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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, July 04, 2001

A short history of Palo Alto aviation A short history of Palo Alto aviation (July 04, 2001)

1906 -- The Palo Alto Times reports that George Loose of Palo Alto finishes building his fabric and wooden aircraft.

1912 -- The Palo Alto Times reports the first aircraft fatality in Palo Alto.

1918 -- The Palo Alto Times headline reads, "An Airplane Passes Over Palo Alto," and writes about the "aviation stare of the monster craft capable of going more than 100 miles per hour."

1923 -- The U.S. Commerce Department approves the Embarcadero site for an airport after a group of prominent Palo Altans -- whose last names were Campbell, Hoge, Lesley, Hobart, Morrell, Smith and Bixby - petition the Palo Alto City Council to move the airport from its original location at Stanford to the Embarcadero site.

1924 -- Public is invited to fly for $2.50 on the Embarcadero site.

1929 -- Stanford University is designated by the Federal Aviation Administration as Aviation Ground School Number 1.

1934 -- Palo Alto residents file lawsuit to force the airport to move off Stanford land because of noise level.

1935 -- Official opening dedication of Palo Alto Airport on Embarcadero.

1936 -- American Airlines advertises $1 flights for a 15-mile ride over Palo Alto and Stanford. It charges $5 for a 100-mile flight.

1940 -- John Steinbeck comes to Palo Alto to take flying lessons.

1940-1941 -- The California Legislature initiates a program to provide 138 new or improved airports throughout the state. The master plan is to build community airports in Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Hollister, Morgan Hill and Milpitas, as well as Palo Alto. These plans were put on hold by World War II and were never resumed once the war was over.

1942 -- Palo Alto Airport closes because of the war. It operations are moved to Fresno, where flight training is conducted for military pilots.

1945 -- Palo Alto High School offers instruction in aviation ground school. Courses include navigation, weather and the principals of flight.

1945-1946 -- Palo Alto Airport is slowly transitioned back to public use. The city makes improvements so that commercial traffic and mail service are allowed.

1946 -- With the reopening of the airport, the aviation business is booming. Flying lessons grow in popularity and become a sign of social class. The society columns of Bay Area newspapers frequently mention those Palo Altans who flew to Sacramento for lunch or to Los Angeles for dinner.

1949 -- Palo Alto Airport was a semi-commercial field, accepting business travelers and U.S. Postal Service shipments, as well as training new private pilots.

1954 -- San Mateo County pays $46,000 for construction of a new runway. The Federal Aeronautics Boards pays $133,000 for further airport development in Palo Alto. The funding goes toward paving of taxiways and tie down areas for aircraft.

1963 -- San Mateo County's boundaries change and the Palo Alto Airport is now located in Santa Clara County. Santa Clara County pays back the $46,000 to San Mateo for the new runway.

1968 -- The FAA control tower is completed at a cost of $220,000 and a $600,000 airport expansion program begins. This includes a reconstruction of the runway and taxi areas and new construction of tie down areas for the aircraft.

1972 -- Passenger service is discontinued because of competition from the airports in San Francisco and San Jose.

2001 -- The airport continues to operate as a general aviation field. It is now considered to be the busiest single runway airport in the country.

This chronology was compiled with the help of Pat Roy, Managing General Partner of Roy-Aero Enterprises at the Palo Alto Airport, and archives from the Palo Alto Main Library.


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