily commute to work in Los Angeles, by airplane, we have the chance to see some unusual things.  As we see different things, we will add it to this page.

May 7th, 2001......  The flight to work was a little different than the usual, quite relaxing flight!  First of all, three regular passengers missed the flight (David Cymbor, Rick Raffa and Donna Scharff).  The sole passenger was Giles Jones, a backup rider.  I guarantee he will remember this flight for a long time.  About 16 miles out from Hawthorne, oil appeared on the window.  Not drops!  A completely covered window.... As in "You can't see a thing!"

As you can see, we could see out the side windows, but not the front window.

In addition to the restricted visibility, there was a trace of smoke in the cockpit.  

Just enough to make the flight memorable!

There was oil everywhere! 
Oil below and above! 
The flight started with 8 quarts of oil.


The flight ended with 2 quarts left!

The oil which escaped the engine covered the top (and bottom) of the aircraft. 
This is the top of the cabin.
This is the pressure sensor which failed. 
This is Giles Jones, the sole passenger for the flight of May 7th, 2001.

He (I think his wife may have influenced the decision), is not actively flying anymore.

Rick Raffa also seems to have lost interest in flying to work.  He states the reason for quitting is his kids college fund (again, spousal influence?).  

In addition, the last three minutes of our commute was covered live, by footage shoot by helicopter, on channel 5, 7 and 11.  We have a VHS copy of the newscast as proof of the story, and we are sticking with it!

We are now published... In the February, 2001 issue of the "Cessna Owners" Magazine!


If you ever use an airplane to commute to work, your life will never be the same! For instance, you may witness a beautiful sunrise, rather than a snarled, congested sea of cars. Dale Ploung, pilot of his commuting Cessna Cardinal, is an Acquisition Manager, (Fabricated Parts Supply Chain Management) for Hughes Space and Communications Company that is located in El Segundo, California. If you are looking at a map of the Los Angeles Basin, this is right on the edge of the segment overlaying Los Angeles International Airport that goes to the ground. LAX is one of the busiest airports in the country. Dale and three other gentlemen fly into Hawthorne Airport everyday, which is one half mile south of LAX. Everyone works for a different company, but all are within a mile and a half of each other. Ed Pedroza, also a pilot, works at Northrop, David Cymbor at Raytheon and Marty Hammond at Boeing Satellite Division. Their home airport is in Corona, California.

When we met at the Corona airport, the members of the plane pool were joking and commenting on the events of their commute. They were certainly much more light-hearted than the average commuter, who has fought his way down the 91 freeway to return home from his job. They now view the bumper-to-bumper traffic that they see below them as a scenic stream of white headlights and red taillights.

The eighteen minutes spent in the air commuting from Corona to Hawthorne Airport is a lot less than the two hours or more that it would take to drive the distance on Southern California's freeway system. The commuters, however, monitor the traffic frequencies every morning so that they know what's out there before they take off. Dale told me that everyone arrives at the plane between 5:35AM, when they begin monitoring and pre-flight, and the time when the plane leaves at 5:45AM. Although Los Angeles is busier than most areas for air traffic control, it is a lot less congested in the air than on the freeways. Dale estimated that there are usually ten to fifteen light planes and helicopters being flown by various newscasters and police in their

On a VFR flight, their flight plan is a straight line from Corona to an altitude of fifteen hundred feet, then crossing just north of Fullerton and Compton airports, paralleling the airliners on final. It's about a half-mile distance from LAX, so they stay on their course to Hawthorne Airport, and the reverse for their flight home in the evening. Coming home IFR, they get vectors to Seal Beach, resuming their own navigation down V-8, to Paradise, and then do a VOR approach to Corona.

"Dale explained why they chose a Cessna Cardinal for their commuter airplane. It is probably the easiest of airplanes to get into and out of the big doors, and there are no struts to dodge."

Dale explained why they chose a Cessna Cardinal for their commuter airplane. It is probably the easiest of airplanes to get into and out of the big doors, and there are no struts to dodge. You do not have to walk on the wing, as you would have to do in a low wing plane. The Cardinal has a very flexible CG, accommodating the four passengers that I met or any of the six backup passengers in the event one is on vacation. It is one of the better Cessna's for visibility. The pilot is sitting farther forward in front of the wing, than if you were in a Cessna 172 or 182 where the pilot seat is under the wing.


For the three commuters, the savings is substantial, dollar wise, against the operation of a motor vehicle for a commute involving at least fifty miles one-way. The cost of driving a car and paying the tolls would exceed the fifteen dollars per day that they pay to share the expenses of the flight.


On an average, Dale estimates that ten to fifteen percent of their flights are IFR. Of that ten or fifteen percent, only 2 percent would be "hard" IFR. "Most of the time, it is just the marine layer" according to Dale who has private and instrument ratings.

Traffic Control

The traffic controllers they work with are more than supportive. Dale said there have been times when the traffic controllers have called them, for instance, when they were eight miles from an airport transitioning overhead, recognizing Dale's voice and giving him the required clearance needed to expedite their normal flight procedures. Flying the same pattern, day after day, they have even been told when they are late. The traffic controllers extend professional courtesy while coordinating their flight among the airliners. "It is a very rare instance when they have to flag us off, and they are almost apologetic when this occurs," says Dale "They'll do everything they can to get us back on the approach, and work us in as painlessly as possible."

No plans have been made as yet, for the day that Dale Ploung retires (in a little over two years). There is, however, another pilot, Ed Pedroza, in the group. Dale commented that six of his past commuters have learned to fly, and three had purchased their own airplanes. There was a two or three-year period where they had two planes, and could alternate between the two for their commuter flight. "It made it much easier when one plane was down for service or maintenance," according to Dale. For the commuters, the price is worth the chance to spend more time with their families. They agree that they like their view of a morning sunrise much better than the view they'd get by car. Talk about pretty sights, you can just imagine popping over a marine layer and seeing the sun reflecting on the tops of the clouds. It's just a great way to start your day!

That's it for the article!

This is the view out our front window.

Early morning sights

This is what we are trying to avoid.

The view is great.


Donna enjoying the view.  It took weeks to capture this picture.  She is usually doing her hair, makeup or nails.



Hughes, Fullerton is finally erased from the face of the earth (9-13-2000)



Sometimes you wonder what people are thinking

Another Aerospace dinosaur.  

This is the old B-2 factory.  

Not a car in the parking lot.


A burning building on our flight home (8-22-2000)


Unusual Float Plane



Watch Out For That Cable!