I grew up in Chico and was quite active in drag racing back in the 60's.
The drags at the Vina mat were pretty much a local affair and not a whole
lot to get excited about and they were poorly organized and operated
honestly. Probably the best I could say for them is that they got the street
racers off the streets for awhile. We ran there once and never went back
unfortunately. The Redding drag strip was a much more active track.
I think you have your mats confused. The Vina mat and the Oroville mat and
Orland mat that were around the Chico Army Air base were never covered with
steel landing mats. They all were asphalt and still are today or what is
left of them. I would love to have seen a drag strip on steel mats...that
would have been a hoot!!!
The mats you are referring to were just big, flat hunks of asphalt. The
landing mats you refer to were more likely used for quick and dirty WWII
airfields in the pacific where sandy islands had to be made into airstrips
quickly and couldn't be paved or maintained. My Dad flew P-38 in that
theatre towards the end of the war and flew off a couple of those which he
said would rattle your bones loose. He said they were slippery but the sand
would wick up through the holes and increase traction and keep you from
sliding off into the sand in a cross wind landing.
As a counterpoise, if you could find a series of those still hooked
together, assuming there was some continuity between the panels, I bet it
would work great. We have some out at the Chico Air Museum and I think they
are maybe 10' long by 1.5' wide or so and very heavy. Steel isn't the best
conductor but it should be a great ground plane if nothing else. I use a
700' long run of chain link fence as a counterpoise for a Butternut vertical
with an elevated feed point and it plays VERY well. Thanks for the
Date: Fri, 6 Aug 2010 13:59:16 -0400 (EDT)
From: "email@example.com" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: [TowerTalk] WW II Aircraft Landing Mats as a counterpoise
I was recently looking up some old drag-racing info about a dragstrip in
the "Vina Raceway" near Chico, CA. I just obtained an old 1968 issue of
drag racing magazine, which had a feature article about this Vina Raceway
which was in operation from 1963 to 1968. I was not able to attend any races
there, but I remembered
seeing the advertisement posters posted on phone poles all over downtown,
for an upcoming Sunday afternoon
drag race at Vina Raceway in either 1965 or 1966, while I was still in high
school in Southern Oregon.
Some of my friends went down to the race, and told me that there was a very
good turnout from our town, which was probably a four or five hour drive
away. The big turnout was probably due to all the advance advertising that
had been done in various Southern Oregon/Northern California towns.
Many years later (1980's), I learned to fly in northern California. While
looking at the
San Francisco area sectional map for visual navigation, I noticed near Chico
that there was
a place called "Vina Mat." Seeing that on the map reminded me about the drag
races back in
the 60's at Vina Raceway, and I did some research on the 'net to see if I
could find any
info about it. Since that area in northern California is a major
agricultural area, I guessed
that a "mat" must be something to do with grain that was being loaded and
transported to other areas.
I had no idea what a "mat" was, until I did some more searching. I found out
that a mat ("landing
mat") is a large grouping of metal (usually steel) plates tied together, in
that can be installed as a big, solid surface for aircraft landing and
takeoff. I also found
that many of these "landing mats" were installed around the country, as well
especially in the World War II era, as auxiliary airfields and airfields
that needed to
be built on short notice. Large areas of land could be covered by these
steel mats by an
installation crew in a short time. Some of the completed mats were square,
and some were in yet other configurations. Some mats were simply hooked
together, some were
bolted together, and some were even welded together.
The Vina Mat was a typical, large (3100 feet rectangular) landing mat near
(north of Sacramento). The National Archives depicted the field as "Chico
Airfield #3" - there were five satellite airfields used by Chico Army
Airfield, which was 11 miles to
the southeast. It was built by the military during WW II, and was used to
train fighter and bomber
pilots. It was a rectangular, paved landing mat, and the rectangular shape
of the mats
permitted aircraft to land land in any direction, eliminating the
possibility of a crosswind.
Some airport guides still list this as a private airport, and it's now
"Deer Creek Ranch Airport (CA60), Vina, CA".
The reason I bring all of this up about the steel landing mat system, is
that it appears that there may still be
many of them around the country. I'd be curious to know if any hams ever
bought one of these properties where
the metal mats are still in place, and if anyone ever attempted to use it as
a counterpoise for an HF vertical array. It seems like a nearly solid, 3000'
X 3000' steel plate mesh all tied together would be
a great "radial" system for big vertical arrays.
Did anyone ever try operating HF mobile, with the car parked on top of one
of these mats? It just sounded like something that would be fun to try.
You'd have a difficult (and expensive!) project laying down a radial field
like one of these old landing mat systems!
Listed below are some of the articles about Vina and other nearby landing
mat airfields, landing mat
system development and history, and a landing mat manufacturer/dealer. Some
of them have excellent
photos of "now and then" views of a few of the airfields.
The Chico, CA AAF (Aux Army Airfield) #3 (later called "Vina Mat") is
described in the
web site "Abandoned and Little-Known Airfields: Northeastern California:
Landing Mat Development and History web site (with pictures):
Here's a web site for Calumet Industries PSP Landing Mat:
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