Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields:

California - Southern Palmdale area

© 2002, © 2014 by Paul Freeman. Revised 5/23/14.

This site covers airfields in all 50 states: Click here for the site's main menu.

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Quartz Hill Airport (revised 2/15/14) - Sky Castle Airport (revised 5/22/14)

Victorville AAF Aux #3 / El Mirage Airport (revised 5/23/14) - Victorville AAF Aux #4 / Grey Butte Airfield (revised 3/3/13)

War Eagle Field / Lancaster Airpark (revised 2/19/14)

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Sky Castle Airport, Del Sur, CA

34.7 North / 118.39 West (West of Palmdale, CA)

A circa 1940s brochure for Sky Castle (courtesy of Tom Pinard),

depicted the airport along with many features which were never built, including 2 hangars & administration building, rodeo arena, swimming pool, stables, etc.



Much of the following information was contributed by Jon Karkow.



What seems like a mysterious mirage in Los Angeles' backyard,

on the beautiful rolling hills near Del Sur, is a stone replica of a medieval Irish castle.

It is one of Southern California's most overlooked landmarks,

home to such characters as a cowboy star, the builder of Hancock Park & a playboy radio-TV heir.

Secluded on a tranquil hilltop, in the vast openness of the smog free high desert,

Antelope Valley's most curious architectural secret is a single-turreted granite palace fortified in mystery, and fantasy,

its story often known only through a web of rumors.

The surrounding land is still untouched as it was when a Los Angeles real estate baron

decided to build this storybook fortress in 1924.

It would become known as Shea's Castle, after its builder, Richard Peter Shea.



In the early 1920s, New York-born Shea was drawn to California & Lancaster

by the area's isolation & hopes that the clear, dry air would improve the health of his wife, Ellen.

Flush with cash after subdividing Hancock Park & other wealthy Los Angeles enclaves

that sold $56 million worth of property within 3 years,

Shea reportedly spent $500,000 on his 8-bedroom, 7-bath, 7-fireplace, 2-kitchen castle.

It was a boost to the local economy.

Shea hired more than 100 laborers to quarry thousands of tons of granite from boulders on the property

to form the castle's 3- to 5-foot-thick walls.

A stable in a similar motif was built just a short distance away from the castle.

Not long after the work of 2 years was done, the couple moved in.



But the 1929 stock market crash sent Shea's finances plummeting,

forcing the couple to abandon the castle & move back to LA.

Shea borrowed heavily against his castle, and it was taken over by the bank.

The bank was the castle's second owner.

A succession of at least 15 owners & renters over 5 decades followed.

Each left some mark on the castle.



No airfield at this location was yet depicted in the 1941 USGS topo map nor on the 1945 AAF Airfield Directory (courtesy of Scott Murdock).



In the 1940s, the property was purchased by a nonprofit flying club & named “The Sky Castle”.

A 3,000' dirt runway, a stone dam, and the lake were built

to accommodate the flying enthusiasts who flew in for a few hours or the weekend.

Flying Magazine featured a March 1948 article about the property.

The flying club was said to have nearly 300 members,

and its business manager was George Carter.

As many as 50 planes were said to be common on the field for Sunday morning breakfasts.

The airfield was described as a 3,200' “sod” runway.



The most celebrated tenant of the property was Roy Rogers, the singing cowboy star of movies & TV,

who leased the site for a time & trained his famed horse, Trigger.



The location of Sky Castle, from a circa 1940s brochure (courtesy of Tom Pinard).



Tom Pinard recalled, “Sky Castle... our father, along with help from us boys, developed the runways & fly-in operation in the 1940s.

Cliff Pinard, owner of Hawthorne Aircraft Industries, the 'Stearman Shop',

was involved with the project, unfortunately short-lived.

We had one of our Stearmans out there to promote project

and as a lad, I recall flying over the Antelope Valley.... Lots of memories.”



Tom confirmed that Sky Castle had “no hangars... there was just a small pre-fabricated 'welcome office' at the strip.

While there were a few weekends of fly-ins, I don't remember any major Hollywood types

with the exception of Edgar Bergen flying in with 'Charlie McCarthy'.

The airport log book is missing but I remember his autograph in it.”



The earliest photo which has been located of Sky Castle was an 11/20/48 USGS aerial view.

It depicted the field as having 3 newly-paved asphalt runways, with the primary runway prominently marked “PRIVATE”.

The castle was visible to the south of the runway, but no aircraft were visible on the field.



An undated photo from a 1948 magazine article showed 6 planes at Sky Castle parked in front of Shea's Castle (courtesy of Jon Karkow).



Its most notorious owner was millionaire playboy Tommy Stewart Lee.

In 1948, when his father's estate finally emerged from years of litigation,

Lee went on a spending spree, buying more cars, airplanes - and the castle.

With Lee in residence, the castle soon became a favored hangout for fast-driving, hard-living friends.

They landed their planes on the private airstrip that Lee upgraded.

He converted the stable into a garage for his race cars,

and a midget-car racetrack soon wove its way through the rolling hills behind the castle.

But within a few months of his buying the place,

Lee's relatives & business partners had him declared mentally incompetent.



The Sky Castle airfield was not depicted at all on the February 1949 LA Sectional Chart (according to Chris Kennedy),

nor on earlier charts.



In 1950, castle owner Tommy Lee jumped to his death from a fire escape at the top of a 12-story building.



The only aeronautical chart depiction which has been located of the Sky Castle airfield

was on the September 1954 LA Sectional Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy).

It described “Sky Castle Field” as having 3 runways, with the longest being a 3,650' "Natural oiled” runway.



