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Sent: Friday, August 06, 2010 1:59 PM
Subject: [TowerTalk] WW II Aircraft Landing Mats as a counterpoise system?
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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