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Flying on an Empty Stomach? Refuel at Brackett Field at La Verne, California

By Donia Moore

Flying can make you really hungry. Or at least it can make you want to visit those enticing little airport restaurants that sit out by the taxi ways where you can watch the airplanes land and take off. I have really enjoyed this part of the sport since I was a child and am proud to say that I have passed that love on to my own children and grand children.

One of our favorite places to eat is the charming restaurant at La Verne’s historic Brackett Field. “Norm’s Hangar Coffee Shop,” as the restaurant is called, sits right on the taxi way. The patio is less than 300-feet from runway 26L and the Cafe pipes in Bracket Tower and Ground Control.It’s not in a hangar and it’s not run by “Norm,” but great tasting breakfasts and lunches are served by family-friendly weight staff from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. The menu is extensive and the food is great. Not gourmet, you understand, but tasty omelets, juicy burgers and steak sandwiches.  If you’d look for it in the diner of your dreams, Norm’s probably makes it.  Everything on the menu is fresh and homemade and the suppliers are small local businesses that owner Cathy (Norm’s daughter) supports to keep the mom and pop market strong. The tables next to the big picture windows and the outside patio give unobstructed views of all the activity on the air field. If you have any budding pilots along, they will be fascinated for the duration of your visit and will love the large model airplanes hanging from the ceiling of the coffee shop. 

Brackett Field (IATA:POCICAOKPOC) is a public airportone mile (2 km) southwest of La Verne, in Los Angeles CountyCalifornia. It sits at an elevation of

1,013.9 feet. It is a controlled airport and its ARTCC is Los Angeles Flight Center. The FSS is Riverside Flight Service Station. Its white-green lighted land airport beacon  operates from sunset to sunrise.

Brackett sits right next door to the Los Angeles County Fairplex, which has fun  programs and events all year round. It’s also across the street from lush 18-hole championship Mountain Meadows Golf Course. Many hotels and restaurants are a few minutes drive from the airport. Lovely Frank G. Bonelli Park in nearby San Dimas has camp sites as well as day use areas for picnicking. Just Uber it!

The airport was named after Dr. Frank Parkhurst Brackett (1865–1951), one of the original professors at Pomona College, a small  liberal arts college east of Los Angeles. Dr. Brackett joined the college staff in the late 1800s.A professor of mathematics and astronomy during the 43 years he was at Pomona, Brackett at times served as interim president of the college.

Brackett continued to support Pomona College, even after retiring in 1933. In 1944, he published, “Granite and Sagebrush,” a recollection of the school’s first 50 years.

A scientist as well as an educator, he was a member of Smithsonian Institution expeditions to Algeria in 1911 and to Mt. Whitney two years later. The observatory at Pomona College was named for him.

At the end of World War I, he joined Herbert Hoover to personally assess the devastation in Belgium and France, work that led to massive U.S. post-war aid to Europe

Brackett Field has a long, celebrated history. In 1911, Calbraith Perry, “C.P.,” Rogers landed his Wright Flyer Biplane nicknamed the “Vin Fiz,” after the carbonated soda produced by the sponsor of the first flight across the United States, near what are now two parallel runways. Brackett Field originally consisted of a dirt strip cut out of a field in the late ‘30s. The original runway was 2,600 feet of dirt and there was a school for student pilots from nearby Pomona College. Later, the Civil Air Patrol, then a paramilitary branch of the U.S. Air Force, used Brackett Field for operations during World War II. In 1957 the county took over the airport and has owned it since then.

Movie studios in Hollywood, California, took advantage of the short 30 mile drive from the air field to the studios for on-location filming. Scenes for a number of TV series and movies were shot here, including Wings of Fire,Airport 1975,Spencer’s Pilots(CBS, 1974–1975) The Tim Conway Showand others. 

Brackett Field was also the starting point of the Powder Puff Derbyin 1974. The Powder Puff Derbywas the name given to an annual transcontinental air race for women pilotsinaugurated in 1947. For the next two years it was named the “Jacquelin CochranAll-Woman Transcontinental Air Race” (AWTAR). Cochran (May 11, 1906 – August 9, 1980) was a pioneer in the field of American aviationand one of the most prominent racing pilots of her generation. She was an important contributor to the formation of the wartime Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps(WAAC) and Women Airforce Service Pilots(WASP).  It was dubbed the “Powder Puff Derby” in reference to the 1929 Women’s Air Derbyby humorist and aviation advocate Will Rogers. The Powder Puff Derby was frequently mentioned in the television series, The Astronaut Wives Club(2015). Trudy Olson Cooper (1927-1994), the wife of astronaut, Gordon Cooper, was a pilot who is depicted as longing to fly in such a race. In 1970, Mrs. Cooper did fly the first leg of the race. 

Brackett originally had only one runway (26 / 8), which was paved. There were two paved taxiways, one on each side. Thecontrol towerwas added in the late 1960s. In the 1980s, increased traffic (due to the loss of other general aviation airports in the area to urban encroachment) led to the northern taxiway being replaced by a second runway (26R / 8L), which forced the relocation of the control tower a few feet to the north. 

Most of the development of the field prior to the 1980s was on the south side, where the Administration Building (“Ad Building”) is located. These developments included a Cessna dealership, flying schools and other facilities such as the first metal hangars on the field. 

A large, wooden hangar was built on the north side of the field, to house such operations as a Piper dealership and aircraft repair. The hangar burned down in 1960, was rebuilt, then burned down again about 10 years later. It was again rebuilt, then demolished a few years after that to make way for more modern facilities. 

Since the 1960s, Brackett has been the home base of Civil Air Patrol(Air Force Auxiliary) Squadron 64.

So if you want a little local history served up with your freshly made morning pancakes, fly in or drive in to Norm’s. It’s where you want to start.


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