A 1954 aerial photo depicted Sky Castle as having 3 unpaved runways.



The 1957 USGS topo map depicted the “Landing Field” as having 3 runways.



The Sky Castle airfield was evidently abandoned at some point between 1954-58,

as it was no longer depicted at all on the March 1958 LA Sectional Chart (according to Chris Kennedy),

nor on later charts.



Aerial photos from 1959 & 1965 depicted 3 runways at Sky Castle.



In later years, through a succession of owners, the castle became a backdrop for movies,

such as the 1967 "Blood of Dracula's Castle".



The 1969 USGS topo map still depicted the “Landing Field” as having 3 runways.



A 1971 aerial view showed a change in Sky Castle's configuration, with the 2nd & 3rd runways having disappeared,

and the primary northeast/southwest runway appeared to have been paved at some point between 1965-71.



A 1974 aerial view showed Sky Castle to have a single paved northeast/southwest runway.



Sky Castle's 3rd runway had disappeared (along with most of the 2nd runway) from depiction on the 1974 USGS topo map.



A 1975 photo of Mike Bittner, Mark Lambie, John Buckner, Charlie Webber, Charlie Gyenes, and Maurice Gyenes

in front of a Sportavia-Putzer RF5B motorglider at Sky Castle (courtesy of Collin Gyenes).

Collin Gyenes recalled, “My Dad's friend... was a caretaker at the castle in the mid 1970s.”



The last photo which has been located showing planes at Sky Castle

was a 1975 photo of a 2-seat Sportavia-Putzer RF5B motorglider

and 4 single-seat Sportavia-Putzer Fournier RF4Ds (courtesy of Collin Gyenes).



The Castle was also used as a setting for TV episodes,

including "Bat Masterson", "Air Wolf", "Rat Patrol" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer".



In 1985, Sherman Oaks-based Genz Development bought the estate.

Plans were drawn up to restore the silted-up lake, install a golf course & other amenities

and divide the rest into 120 large lots for luxury homes.

The plans were halted in the early 1990s due to a change in the local economy.



The estate, which now encompasses 506 acres,

sits hidden in fairy-tale fashion along a section of the California Aqueduct

about 15 miles west of Lancaster/Palmdale, invisible from the nearest thoroughfare, Munz Ranch Road.

Undoubtedly the Castle & the beautiful landscape

have put indelible memories in the hearts of everyone who has visited or owned the property.



The 2002 USGS aerial photo depicted the runway at Sky Castle.



A 2005 aerial photo by Jon Karkow looking northeast at the Sky Castle runway,

with the Castle itself visible at the lower-right. 



Jon Karkow reported in 2005, "The property is being sold for subdivision into a housing development – typical story.

I have never seen an airplane use the runway, though it appears in good condition."



A circa 2006 aerial view looking east at the Sky Castle runway,

showing a board with a closed-runway “X” symbol which has been placed at each end of the runway.



A circa 2006 aerial view looking west at the Sky Castle runway,

showing the remains of the airfield segmented circle on the south side of the runway.



A May 2014 photo by Kurtis Clark looking west along the alignment of the Sky Castle runway.

Kurtis observed, “I could see a cement pad at the end of the runway with an 'X' on it.”



The site of Sky Castle is located northwest of the intersection of Munz Ranch Road & Fairmont Road.

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Quartz Hill Airport, Quartz Hill, CA

34.65 North / 118.2 West (West of Palmdale, CA)

Quartz Hill Airport, as seen in an 11/20/48 USGS aerial view.



Quartz Hill Airport was not yet listed among active airfields in the 1945 AAF Airfield Directory (courtesy of Scott Murdock).

This small general aviation airport reportedly opened in 1946.

However, it was not yet depicted at all on the February 1947 LA Sectional Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy).



According to Sandra Pike, Quartz Hill Airport was “started in the 1940s” by her dad & uncle, William "Lloyd" Pike & Fillmore A. "FA" Hoak.

They called it P&H Flying Service.

I have some memories of the airport and flying as a little girl.

My dad, Lloyd Pike was well known in the development of the Antelope Valley & its road system.

He trained many pilots in the area.”



The earliest photo which has been located of Quartz Hill Airport was an 11/20/48 USGS aerial view.

It depicted the field as having 2 unpaved runways, with 3 light aircraft & some small buildings on the west side of the field.



The earliest aeronautical chart depiction of Quartz Hill Airport which has been located

was on the February 1949 LA Sectional Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy).

It depicted the field as having a 2,700' unpaved runway.



A 1953 aerial view depicted Quartz Hill Airport as having 2 unpaved runways in an “X” shape.

A dozen light aircraft & small buildings were on the west side of the field.



The 1958 USGS topo map depicted Quartz Hill Airport as having 2 runways & 3 small buildings on the west side.



The 1962 AOPA Airport Directory described Quartz Hill Airport as having 2 gravel runways:

2,640' Runway 4/22 & 2,190' Runway 13/31.

It listed the operator as Antelope Valley Aeronautical.



The 1962 movie "The Skydivers" was apparently filmed at Quartz Hill Airport (according to Henry Krasker).



Louis Spencer recalled, “I flew my Stinson Voyager out of Quartz Hill airport 1963 through most of 1964.

I didn't know how great flying really was back then until I look back on it now 40+ years later.”



Brian Baker recalled a flight in 1963 or 1964, "At Quartz Hill, I recall landing on the dirt runways,

and remember taking off, that the runway did indeed have a noticeable dip in the center,

and I just barely cleared the trees at the end of the runway.

