Welcome back, pilots

Working across the street from the Palm Springs International Airport, getting a glimpse of airplanes coming and going is a perk – especially the Navy’s F-18s screaming past.
In 2011, when Rep. Mary Bono Mack brokered a deal with the Department of Defense to take the training elsewhere, I was a little disappointed. But I also understood the concerns of those who lived under the flight path. The jets did interrupt editorial board meetings on occasion, but nobody here complained.
I moderated one of our online debates on the issue, and it was a persistent source of letters to the editor.
In fact, the issue surfaced in a letter to the editor, when a tourist wrote that she was interrupted while trying to relax by her hotel pool. This brought a flood of outraged responses from patriots who described the jets as “the sound of freedom.”
On Friday, when news broke that training would resume, it was like flipping a switch for letter writers who miss the jets. You can read some of those on Tuesday’s Opinion page. One even uses that lovely cliché.
You can also read a Valley Voice column by Bill Borden, an occasional contributor from Rancho Mirage, who says the jets expected to arrive here son, T-45 Goshawk (photo), aren’t nearly as loud as the F-18s, “a supersonic, 1,305-mph, carrier capable, attack fighter/bomber with a maximum takeoff weight of 56,000 pounds, two GE engines with a range of 2,000 miles.”
He calls the T-45 the F-18’s baby brother. It is a trainer that flies at 645 mph, weighs a mere 13,000 pounds, and has a range of only 805 miles.
Maybe it’s the best of both worlds – not so loud that it will chase your poodle under the bed, but useful tools to keep our pilots sharp. It’s good news for Atlantic Aviation where they can refuel. Bringing back pilots to our cozy desert is great news. I hope to see them on Palm Canyon Drive at get a chance to thank them for their service.

STARTING POINTS: A magical victory at Staples … no, seriously

POINT ONE: Last night’s Lakers game had all the making of a classic. Wild 20-point swings both ways. Coaches wringing their hands as the final seconds wound down. Kobe had the fourth-quarter snarl going. A loud Staples Center crowd was in full throat as the ball hung on the rim that would have given the opponent the victory, only to explode when the clock finally ticked to zero with a pulse-pounding Lakers victory. It had the spirit and drama of some of the best games in Lakers’ lore. It wasn’t a Game 7 against the Celtics in the Finals, though. It was a regular season game against the Charlotte Bobcats, losers of 11 and now 12 in a row. It was a surreal scene. On the one hand, obviously, it’s a position the Lakers never dreamed of being in, desparately trying to get a home victory over one of the worst teams in the league. But at the same time, they did need it. There was an air of desparation. Losing this game would have done possibly irreparable damage to the Lakers’ psyche and certainly their place in teh court of public opinion. So in that sense, it was a huge victory in a real sense, not in a tongue-and-cheek sense. The end result is a three-game winning streak. Gasol played well in his return and Nash may be coming back Saturday. It’s easy to mock this victory, but funny as it may seem, this win may go down as the turning point to the season. A home victory against the woeful Bobcats. Who would have believed it?

POINT TWO: Mark down

It came about ten games too late, but now that the Jets are officially out of the playoffs, Rex Ryan has benched ineffective quarterback Mark Sanchez in favor of third-string QB Greg McElroy. Thirty below average (and that’s being kind) games in a row was finally enough of a sample size to do in the former USC quarterback. The biggest winner in this move? Clearly, is Mark Sanchez. To his credit, he has handled this miss-managed season with professionalism. He is a stand-up guy, just not a very good NFL quarterback. And there’s nothing wrong with that. His demotion will lift an unfairly huge weight off his back and he can exhale and get back to enjoying life. I expect he will wile away the next couple years as a backup quarterback in the league, and quietly and unceremoniously dissolve into the NFL ether. And for Sanchez, I think that might be a welcome offering. He was the quarterback on the Jets teams that made the AFC Championship game in back-to-back years in his first two seasons, and in retrospect that may have been the worst thing for him. It put expectations on him that he didn’t deserve and would never be able to live up to. He hasn’t gotten worse since those first two years. The team certainly has, but he hasn’t. His level has stayed the same. At his best his was an OK NFL QB, at his worst, like Monday, he was one of the worst. The truth is somewhere between horrible and OK, and that’s not good enough to start in this league. I sincerely hope good things happen to Sanchez now, because he didn’t deserve what he was forced to endure this season.

POINT THREE: High school hoops bonanza

If you’re a fan of Desert Valley League basketball and you want to get a gauge for how this year is going to play out, you should find your way to Palm Springs High School today for the first day of teh Palm Springs Winter Classic. It’s a DVL fan’s dream triple-header with perennial powers Palm Desert, La Quinta and Palm Springs playing back-to-back games in the 12-team field. The Aztecs play Peninsula at 5 p.m.; La Quinta plays last-year’s winner Calabasas at 6:30 p.m. and Palm Springs plays San Jacinto at 8 p.m. And if you miss it today, the same thing happens on Day 2 on Thursday with those three DVL powers playing back-to-back starting at 5 p.m. It also offers a great opportunity to scout if you are a coach of fan of Cathedral City, Inio, Coachella Valley or Xavier Prep. Today’s the first day of an amazing 10-days stretch of holiday basketball in the valley, culminating with next week’s massive MaxPreps tournament.

Watch a debate on military jets at mydesert.com

We had a spirited debate about the military jets that fly in and out of Palm Springs International Airport.
Our guests were Vic Gainer, chairman of the Palm Springs Airport Noise Citizens Committee, and Lee Albert, a retired pilot who lives in La Quinta.
We had Marine Staff Sgt. John Mejia lined up to defend the aviators, but sadly a friend of his was killed in Afghanistan. He’s escorting the body home.
This is a controversy that started about a year ago with a letter to the editor from a visitor who said the jets interrupted her cocktail hour poolside at a Palm Springs hotel. I’ve since gotten dozens of letters either from people who are annoyed by the noise or from defenders who call the jets “the sound of freedom.”
The Desert Sun office is across the street from the airport, so I hear them all day long. On occasion, they have interrupted our editorial board discussions. But they don’t bother me. I love watching the jets from our balcony.