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Carmageddon: Helicopters ease stress for LAX travelers

July 16, 2011 |  3:28 pm

Click for more photos of the 405 Freeway closure

Kevin Norris spent days agonizing over "Carmageddon" and how he'd get to LAX from his home in Valencia for a Saturday evening flight to Europe where he is scheduled to work as a professional golf caddy.

He thought about different routes he might take around the shuttered 405 Freeway. He even considered coming to the airport a night early and getting a hotel room.

PHOTOS: 'Carmageddon' closes the 405 Freeway

In the end, he decided that a $150 helicopter flight from Van Nuys was the best way to go. After all, the trek from LAX to his destination in Avion, France, was already going to be a 17-hour ordeal.

"I've been stressed for days," he said. "I didn't want to spend five hours in a car. When I saw this advertised, I thought 'That's got to be the way.' "

Nick Peach of Simi Valley, who happened to be on the same 5:30 p.m. flight to London, had come to the same conclusion. Peach was a little nervous because it was his first helicopter flight, but he figured it would be the best way to avoid a certain nightmare.

The silver chopper took off from Briles Wing and Helicopter Inc. at 1 p.m. Beyond the 101 Freeway emerged the strange sight of the shuttered 405, its lanes empty save for a few Caltrans trucks and a handful of police cars.

As the helicopter skirted the freeway, Peach took pictures on his cellphone and Norris pointed out the empty roadway and news helicopters. Beyond the radio noise in the headsets, everything seemed quiet and calm from above.

The helicopter flew low enough that it was easy to see people lounging by their pools in homes along the freeway. Co-pilot Tom White pointed out a few landmarks and remarked over and over on the clear roadways.

After 14 minutes, the helicopter touched down on an LAX runway.

"It's the only way to travel," Norris said.

A cart waited to take them to a small terminal and the pair headed off to catch their flight.

"We've got four hours to kill," Peach said.


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-- Paloma Esquivel above the 405

Photo: A look at Los Angeles International Airport and the 405 Freeway from the air. Credit: Paloma Esquivel / Los Angeles Times