Flashback Friday: San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport in the 1960s

Adam Snider
June 8, 2018

San Luis Obispo Airport and Islay Hill in 1963
(Photo from the San Luis Obispo Tribune)

Swift Aire’s "Executive" plane at SLO on March 18, 1969
(Photo from the San Luis Obispo Tribune)
The San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport has seen some major changes over the years since it opened in 1939 with one hangar and dirt runways.

The San Luis Obispo Tribune has a great look at how the airport (which was dedicated as McChesney Field in 1987) has grown and developed in the almost 80 years since it opened. We've selected a few of our favorite pictures to highlight in this post, but click through to the full article to see many more great shots.

SBP's website has some additional information about the early days of the airport:

The San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport (SBP) began as one man’s dream. Earl Thomson, along with his brothers-in-law, William “Chris” and David Hoover, talked county officials into leasing them the land. In April 1939, the airport opened with a single 88-by-100 foot hangar and dirt runways.

Hard surface runways and lights were installed by the War Department in 1940. In 1940 and 1941, 183 private pilots and 20 advanced students were trained here through a federally sponsored Civilian Pilot Training Program for armed services fliers.

The federal government took over the airport during World War II, turning it back to the county in 1946. In 1947, county supervisors contracted for another hangar, ramp, and eventually an administration building. The supervisors named Chris Hoover full-time airport manager in 1953. Additionally, Southwest Airways inaugurated a passenger and airline service that year lasting till 1955. In 1955 they replaced their DC-3s with Martin 404s, which were too large for the 4,000 foot runway. At this point the airline moved to Paso Robles, and air service was canceled until 1969 when Swift Aire Lines started passenger service.

Want to see your airport featured on the AAAE Blog? Send your historic airport pictures or videos to Adam so we can celebrate aviation's past as we look to the future. Thanks!