I spend a lot of time in airports, with one in particular, and that would be John Wayne Airport in Orange County. Yes, as I’ve mentioned before, the brilliant aviation authorities here in Republican Land thought it only too appropriate to name what was once Orange County/Santa Ana Airport (known in the trade as SNA) after the lumbering movie cowboy. Less often my destination is Los Angeles International (LAX), which is many times the size of what we think of as the local airport. And once in a blue moon I make the trip to Bob Hope Airport, which is in the Valley (this travelogue for the benefit of east coast readers).
These are all points of departure for Kris in her travels around the country, and occasionally to points farther away. I’m the guy who gets her there, and fetches her home when the day is done. What a guy! This much you already know.
But what’s with naming airports after movie stars, and why now?
John Wayne’s name — and a statue, I’m told, but still have yet to find it — was attached to Orange County Airport several years ago and recently has fallen into controversy over whether or not to drop the mention of Orange County, along with Santa Ana, which almost no one outside of Los Angeles has ever heard of. It’s a political thing, not surprisingly, and the Duke has long been an unverified god here. They love the very mention of his name. Elsewhere, you typically get a laugh when you say “John Wayne Airport.” Friends in the east, when they’ve recovered their composure, say something akin to “You’re kidding, aren’t you?”
I rather think the Duke would be a bit disappointed in having his name assigned to this one. SNA would hardly be big enough to suit him. There’s just one runway, as opposed to six at LAX, and unless a few flights sneak off to Mexico, there are virtually no international flights; Hawaii does not count. Thanks to residents who live nearby — and apparently did not notice the airplanes coming and going when they bought their houses — there’s a curfew that runs from 11:00 at night to 7:00 the next morning. That requires a very steep ascent at take-off and a very disturbing slow-down over the neighborhood until the pilot reaches the coast. If you’re on board, it does get your attention.
But SNA is cozy, with single-lane access from the north and from the west for passengers, again, as opposed to big town entrance to LAX, as well as ungodly traffic, 24/7. Easy travel to Atlanta, but if you have a direct flight to Vienna in mind, forget it.
Bob Hope Airport, up in Burbank, is also a local airport, and is primarily a domestic stepping off point. It, too, decided to become one with the stars last year, dropping its long-time handle as Hollywood/Burbank Airport (the boys refer to it as BUR; the locals never say Hollywood). As I said, we rarely get up there, with the possible exception of a charter.
I lived in the Valley for 40 years and Bob Hope Airport was already one of the oldest in the metropolitan area. It is very small and denials for enlargement have ensured that it will stay that way, but no one challenged the name change — at least none that were successful. I’m guessing that politics had very little to do with it, but the fact that Bob Hope launched countless USO tours from there did. Couple of reasons for that: Hope lived in the area, which borders — at some distance — Hollywood, and it was more suitable for cast and crew. In a sense, the airport was more discreet than the behemoth downtown, making timely dispatch easier.
But again, movie stars? Well, it would seem that outside of the logical approach of using the actual names of a city, you’re stuck with politicians, as in John F. Kennedy or La Guardia in New York. Or you could auction off naming rights. I’m just not terribly comfortable with — and you know it could happen — Ritz Crackers International.