The Blockhouse
The Pianos

Its origin is shrouded in mystery, it is not marked on any charts, and even most Sunrise pilots are unaware that it exists as anything more than a strange code word exchanged with ATC.

But "the blockhouse" is real, perhaps an artifact of war games played in deadly earnest by young Marines in the 1940s.

What remains today is a single story concrete square surrounded by low scrub. The roof is gone and the interior open to view.

A close look might reveal graffiti of an earlier era.
Real name: Nichols Institute.
In contrast to the Blockhouse, there is no mystery here--except perhaps how the unique buildings suit their tenants.

Located along San Juan Creek on an unusually straight stretch of Ortega Highway, Nichols Institute has provided aerobatic users with a distinctive landmark since we first started using the Blockhouse area in the 1980s.

For pilots, the "Pianos" mark the northern-most limit of the East Valley. The nickname was applied early, thanks to the buildings' resemblance to a group of grand pianos (you do remember Ferrante and Teischer, right? Well, no matter).

33-30'39.13"N, 117-36'12.15"W
The hilltop location is the highest point in the immediate vicinity and was probably chosen for its commanding view.

Through a process of reverse engineering, SoCal now uses the landmark as an alignment datum for its radar.

In turn, this makes it easy for aerobatic pilots to report position to ATC as they go to and from the area .