The torrential rains that pelted southern California the second week of January turned Corona Municipal Airport (AJO) near Los Angeles into a lake. While those waters have receded, the airport remains closed indefinitely.
As early as Sunday, Jan. 9, airport tenants and business owners began to move their belongings to higher ground. One of those business owners was Josh Solis, who had a composite shop on the west side of the field. Sunday evening his friends began moving items into the loft of the hangar. Solis, who joined them on Monday, thought his property would be safe in the loft.
“But by the peak of the flood, my entire hangar was underwater,” he said. “That’s like a 25-foot high hangar. I lost everything.”
A few of the 450 airplanes based at the field were able to fly out after pilots signed a waiver with the city because by Monday part of the runway was underwater. More aircraft were relocated to the transient ramp on the east. Another 200 aircraft were moved onto streets near the airport where the water could not reach them. To do that, the gates that block the airport entrance had to be removed.
Three aircraft were trapped by the rising water. Local television stations showed footage of a low-wing aircraft up to its windscreen in water.
Although the water is receding, most of the tenants haven’t been able to return to their hangars because they can’t get through the mud.
The exception is Aircraft Spruce, one of aviation’s oldest aircraft and pilot supply companies, which is based at the airport. The business is located on high ground and became a repository for aircraft and other personal items. “We had people parking their airplanes in our parking lot and, in our hangar, we have a 3/4-scale Mustang,” notes Jennifer Silvey, Aircraft Spruce’s marketing director, who added it’s business as usual for the company.
According to a statement released by the city of Corona, it will be several weeks — perhaps even months — before the airport is open again. The flood waters deposited a great deal of trash and debris on the runway. City engineers have to determine if there is structural damage to the airport surfaces, as well as to the buildings, before they open the airport to the public.