Hawthorne Resurrected

 - December 18, 2006, 10:14 AM

If pilots flying into Hawthorne Municipal Airport/Jack Northrop Field on the morning of November 22 wondered why the airport was closed for an hour-and-a-half, the notam announcing the closing didn’t provide much information except to cite “construction testing” and a “business event.” The business event turned out to be the first stop of a two-day Nike Golf “whistle-stop” tour, where famous golfers fly in to promote Nike’s new series of drivers called SasQuatch Sumo2. The closing of the Hawthorne runway was to allow the assembled print and television media to watch Tiger Woods take a whack at some golf balls with the new Sumo2.

Fortunately, the airport management didn’t have to worry about Tiger snap-hooking into a group of airplanes parked near the runway or slicing into adjacent 120th street and the cars thereon. (The media pack–mostly golf magazine and television reporters–got to try their own skills with the Sumo2 after Tiger hit a few balls; the results weren’t nearly as pretty, and more than one ball was seen bouncing off the pavement between cars zooming by on 120th street, which parallels the runway.)

Tiger’s visit to Hawthorne coincided with the opening of a full-service FBO at the long-neglected airport. The City of Hawthorne signed a 45-year lease with a developer team led by Jeff Dritley’s Kearny Real Estate, which includes operation of the airport and also opening of a new Million Air-franchised FBO owned by Grant Murray, who has owned other Million Air FBOs.

Dritley and Murray have big plans for Hawthorne and aim to transform the airport into a Los Angeles-area alternative to Los Angeles International, Santa Monica, Van Nuys and Burbank airports. Hawthorne, in fact, is closest to downtown Los Angeles, and a convenient station on the LA Metro railway system is adjacent to the airport.

In addition to plans to construct 196,000 sq ft of new hangars and buildings and rehabilitate two acres of tarmac at Hawthorne, Dritley is also developing 90 acres on the south side of the airport into the Century Business Center. This area used to include the Northrop Grumman facilities, one-third of which are now owned by Vought. Hawthorne Airport is famous as the test site for Jack Northrop’s flying wings and for Nat’s Coffee Shop, a long-time airport fixture.

Dritley and Murray welcome any kind of airport business and would rather new companies form to operate charter, maintenance and other airport ventures. With all the space available in the Century Business Center, Hawthorne might be ideal for an aircraft manufacturer, Murray said.

The old Western Museum of Flight on the northwest corner of the airport is gone, and the airport installed new doors on the hangar so local maintenance operation Security Aviation could move into the building. The FAA Flight Service Station on the field is closing, too, and Murray hopes to be able to take over that building after the FAA moves out.