That's a loaded 65 hp. Luscombe on a hot summer day.

I also recall seeing an old Aeronca L in a hangar there,

and as I'm an avid aircraft photographer, I had him roll it out for me to photograph it.

I think he offered to trade me straight across for the Luscombe,

but since my Dad was an Aeronca dealer in Detroit before the war,

he told me that it was the worst airplane Aeronca ever built, so I declined."



Fred Austin recalled, “Quartz Hill... I had a Ryan PT22 in 1963/64 & spent a lot of time flying around the Lancaster-Palmdale-Mojave area.

There were a lot of little strips out there then. There was a fellow at Quartz Hill for a while that had a low wing Aeronca.

His name was Solberg. He was a nice guy I used to drop in & talk with him from time to time.

There was a kind of Quonset Hut hangar there buy the trees on the west end of the field. If it had a door at one time it was gone it would have faced south.

There was always plenty of sand & tumbleweeds in the hangar. I dropped by one day & Mr. Solberg had the airplane in the back of the hangar.

It was masked off with old newspapers & he was putting a paint job on it. That was the 1960's & things didn't have to be as perfect as they do today.

He told me he was going to make a trip back to the Midwest where he had some family & he wanted the ship to look good.”



Quartz Hill Airport , as depicted on the August 1964 LA Local Aeronautical Chart (courtesy of Donald Felton).

 

The Aerodromes table on the 1964 LA Sectional Chart (courtesy of John Voss)

described Quartz Hill Airport as having 2 gravel runways, with the longest being 2,640'.



A 1971 aerial view looking southwest at Quartz Hill Airport (courtesy of Dick Landgraff).



USGS topo map 1974.



The last photo that has been located of the Quartz Hills Airport was a 1974 aerial view.

It showed a total of 20 single-engine aircraft parked near a Quonset hut on the west side of the field.



Quartz Hill was still listed as a public-use airport in the 1977 Pilot's Guide to CA Airports (according to Chris Kennedy),

along with the note, "Caution: All runways slope downhill to mid-field."



Charles Roskam recalled, “While I was training for my commercial license in the late 1970s

I flew out of Quartz Hill Airport a number of times.

It was a privately-owned airport. A man named 'Doc' owned it. His is an interesting story.

He was a record producer in LA but got into the usual Hollywood lifestyle, fast women, drugs, etc.

He lost his family & much of his wealth because of his type of living.

He became a Christian, moved to Quartz Hill, bought the airport, and lived in a trailer on the field with his new wife.

He was a very intelligent guy & very personable.”



Jim Fitzgerald recalled, “I used to fly a Cessna 170 out of 'Quartz Hill International'

as we Lockheed Flight Testers used to refer to it.

More than once I would taxi into position & have to hold till the horse crowd cleared the runway.

I miss that place.”



By 1982, the status of Quartz Hill had changed to a private field,

as the remarks in the 1982 AOPA Airport Directory (courtesy of Ed Drury) said, "Private. Closed to public."

It described the field as having 2 dirt runways:

2,550' Runway 5/23 & 2,300' Runway 9/27.

It listed the operator as Antelope Valley Aeronautical.



According to Jon Karkow, "The area around the airport was - and still is - popular for riding horses.

It was common to have to buzz the strip to get the riders to move off of the runways!

A Mojave resident told me that one day his buzzing caused a horse to spook & throw its rider.

There was hell to pay after he had landed."

 

Karkow continued, "When I arrived in this area in 1986 there were at least a dozen airplanes there.

It closed that year due to the press of housing developments.

It was bounded by 40th Street West, 45th Street West, Avenue M, and Avenue L-8."



The 1994 USGS aerial photo showed that housing developments had been built

over the western & northeastern portions of the former airport property.



The southeastern half of the former southeast/northwest runway

was still recognizable in a circa 2001 aerial photo.



A 2003 photo by Jon Karkow looking northeast at the site of Quartz Hill Airport from the southwest corner of the property.

"The intersection of the runways was right in the center of the photo.

The hangars would have been on the far left of the shot where there are now houses.

There is a new housing development on the north side of the property.

None of the street names have an airport theme."



A 2003 photo by Jon Karkow looking north at the remains of the concrete run-up pad at the southwest corner of the airfield property.

"The airport had dirt runways. On the southeast & southwest ends of the airport

there were concrete run-up pads with asphalt transitions.

These were the only remaining traces of the airport that I could find."



A 2004 photo by Don Hyneman taken from the top of the Avenue M hill looking to the northeast over what was the site of Quartz Hill Airport.



A circa 2005 aerial photo of what appears to be the only remaining trace of the former Quartz Hill Airport

a concrete run-up pad at the southwest corner of the airfield property.



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War Eagle Field / Lancaster Airpark, Lancaster, CA

34.7 North / 118.23 West (Northwest of Palmdale, CA)

A 1941-42 photo of Wilfred Munsch & other cadets & instructors in front of a Stearman at War Eagle Field

(courtesy of Rick Munsch, whose father Wilfred was an RAF cadet at War Eagle).



War Eagle Field in Lancaster is not to be confused

with another airfield by the same name in Dos Palos, 175 miles to the northwest.

 

War Eagle Field was the site of a contract flying school, Polaris Flight Academy,

which was one of 4 schools operated by the Cal-Aero Flight Academy,

headquartered at Glendale's Grand Central Air Terminal.

The civilian schools were contracted by the US & foreign militaries to provide flight training for military cadets.

 

War Eagle Field opened in 1941.

It initially provided training to British & Canadian cadets.



