YMCA Golf Tournament to benefit scholarship program; E-waste roundup to collect unwanted electronic devices

The challenges of beginning the first polar flight from Los Angeles to Scandinavia will be spotlighted at 10 a.m. Thursday, September 20th, at the Flight Path Learning Center and Museum, LAX Imperial Terminal, 6661 W. Imperial Highway in Westchester.

Einar Pedersen, Jr. will speak on behalf of his famous father, Einar Sverre Pedersen, longtime chief navigator for Scandinavian Airlines Systems, who invented navigational instruments that made polar flight possible. The program, open to the public, will also spotlight a new permanent exhibit of SAS memorabilia, according to Flight Path President Rowena Ake.

Admission and parking are free.

“SAS was the first airline to fly the polar route,” said Ake. “Our speaker will recount the many exciting challenges” to be met before the first transpolar flight could depart LAX on November 15th, 1954.

The 20-hour, 20-minute flight in a DC-6B aircraft left LAX for Copenhagen with fuel stops in Winnipeg, Canada, and Sondre Stromfjord, Greenland. The route required equipment that could withstand frigid temperatures, special compasses to compensate for lack of normal magnetic fields in the polar region and special navigational charts.

Einar Sverre Pedersen, now 88 and living in Alaska, worked with Sperry Rand on a unique gyro compass for the route. Also developed were a “grid north” plotted for navigating polar regions with a starting point at the Greenwich meridian, and a “sky compass” to establish direction of the sun by polarized light.

Pedersen served for several years in the Royal Air Force, ferrying bomber aircraft across the polar regions to England from America, before he devoted himself to hunting German submarines in the frigid North Atlantic. At the end of the war, Pedersen’s extensive aviation experience earned him the position of chief navigator at Scandinavian Airlines, and finally the aviator turned his attention to his great passion, the Arctic.

Teaming up with Bernt Balchen and Admiral Riiser-Larsen, Pedersen put all his energy into flying commercial planes across the pole. Merely linking Scandinavia and Alaska wasn’t enough for the still young and ambitious Pedersen, and he channeled his desire for aviation into innovation. Before long, the Norwegian pilot had invented the instrumentation required to make flights as close to the magnetic North Pole as possible.

Alaska became an international destination for air traffic. Many airlines were subsequently to follow in SAS’s footsteps, bringing with them great economic and social benefits for the Alaskan people.

For his achievement, Pedersen received an honorary doctorate from the University of Alaska in 1994.

Peter Tornqvist, the former SAS regional manager who spearheaded the 1954 flight, credited Pedersen with making LAX an international airport.

“We made Los Angeles a truly international airport,” Tornqvist said. “Before that we only had planes coming in from Canada and Mexico. SAS linked the West Coast of the U.S. to Europe, thus saving the arduous task of flying via New York.”

This saved time and cost for filmmakers and other businesses, according to Tornqvist. He claims SAS carried virtually every star flying between Hollywood and Rome, including Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Sophia Loren, Anthony Quinn and Walt Disney.

Later, Pedersen would seek respite from the monotony of flying passenger aircraft by planning and carrying out daring adventures in small single-engine airplanes. He went down several times, miraculously surviving every crash. Once, he and a friend made an emergency landing in the middle of the Yukon wilderness. Pedersen broke his arm, but was still able to shoot passing reindeer for survival food. It was eight days before they were found and rescued.

In 1963, Pedersen’s wife, Ingrid, became the first woman to fly a single-engine plane across the North Pole. Ingrid had earlier expressed a desire to become a flight attendant, to which Pedersen fiercely replied, “Don’t! Become a pilot instead.” And she did.

However, the veteran aviator wasn’t satisfied with simply flying over Alaska. When he planted his feet on Alaskan soil for the first time more than 50 years ago, he instantly fell in love with what would become his home. Currently residing outside Anchorage with his wife, Pedersen can look back on a life filled with adventure and excitement.

The museum is operated by Flight Path in cooperation with Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency which operates LAX.

Information, (310) 215-5291 or www.flightpath.us/.

YMCA GOLF TOURNAMENT — On Monday, October 8th, the Westchester Family YMCA will host its 24th Annual Golf Classic. This year’s tournament will be held at the Braemar Country Club, 4001 Reseda Blvd. in Tarzana.

Proceeds from the tournament will benefit the Westchester Family YMCA’s youth scholarship program.

Throughout the day, there will be a putting contest, longest drive contest, hole-in-one contest, closest to the pin award and first- and second-place trophies, as well as a barbecue lunch and awards dinner.

Tickets are $200 per golfer or $45 per person for dinner only; and a variety of sponsorship options are also available.

Information on playing in the tournament or becoming a tournament sponsor, Carol Baer, (310) 670-4316 ext. 7605.


E-WASTE ROUNDUP — From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, September 28th, the LAX Coastal Area Chamber of Commerce will host an e-waste roundup in the parking lot of 8900 S. Sepulveda Blvd. (Ralphs Westchester Village).

Not everything can be thrown away in the trash. Some business and household items are considered e-waste and must be disposed of properly to ensure they are not sent to landfills where they can contaminate soil and groundwater.

These items include computers, monitors, printers, stereos, radios, keyboards, phones and many other electronic devices.

Thanks to the LAX Coastal Area Chamber and its partnership with the H.B. Drollinger Co., businesses will have the opportunity to dispose of such items in an environmentally safe manner.

Information, LAX Coastal Area Chamber, (310) 645-5151.