Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Proud Bird


By Mark W. Danielson

I always get a glimpse of this unique restaurant whenever I land on 25L at Los Angeles International airport, otherwise known as LAX. I recently visited The Proud Bird for the first time, and for an aviation buff, it’s a must see.

The restaurant’s namesake stems from Continental Airlines when their catch phrase was “The Proud Bird with the Golden Tail”. Opened in the early 1960’s, this restaurant boasts perfect views of arriving aircraft as well as a museum of replica and real vintage aircraft. What makes this interesting is these replicas are fiberglass castings of actual aircraft, many of which are so convincing it’s difficult to tell the difference.


When my buddy and I dined there, it was like stepping back in time. We both grew up around airplanes and never missed an episode of 12 O’clock High or Sky King. We lived and breathed airplanes, and spent countless hours sitting in cockpits, dreaming of the day when we could pilot them ourselves. The restaurant’s walls are lined with historic photos that show what life was like before the LA basin was paved over. It truly reflects the golden era of aviation when air travel was something special, and pilots were respected.

Those glory days may be gone, but they have not been forgotten at The Proud Bird. We can’t bring back the past, but if you’re near LAX, you should take a moment to reflect on them while enjoying a nice meal.

8 comments:

Helen Ginger said...

That sounds like a fun place. I'd like to see it. If I ever get out to LA, which is about once every 30 years.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Mark W. Danielson said...

Once upon a time, airport restaurants like the Red Baron and and the 94th Aero Squadron used to prosper, but for whatever reason, most are gone. The Proud Bird is one of the last class acts where you can eat and watch airplanes of all sizes land while overlooking some of aviation's most historic aircraft. I drove past it for decades before I finally went inside. Can't imagine why it took me so long, but the old photos on the wall alone were well worth the trip.

Jean Henry Mead said...

I wish I had known about the Proud Bird when I was at LAX. I wonder if the outdoor airplane museum is still located in Modesto. There used to be some mighty proud birds there.

Mark W. Danielson said...

Jean, the former Castle Air Force Base near Merced still boasts a fine military aircraft museum. For civilian aircraft, American Airlines has a very nice display near DFW airport. Addison Airport near dowtown Dallas also boasts an excellent aviation museum and perhaps the best civlian run museum is the Planes of Fame museum in Chino, California. Of course, the Air Force museum in Dayton, Ohio, and the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida are outstanding, as is the Smithsonian, featured in the Night at the Museum movie. For travelers interested in museums, I recommend checking what is available on line before traveling. Chances are there is an excellent museum nearby, such as the Clive Cussler automotive museum located here in Denver. Sometimes some of the best surprises are in our own backyards.

Ben Small said...

I didn't know about it, either. But then, I'm always in a hurry to get out of LAX. Sky King, man, that brings back memories...

Chester Campbell said...

We used to have one in Nashville called the 101st Airborne. It had a view of the airport and earphones that you could listen to the tower. It was decorated like a World War II bunker. I've been to the Air & Space Museum in Washington, the Air Force Museum in Dayton and the Navy one at Pensacola. All great. They really bring back memories.

Beth Terrell said...

The 101st Airborne was one of my favorite restaurants. Just the memory of their beer cheese soup make my mouth water.

Mark W. Danielson said...

Beth, if you're ever in Cambridge, England, then check out the Eagle Pub. You don't go there for the food, but the squadron and flyers' names that were burned into the ceiling in WWII still remain and are quite a fascinating piece of history.