Al Shaver recalled, “During 1941 & 1942 I was an instructor at War Eagle Field teaching RAF cadets.”



A 1941-42 aerial photo of Wilfred Munsch of buildings at War Eagle Field (courtesy of Rick Munsch).



A January 1942 aerial view looking south at War Eagle Field

(courtesy of Jeremy Davies, whose father attended training at the Polaris Flight Academy with the RAF).



In 1942, following the United States' entry into the war, it also began the training of USAAF cadets.

The War Eagle Flight Academy became at the time the only civilian school in the US to handle basic training of Army pilots.

 

Upon accepting the new role, construction commenced to double the size of the base.

 

The airfield at War Eagle Field was centered around 2 large hangars at the northwest end of the site.

A 2,400' long ramp just south of the hangars was oriented northeast/southwest,

and the two 2,400' runways extended to the east & south away from the ramp.



An undated view of the tower at War Eagle Field (courtesy of Dan MacPherson).

 

A 1942 view of the control tower through the wings of a Stearman trainer (courtesy of Dan MacPherson).

 

Every 4 & one-half weeks a new group of US pilots would arrive at Lancaster to commence their basic training.

After completing their course here, they were sent to Army Advance Training posts

where upon completion of their advance course they received their wings & commission.

The Vultee BT-13 was the predominant trainer aircraft used at War Eagle Field.



A WW2-era view of a hangar at War Eagle Field's Polaris Flight Academy.

 

A circa 1942 “Gold Star Merit Award” presented to RAF Cadet Wilfred Munsch

for having completed flight training without an accident at War Eagle Field (courtesy of Rick Munsch).



A WW2 era photo of a Vultee BT-13 in front of a Polaris Academy hangar at War Eagle Field.



A WW2 era photo of a cadets getting into a PT-17 at War Eagle Field (courtesy of John Voss).

John Voss observed, “It’s a PT-17 used by the RAF cadets with the fuselage code letter of 'BL' signifying British Lancaster.”



Vultee trainers on the flightline at War Eagle Field during WW2.

 

LT George Wood Mears, in front of a Vultee BT-13 at War Eagle Field during WW2.

 

A 1942 photo of War Eagle's Administration Building (courtesy of Dan MacPherson).



Bruce Stanton reported, “My father, Jay Stanton, was a Flight Instructor at the Polaris Flight Academy throughout most of WWII.”



A 7/22/43 aerial view looking west from the 1945 AAF Airfield Directory (courtesy of Scott Murdock)

depicted War Eagle Field as having 2 paved runways.



In 1944, the name of the Polaris Flight Academy was changed to Mira Loma Flight Academy.



The 1944 US Army/Navy Directory of Airfields (courtesy of Ken Mercer)

described "War Eagle, Army" as having a 3,100' runway.

 

Two smaller auxiliary landing fields were associated with War Eagle Field during WW2:

Liberty Field (located 8 miles northeast of War Eagle Field),

and Victory Field (located 6 miles northwest of War Eagle Field).



In an article in AOPA Pilot Magazine, Duane Cole described meeting famous test pilot Tony LeVier at War Eagle Field:

I never had the opportunity to meet him until 1942, at War Eagle Field, where I was instructing military cadets.

By that time I knew he had gone to work for the Lockheed Aircraft Company,

and I'd heard of his mastery over the P-38, which started life with a tarnished reputation.

The new, unconventional twin-engine fighter had received bad press from several fatal crashes,

including the one that took the life of movie star Joe E. Brown's son.

To overcome its bad publicity, Tony had brought a P-38 to War Eagle Field

to demonstrate its capabilities to the cadets at a graduation ceremony,

and to assure them that there was nothing dangerous about the airplane when flown by well-trained pilots.

Having never seen him fly, I was completely amazed by his low-level spins;

single-engine rolls, both left & right, on first one engine then the other;

loops; Cuban eights; and all the other maneuvers the cadets had learned in their basic training.

Landing after his superb exhibition, Tony was surrounded by admirers & old friends.”



Duane continued, “Tony visited War Eagle Field on several occasions after that,

but none of them was more sensational than the visit he made in 1944.

I was in the office of Hank Reynolds, civilian director of the field, discussing my new job as the school's test pilot,

when suddenly, going faster than anything we had ever seen, an airplane made a low-level pass down the runway.

By the time we had burst through the door, the airplane had climbed to about 3,000 feet.

From there the pilot peeled off & buzzed the field in the other direction.

It was Tony in the new Lockheed XP-80 jet, the first time anyone on the field had ever seen it.

When I got home that evening, my wife, Judy, and her mother, who was visiting from Illinois,

began excitedly telling me about the super-fast airplane that had passed over our house.

We lived on Quartz Hill, only 3 or 4 miles from the field.

Judy's mother called it a 'zip'. When I asked her why, she said, 'We saw it coming & then zip, it was gone.'”



The 1945 AAF Airfield Directory (courtesy of Scott Murdock) described War Eagle Field

as a 640 acre square-shaped property having 2 bituminous runways, measuring 3,100' northeast/southwest & 2,950' east/west.

The field was said to have a total of 3 wood & metal hangars, the largest being a pair of 200' x 100' structures.

War Eagle Field was said to be owned by the Defense Plant Corporation, and operated by private interests.

It was said to have 2 auxiliary fields: #1 Liberty Field, and #2 Victory Field.



The Mira Loma Flight Academy at War Eagle Field was closed in 1945 with the end of World War II,

but the airfield itself at War Eagle Field apparently remained in operation for a few more years.



War Eagle Field was still depicted as an active auxiliary airfield

on the February 1947 LA Sectional Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy).



