Stepping Back in Time for Lunch

Flabob (KRIR) is like stepping back in time. It’s a small un-towered airport just north of the Riverside airport. My first time there was during my primary training in a Cherokee and I couldn’t believe how small the runway was. It was the shortest, narrowest runway I had landed on….

Written by
Richard Brown
Published on
4 May 2024

Flabob (KRIR) is like stepping back in time. It’s a small un-towered airport just north of the Riverside airport. My first time there was during my primary training in a Cherokee and I couldn’t believe how small the runway was. It was the shortest, narrowest runway I had landed on. We’ve been back twelve times since then, once in our friend’s Moose, and loved all of them.

The initial plan for the day was for me to fly to Kern Valley to meet up with a group from Redlands that does monthly fly-ins to different airports in Southern California. My wife was going to meet up with her best friend from High School for lunch while I was gone. Those plans changed with the marine layer that was making an early May Gray appearance.

I had filed an IFR plan to get up through the layer, but the fly-in was postponed to the next weekend when the weather would be nicer.

When I told my wife the fly-in was cancelled she asked about taking her friend flying somewhere to get some lunch. She texted her friend about a change of plans and I went to the airport ahead of time to get the plane ready.

Ceilings at Fullerton were broken at 2,500′ and overcast at 4,000′. We climbed up to 2,000′ initially and headed east through the hazy sky. Off the right wing, 17 miles to the southwest, we could barely make out the coastline.

Further to the east, passing Chino Hills, the broken layer gave way to a solid overcast at 3,800′. I called up Riverside tower to transition through their airspace and it was approved at 2,300′ so we climbed the 300′ and proceeded over the airport. Their traffic pattern is at 1,800′ and he wanted that 500′ buffer.

The Tower usually gives a descent, “Altitude your discretion” once you pass the field because their patten is on the south side and descending to the north doesn’t cause any conflicts. Today was not typical, and I eventually had to ask for lower, I think I wasn’t top of mind with all the other traffic he was working. 

I pulled power back, switched frequencies and announced our position. Less than two miles from the airport I needed to lose 500′ to get to pattern altitude. When I flew into Flabob in the slow Cherokee we would turn base before getting to Mt Rubidoux, but in the Mooney I like to take the base leg on the east side of the hill. 

We were the only plane in the pattern and landed, then shut down in front of the Flabob Airport Cafe. On a sunny day, it is a busy place, but today we were the only ones there.

Lunch was great, it always is there, and we went back out to the plane for the flight back. Taxiing back to depart we passed three DC-3’s and an F-106 Delta Dart in the early stages of a restoration project. Without the nose cone and wingtips I had to look it up to see what it was, but the intakes gave it away.

There’s only a one mile radius carved out of Riverside’s airspace for Flabob so if you want to transit it, there’s limited time to contact tower. Essentially as soon as you turn crosswind you need to make the call. Sometimes it works, but when the tower is busy, all bets are off. This was one of those busy days.

I switched frequencies and it was non-stop, no space to jump in with a request. Instead, I turned downwind to prevent busting the airspace and we continued a climb up to 2,500′ heading east.

We continued to monitor the Tower frequency but by the time there was a break we were already heading southwest around Riverside’s airspace and opted to just continue the loop to the south, passing over the citrus groves of the California Citrus State Historic Park.

What would have been almost one hour of driving each way was done in 20 minutes on the way there  and 21 minutes on the way back. 

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