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The view: KSZP – Santa Paula, CA

The pilot: Patrick Coughran

The mission: Working on getting my PPL, just passed my 10th hour of dual received!

The memory: Learning to fly at CP Aviation at KSZP has been a trip. It feels like Santa Paula is what GA used to feel like in its heyday: one small runway, one taxiway, no tower. Nothing but Cessnas, Ercoupes, Stearmans, Citabrias. Life at SZP is simple. The core ethos? The pure love of flying.

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Patrick Coughran
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9 replies
  1. Roger Wigfield
    Roger Wigfield says:

    I earned my PPSEL at CP Aviation in 2008. Fantastic school with a great staff.
    I received my conventional endorsement within a year after. Do take advantage of their wonderful Citabria’s.
    Roger W.

  2. Eric Winston
    Eric Winston says:

    My father had a Piper Vagabond at SP during the late 70’s. We hung out while the Corsairs flew for Baa Baa Black Sheep filming and got to play on Steve McQueen’s motorcycle collection. It was an amazing childhood with tons of aviation friends always around. It was a different time as our Dad let us bum rides in the pattern from any one who would take us up. Amazing times!

  3. Christopher Banks
    Christopher Banks says:

    I had returned to SoCal in 1979, looking for new opportunities in video production. As a fairly new pilot, I asked my friend Roy to join me on a Saturday drive to Santa Paula to check out the airport. During our walk around, we noticed a yellow Stearman on short final to the sole runway. It landed, and the pilot and passenger hopped out and began pushing the plane towards its hanger. Roy said “Let’s help them”. We scurried up and laid hands on the beautiful bird, which was already gingerly moving along. Roy’s eyes got really large, and as we entered the hanger, I noticed dozens of motorcycles standing along the rear wall, which was covered with numerous movie posters. Coughing, he whispered, “Do you know who that is?”; refering to the Stearman pilot. I looked up to see Steve McQueen untie a rope stretching across the open hangar. After parking his plane, we chit-chatted with Steve, who seemed much more obsessed with cleaning the hangar floor to perfection, than I would have imagined. As a fellow-member of Screen Actor’s Guild, I realized that Steve was allowed his own personality apart from what public perception may have expected.

  4. Westerman Ted
    Westerman Ted says:

    Can’t talk about SPZ without talking Pitts.Home the original Pitts Stop and Chapter 49 of the IAC.CP Aviation was run by Clay Phelps and his wife Judy, who was the primary CFI teaching Acro in their Citobria and S2B Pitts.

  5. Andy K
    Andy K says:

    I got my PPL at Santa Paula a few years ago. Best place to learn to fly IMO; OXR or CMA nearby offer practice in a towered environment. It’s a great place to plan cross country: IZA for your 50; SBP for your longer cross country. Best of luck in obtaining your private pilot license !

  6. Jerry Lawrence
    Jerry Lawrence says:

    Chuck Sisto had the hanger next to Steve Mc Queen.
    My Pop and Chuck barnstormed helicopters along the coast. I think of the time spent hearing the stories of those old retired airline pilots in Chucks hanger . My Pop used to kid Chuck was trained by the Wright Brothers.
    Chuck was gruff but, very smart and a wealth of information. I was 10 when I met Chuck and Annie and much of who I am as a pilot today was shaped by those early years with Pop, Chuck and those WW2 airline pilots sitting in a hangar at the east end of Santa Paula Airport.
    I am 68 now and live on a airport where I try to pass it on .
    Jtlco.com @ 2CL1

  7. Lars Pedersen
    Lars Pedersen says:


    Open hangar days… lunch at the restaurant in its various permutations. Finally getting the courage to take up flying at SBA and resulting occasional pattern work at SZP. More open hangar days. Wandering the “for sale” airplanes dreaming of owning my own.. Acro lessons at CP Aviation.. after a move out of the area, many years passed, and then returning in the RV-7 I built. Now it’s a regular stop, again, despite its distance from home. Love it every time. That hill in the photo, right under downwind. Great memories, bless all who have kept this gem open and vibrant.

  8. David B. Lunn
    David B. Lunn says:

    I still fly to Santa Paula weekly for fuel and tail wheel landing proficiency self checks. I originally flew there regularly with my instructor in 1985. I passed my PPL check ride in January of 1986. I remember buying fuel at the Santa Paula Flight center when it was a busy FBO run by a retired airline pilot and his family. Great airport, great people and great memories of beginning my flight journey.

  9. Wendy Lascher
    Wendy Lascher says:

    I love this place. Got my PPL here at age 66 and just finished the first module and part of the second of emergency maneuver training at CP Aviation.


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