An 11/20/48 USGS aerial view showed a C-47 & 3 smaller single-engine aircraft on the ramp at War Eagle Field.



At some point between 1947-49, War Eagle Field was evidently renamed Lancaster Airpark,

as that is how it was labeled on the February 1949 LA Sectional Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy).

It was depicted as having a 3,300' hard surface runway.



A circa early 1950s aerial view looking southeast at War Eagle Field (courtesy of Jim Walker).

Note that the facility had already began to be converted for use as a prison (or was already in use as such),

as there were about a half dozen guard towers around the perimeter, with one in the center.

However, it was apparently still in use as an airfield, as there is a C-47 on the ramp at the right,

and one single-engine trainer in between the 2 large hangars.

Also note that the 1st two letters of the airfield name on the roof of the hangars had been painted out,

changing it from "War Eagle Field" to "Reagle Field" - ???



The 1951 USGS topo map depicted the hangars & buildings of “War Eagle Airfield”,

but did not depict any runways or other airfield area.



A 1953 aerial photo depicted that the War Eagle airfield remained intact,

but there were no aircraft visible on the field.



The 1953 Flight Chart (courtesy of Scott O'Donnell)

once again labeled the field as "War Eagle", but it was described as "Emergency only".

It was described as having a 3,300' runway.



The buildings at War Eagle apparently sat idle until 1954,

when the LA County Sheriff's Department & Department of Hospitals

opened the Mira Loma Custody Facility at the site, for inmates with tuberculosis.



The September 1954 LA Sectional Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy)

continued to depict War Eagle Field as available for "Emergency only".

The "Institution" was already depicted,

but apparently the airfield continued to coexist (at least for a short period of time) with the custody facility.

 

The airfield at War Eagle Field was evidently closed by 1964,

as it was no longer depicted at all on the 1964 LA Sectional Chart (courtesy of John Voss).



A 1974 aerial view did not show any signs of aviation use of the property.

 

Some of the original layout of the airfield at War Eagle Field

was still apparent as depicted on a 1978 map (courtesy of Dan MacPherson).

 

The tuberculosis facility at the former War Eagle Field closed in 1979.

In 1983, the facility re-opened due to jail overcrowding & expanded in 1986 to include female inmates.

 

The Mira Loma Custody Facility closed in 1993 due to County budget cuts.



Ironically, this former WW2-era airfield gained another active aviation use at some point prior to 1994,

even after being converted largely to a prison -

a single helipad (fenced-in) was depicted on the northeast corner in the 1994 USGS aerial photo.



The Mira Loma Custody Facility was re-opened in 1997,

to house INS detainees awaiting deportation hearings.

 

A 1997 aerial view by Dan MacPherson looking north at the WW2-era buildings at Mira Loma.

 

 

Two circa 1997 photos by Dan MacPherson of the former control tower of War Eagle Field,

now behind the fence of the Mira Loma Detention Center.

 

A circa 1997 photo by Dan MacPherson of the former Base Administration Building.



A circa 1997 photo by Dan MacPherson of the apparent remains of runway lighting, hidden in some brush near the airport.

They are triangular concrete bases with a fixture (electrical) that looks like it held a light bulb.

 

A circa 1997 photo by Dan MacPherson of the remains of the wind tetrahedron mount.

Not visible in the photo is the huge circle of rocks around this thing, still painted white after 60 years.

 

A circa 2001 aerial photo of the site. The WW2-era airfield buildings are in the northwest corner.

 

As of 2002, the former War Eagle Field was known as the Mira Loma Detention Center.

Two still intact hangars are still in use, as well as other WW2-era buildings.

On the roof of one of the hangars, the name "War Eagle" is still faintly perceptible.

 

Tim Tyler visited the site of War Eagle Field in 2003,

and he reported that it is "Now a series of detention facilities -

Challenger Memorial Youth Center on north side center,

with LA County Animal Care & Control shelter in front of it.

LA County’s Mira Loma Detention Center is on the northwest side,

and California State Prison LA County is on the entire south side.

Several old hangars & warehouse type buildings are now on the northwest section of the field,

some used by the Mira Loma Detention Center,

and some other potential War Eagle Field-era buildings are occupied by the 'High Desert Hospital'.

which is a former 170 bed hospital, now just an outpatient clinic, for ‘indigent’ people,

the North County Center for Vulnerable Families,

and Antelope Valley Service Planning Area 1 Public Health Administrative Office for LA County Health Services."



A circa 2005 aerial photo looking north at the helipad on the northeast corner of the Mira Loma facility,

with a single small hangar, and a single MD-500 helicopter on the pad.

 

The site of War Eagle Field is located southeast of the intersection of West Avenue I & 60th Street West.

The property is labeled "High Desert Hospital" on recent road maps.

 

See also: http://www.av.qnet.com/~carcomm/wreck19.htm

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Victorville AAF Auxiliary #3 / El Mirage Airport (99CL), CA

34.62 North / 117.61 West (East of Palmdale, CA)

A 7/25/43 aerial view looking north at “Victorville AAF Auxiliary #3 (Mirage Field)”

from the 1945 AAF Airfield Directory (courtesy of Scott Murdock).



This airfield operated starting in 1942 as a satellite field for Victorville AAF (later renamed George AFB),

which participated in the 30,000 Pilot Training Program & later became a bombardier school.



The earliest depiction which has been located of this field

was a 7/25/43 aerial view from the 1945 AAF Airfield Directory (courtesy of Scott Murdock).

It depicted “Victorville AAF Auxiliary #3 (Mirage Field)” as having 4 paved runways.



