Friday, August 22, 2008

Sunday Evening at LAX

Last Sunday found me on a three hour delay at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) returning from a business trip. The bad news was that the new arrival time into Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) was now 3:30 A.M. Monday morning instead of the originally scheduled midnight arrival. However, the good news is that there was a flight control problem with our original aircraft to Dulles and I’m always happy when they find out about that kind of problem on the ground! Delays are never fun but they happen so I try to take it in stride…of course it didn’t hurt that my upgrade to first class was confirmed and the new equipment was the same aircraft so no concerns about losing my seat in first class. With three hours to kill I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to do something I’ve wanted to do for years: visit the LAX “Theme Building.”

The Theme Building is located in the center of the LAX surrounded by the seven terminal buildings. The Theme Building is “retro futuristic” having first been designed and buildt in 1961. According to Wikipedia the apartment house in the cartoon “The Jetsons” is designed after the LAX Theme Building. Just from reading this you might not be able to visualize what the building looks like, yet you will likely recognize it once you see it in person or in a television show or movie. In fact, it has been seen in many television shows and movies that include a Los Angeles airport seen…a few that come to mind include the James Bond films Moonraker and Diamonds Are Forever. According to Wikipedia it also appears in the graphics of the video game Grand Theft Auto III.

The Theme Building has a restaurant located in the center of the structure and offers a view of the terminal area and runways. The restaurant is called “Encounters” and opened in 1997. I enjoyed a very dry Beefeater Martini and watched the action near Terminals One and Two, including the departure of a KLM 747-400 and a British Airways 747-400. I was disappointed to learn that the Theme Building also had at one time an observation deck that was ultimately closed after the September 11 terrorist attacks and has remained closed ever since. You can see from the photos I took that the building is undergoing renovation right now so it doesn't look as good as it usually does. However the view from the bar isn't bad if you like commercial airliners!
This might not seem like the most exciting visit for the average traveler, but I enjoyed myself immensely. Much like seeing the Concorde in person or riding in the upper deck of a 747 for the first time, this early evening drink in the Theme Building was, for me, another item to check off my list of aviation experiences.

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