The earliest aeronautical chart depiction which has been located of this field

was on the 1944 LA Sectional Chart (courtesy of John Voss).

It was depicted as "Mirage #3".



The 1944 US Army/Navy Directory of Airfields (courtesy of Ken Mercer)

described "Mirage Aux. #3, Army" as having a 3,700' hard-surface runway,

and the remarks included, "Auxiliary to Victorville AAF."



The 1945 AAF Airfield Directory (courtesy of Scott Murdock) described “Victorville AAF Auxiliary #3 (Mirage Field)”

as a 640 acre square-shaped property having 4 bituminous runways, the longest being the north/south, ENE/WSW, and WNW/ESE 3,653' strips.

The field was not said to have any hangars, to be owned by the U.S. Government, and operated by the Army Air Forces.



“Mirage #3”, as depicted on the 1945 Mojave AAF Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy).



El Mirage served as a satellite field for Victorville AAF until the end of WW2.



A 6/1/52 USGS aerial view appeared to show the El Mirage Airfield in an abandoned state.



After WW2, the field was reused as a civil airfield.

Sailplane pilot Bill Berle reported that "I believe Gus Briegleb bought it as war surplus & started training in gliders in the 1950s."



El Mirage was depicted as a civil airport on the 1960 LA Sectional Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy).

It was described as having a 3,700' hard-surface runway.



Joe Kohler recalled, “One day after work [circa 1966-74] I drove from Grey Butte to El Mirage Airport

and had my first instruction in a Schweizer TG-32 sale plane.

During my sailplane training the instructor cut loose from the tow plane at about 1,000' AGL & said 'OK, what do you do now?'

I landed on El Mirage Dry Lake, proud that I passed a critical test on my way to soloing.

The instructor got out & hooked us back up to the tow rope & when the Fairchild PT-23 gunned his motor to begin the takeoff roll,

a cloud of alkali dust blew up & totally obscured any vision I had from the front seat of the 1947 Schweizer TG-32.

After what seemed like an hour the sailplane got out of the dusty ground effect & I finished the training for the day.

I eventually soloed at El Mirage in a Schweizer 1-26.”



A 1968 aerial view depicted El Mirage Airport in its original (WW2) configuration, with 4 paved runways.



A closeup from the 1968 aerial view, showing gliders & other general aviation aircraft parked on the southwest side of El Mirage Airport.



The 1968 USGS topo map depicted El Mirage Field as having 4 paved runways.



An undated logo of the El Mirage Soaring Center.



In Bill Berle's words, "Although many of the abandoned airfields have interesting histories,

El Mirage is a standout by any measure.

It was one of the greatest soaring sites in the USA,

home to many regional & national competitions.

A particular local weather phenomenon (the El Mirage "shear line"),

added to the already great high desert soaring conditions,

made it a launching point for many speed & distance records.

Gus Briegleb.... reportedly bought, disassembled, and reassembled on his property the old Pancho Barnes hangar.

El Mirage was another "home away from home" for many Edwards AFB test pilots interested in soaring,

including the ornery but brilliant chief of NACA Paul Bikle."



The cover of the evocative 1977 film “El Mirage” by Christopher Woods (courtesy of Collin Gyenes).

According to the film, “In 1976, Chris Woods, then a student at the California Institute of the Fine Arts Film School,

made this short documentary during the 43rd US Unlimited Class Soaring Nationals held at the storied El Mirage Glider Port in California's Mojave Desert.

The nostalgic images in this film have become a time capsule from one of the greatest soaring sites in America that ceased operations in the mid-1980s.”



An aerial view looking southeast at El Mirage from a glider, from the 1977 film “El Mirage” by Christopher Woods (courtesy of Collin Gyenes).



A glider landing at El Mirage, from the 1977 film “El Mirage” by Christopher Woods (courtesy of Collin Gyenes).



Bill Berle reported that El Mirage remained active on one level or another as a sailplane training facility until late 1984 or early 1985,

when it was leased to General Atomics as their unmanned air vehicle flight test center.



A 2000 aerial view 2000 showed that General Atomics repaved the east/west runway with asphalt at some point between 1968-2000,

and built a new complex of hangars with an asphalt ramp south of the middle of the east/west runway.



Recent aerial view looking west along El Mirage's runway.



For unknown reasons, General Atomics shifted their flight test operations in 2001 to Grey Butte.

Berle reported that El Mirage has returned to the control of the Briegleb family,

and they are trying to develop it as an airpark or some other civil use.

El Mirage Airport was listed in 2002 as for sale.



El Mirage was still listed (as of 2002) as an active private airfield.



It appears as if El Mirage was still being used by General Atomics as of 2003,

as a 2003 NASA photo showed a General Atomics Altair unmanned aerial vehicle on an El Mirage runway.



A 2003 photo by Tim Tyler of the hangars & buildings at the El Mirage airfield.

Time reported, “The access road off of El Mirage Road is called El Mirage Airport Road,

but the airfield area is now private property & called 'El Mirage Flight Test Facility',

with an 'Aeronautical Systems' sign up on the fence next to the gate,

which has a staffed guard shack just inside it.

The facility was about a third of a mile in to the north from the gate, on the edge of the dry lake.

I saw a large hangar, smaller hangar, and then around a dozen office trailers on site.

Top part of a mesh SATCOM or RADAR dish seen on the far side of the smaller hangar,

and a small, olive-drab or dark gray Nike LOPAR type radar unit on a trailer.

Off in the distance on a ridgeline on the far north side of the dry lake

I could see a small white structure that seemed to have one or two radomes visible.

It may or may not have anything to do with the aircraft RDT&E site."



A 2003 photo by Tim Tyler of the remains of several Boeing airliners (707, 727, 747) at Aviation Warehouse.

Tim reported, "Just prior to Aeronautical Systems El Mirage Flight Test Facility gate

is Aviation Warehouse, Inc. & Thomson’s Aviation Manuals.

It’s basically an aircraft junkyard, with all sorts of civil airliner & private aircraft fuselages,

plus some parts of fighter aircraft in compounds on both sides of the road.

Mark Thomson, the owner, has a tidy business selling or leasing out fuselages

to movie producers who will use them for interior or exterior scenes,

especially if the script calls for the aircraft to be damaged or destroyed.

They provided the fuselage for the recent movie ‘SWAT’,

and some of the C-123 stuff used in ‘Con Air’, for example.

Fuselages are trucked up to Hollywood for filming.

He also has a large collection of aircraft manuals available for sale."



A 2003 photo by Tim Tyler of the forward fuselage of a Navy/USMC F-4 Phantom

(specific model undetermined) at Aviation Warehouse.

 

A 2003 photo by Tim Tyler of the fuselage of a Sikorsky S-61

(painted in "Aeroflot" colors, presumably for TV/movie work) at Aviation Warehouse.

 

A 2003 photo by Tim Tyler of the fuselage of a Sikorsky S-61

(painted in "RAF Rescue" colors, presumably for TV/movie work) at Aviation Warehouse.

 

A 2003 photo by Tim Tyler of the cockpit of a vintage DC-3 airliner at Aviation Warehouse.

 

A 2003 photo by Tim Tyler of a rare British Hunting Percival Pembroke at Aviation Warehouse.



A 2003 aerial view of the Aviation Warehouse boneyard at El Mirage, © 2003 by Andy Martin (used by permission).



Aviation Warehouse specializes in providing aviation-related props for films.

This company has an estimated 100+ fuselage sections of aircraft, both civil & military.

The majority of the sections are from light aircraft but there are some other interesting examples, including:

Jetstar, B737, Sikorsky S64, DC-8, DC-3, UH-1, DC-130, F-4C, A-4A, CH-3E, Mi-24 Hind, P-2H, CH-21, and DC-6/7.



A 2003 photo by Tim Tyler of foundations which remain southwest of El Mirage.

Tim observed, "Southwest of the area, off El Mirage Road are several very old concrete foundations around a now empty field.

It may be the remains of barracks or other support structures for the former Auxiliary Airfield,

but they’re set back about 1.5 miles northeast of where I assume the field was."



A 1/19/14 photo by Kurtis Clark of a Soviet Mil Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter at El Mirage Aviation Warehouse.



A 1/19/14 photo by Kurtis Clark of a Learjet mounted on a trailer as if in flight at El Mirage Aviation Warehouse.



A 1/19/14 photo by Kurtis Clark of a mockup constructed for a movie of a fictional “Ferris Aircraft” stealth drone at El Mirage Aviation Warehouse.



Sailplane pilot Bill Berle wrote a beautiful poem about El Mirage Airfield:

"REQUIEM FOR AN AIRFIELD

Bill Berle 8-11-84

 

Gone is the panic - the struggle in which it was born

Gone are the machines & the men

and though it lives on in a peaceful time

it slowly fights a losing battle for life

Without a sound

Stand on the fading, dying runways - walk among the dead metal bones

and you become very sad

A thousand ghosts are making plans to fight

a war only remembered

 

The creaking wood of buildings has somehow remained

against the forces bent on erasing their existence

Their doors & rafters cry for help

to the trees & the ears of those who do not listen - the end is near

 

Yet this place has only yesterday breathed of life

of the sights & sounds that made it special

A new era brought new machines, but the same breed of souls

and ironically it once again did as it was born to do

making pilots out of men

 

It sparkled with the love & reverence it deserved

and they came here, to challenge the sky

and ride the razor edge of sanity

in machines that whispered back at the ghosts

 

But now again it lies dying

not of age & wind, but loneliness

The world incessantly gnaws at its border

and the souls who care cannot look without tears

 

But I have been here, to this magic place

before it is ended

I have felt the emotion of its spirit, and mine has become stronger

It has given me a gift, and let me learn

and it can therefore never die . . . but

if only El Mirage could talk"

____________________________________________________

 

Grey Butte Auxiliary Army Airfield #4 / Grey Butte Airport , Southwest of El Mirage, CA

34.56 North / 117.67 West (East of Palmdale, CA)

A 7/25/43 aerial view looking north at “Victorville AAF Auxiliary #4 (Grey Butte Field)”

from the 1945 AAF Airfield Directory (courtesy of Scott Murdock).



This field started operations in 1942 as a satellite field for Victorville AAF,

which participated in the 30,000 Pilot Training Program & later became a bombardier school.



The earliest depiction which has been located of this field

was a 7/25/43 aerial view from the 1945 AAF Airfield Directory (courtesy of Scott Murdock).

It depicted “Victorville AAF Auxiliary #4 (Grey Butte Field)” as having 4 paved runways.



The earliest aeronautical chart depiction of the field which has been located

was on the 1944 LA Sectional Chart (courtesy of John Voss),

which depicted it as "Grey Butte #4".

 

The 1944 US Army/Navy Directory of Airfields (courtesy of Ken Mercer)

described "Grey Butte Aux. #4, Army" as having a 3,700' hard-surface runway,

and the remarks included, "Auxiliary to Victorville AAF."



Grey Butte was used by Marine aircrews from Mojave MCAS during 1944-45 for carrier landing practice,

during which time several Marine planes crashed.



The 1945 AAF Airfield Directory (courtesy of Scott Murdock) described “Victorville AAF Auxiliary #4 (Grey Butte Field)”

as a 640 acre square-shaped property having 4 bituminous runways, the longest being the north/south, ENE/WSW, and WNW/ESE 3,653' strips.

The field was not said to have any hangars, to be owned by the U.S. Government, and operated by the Army Air Forces.



Grey Butte Airfield, as depicted on the 1964 LA Sectional Chart.



Grey Butte was abandoned by the military at some point between 1945-50.

 

After WW2, the field was reused for at least some period as a civil airfield.

Grey Butte was depicted as an active civil field on the 1950 LA Chart (according to Bob Cannon).



The earliest photo that has been located of the Grey Butte airfield was a 1953 aerial photo.

It depicted the field in its original configuration, with 4 paved runways.

There was no sign of any current usage.



The 1956 USGS topo map depicted “Gray Butte Field (Abandoned)” as having 4 paved runways.



A 1959 aerial view showed the field in an unchanged configuration.



The Grey Butte airfield was evidently closed at some point between 1950-60,

as it was depicted as "Abandoned airport" on the 1960 LA Sectional Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy).



Tom Pinard recalled, “In 1961-63, Grey Butte was home to a 'borate' air tanker operation.

Two pilots & a mechanic were based out of Grey Butte, living in Wrightwood.

I published & edited the weekly newspaper in Wrightwood. I did a feature story on our borate pilots.

They flew a TBM off Grey Butte's runways; they had a water reservoir that was fashioned in a long trench.

The guys, with nothing to do while waiting for a fire alert, actually figured out how to water-ski down the long trench, pulled by an old station wagon.

Al Adolph & Harry Bernier were the pilots.”



Grey Butte was once again depicted as an active civil airfield on the 1964 LA Sectional Chart.

The Aerodromes table on the chart described the field as having 3 runways,

with the longest being a 3,740' bituminous strip.

 

Grey Butte was still depicted as an active airfield on the 1965 LA Local Area aeronautical chart (courtesy of John Voss).



At some point before 1968, the distinctive pattern of runways of the WW2-era Army airfield

were reused by McDonnell Douglas as an aircraft radar cross section testing range.

It is the oldest of the Mojave Desert RCS ranges.



Joe Kohler recalled, “I went to work for Douglas Aircraft Company in Santa Monica.

The Microwave Lab section in Santa Monica had a respectable indoor anechoic chamber.

At the same time the Microwave Lab had an outdoor radar test range on Rosamond Dry Lake courtesy of the USAF.

As the importance of radar cross-section data began to grow,

the Douglas management decided to move to a site that was a little more weather proof & could be under 100% Douglas control.

Grey Butte Airport was the place.

I worked for Douglas from 1966-74 & spent a number of years stationed at the Grey Butte site as an antenna (and RCS) test engineer.

The pictures have brought back fond memories of my early engineering days

as well as a stoic reminder of the extent this country went to during the Cold War to protect ourselves.”

After getting a power [pilots] license, I flew to work at Grey Butte a couple of times.”



A 1968 aerial photo showed that radar cross-section testing gear had been erected

on the runway intersection on the west side of the field at some point between 1953-68,

and each end of the runways had been painted with a closed “X” symbol.



The Grey Butte airfield was labeled "Abandoned" on the September 1971 USAF Tactical Pilotage Chart (courtesy of Chris Kennedy).



A 1974 aerial view showed that the scope of the radar cross-section testing gear on the west side of the airfield

had increased somewhat compared to the 1968 photo.



The Grey Butte radar cross-section testing range was used in 1975

to test a full-scale model of the Lockheed F-117 Stealth Fighter.



A circa late 1990s aerial view looking south at Grey Butte.

"No Trespassing - Unsafe For Landing" painted 5 times along the former runways -

they really want you to get the message!



The RCS range was shut down in the late 1990s.

Control of the site passed to General Atomics in mid 2001,

which also operates unmanned aerial vehicle flight testing operations from nearby El Mirage.



Tim Tyler visited Grey Butte in 2003, and reported that it is "Now another [General Atomics] Aeronautical Systems site.

I pulled right up to the gate & got out of the car to talk to the guard.

The guard explained the site was a McDonnell Douglas test facility,

but it was now used by General Atomics for RQ-1A (the new ‘B’ version Predator) research, design, testing & evaluation.

He also volunteered that General Atomics Aeronautical Systems operates the former El Mirage Dry Lake site,

though I failed to ask why General Atomics is using 2 similar sites, only about 10 miles apart.

He advised that there weren’t any structures left from the Army Auxiliary Airfield days,

but that there apparently were some 'pits' far back on the property that may have had something to do with bombs.

Predators fly out of the site on pretty much a daily basis -

one had just been up a few hours prior to my arrival,

and they often will fly over the El Mirage Dry Lake."



A circa 2005 aerial view looking west at the buildings at the west end of the Grey Butte airfield.

The gantry previously used for radar cross section testing is at the left.

The other buildings appear to be hangars, used for UAV flight operations.



A circa 2005 aerial view looking east at the remains of a radar cross section testing pylon mounting,

on the east end of the former east/west runway at Grey Butte.



A 6/14/11 aerial view looking northwest at Grey Butte,

showing the modern east/west runway laid over the remains of the WW2 airfield.



Thanks to Walt Witherspoon for information about Grey Butte.



____________________________________________________