Long Beach Had International Flights at the Beginning

By: 
Gerrie Schipske

By the late 1920s, local aviator Earl Daugherty ran a successful school of aviation and airplane operations at the Chateau Thierry Field (American Avenue and Bixby Road) near Bixby Knolls. He had moved his operations from the sand facing Seaside Avenue.

The Long Beach school system and Daugherty eventually needed more space. He moved to 23 acres at Long Beach Boulevard and Willow Street owned by his parents. Daugherty envisioned the new site as a large air terminus for both commercial and military aviation in Long Beach, a vision supported by the city council, which later used oil revenues to make needed improvements to create a municipal airport in an adjacent area.

Aviation exploded in Southern California with airfields to the north, south, east and west of Long Beach. Flying schools and aircraft manufacturers were established, such as the Long Beach International Aircraft Corporation at Spring Street and Pacific Avenue, which produced the F-17 and the F-10.

Maddux Airlines flew out of Long Beach to Agua Caliente, Mexico for $37.50 round-trip. Many visited this spot in Mexico because of its horse-racing track. Local high school student, Ardath Schneider, won the Women’s Jockey Races there in 1930.

By 1931, Long Beach installed boundary lights on the north and east sides of the airport. Gilpin Airlines offered service to Los Angeles and San Diego from Long Beach. In 1937, radio and weather reporting facilities were installed so that pilots could fly into Long Beach on radio beam.

Also in the 1930s, the city council approved plans to purchase 255 acres adjoining the Long Beach Municipal Airport-Daugherty Field and to construct a three story administration building and tower at the east side of the field at a cost of $200,000.

The building was set to open on Dec. 7, 1941. However, with the attack of Pearl Harbor it was covered over with camouflage and used by the U.S. Army, which installed military guns and soldiers. The military occupied the airport during the war and afterwards held many leases. It took more than 10 years for Long Beach to get the military to leave so that it could resume full commercial flights.

In 1946, United Airlines made its first scheduled flight from the Long Beach Municipal Airport. But because of the military still on the airfield, Long Beach could not compete with Los Angeles or Glendale for more passenger flights.

 A year later, its airport director, Earl Lloyd, resigned following criticism of his statement that Long Beach needed to decide whether it wanted to develop primarily for passenger travel or air cargo. He also called for the immediate cancellation of military leases. Local press noted: “Long Beach’s prospects as an air traffic terminal are being injured every day by delay in putting this city in a position to compete actively with other municipalities for success in air transportation.” The city explored the possibility of an airport off the waterfront near the breakwater because of the high cost of land near Daugherty Field. A radar landing system was installed on the field the same year and residents of Cal Heights-Los Cerritos area intensified complaints about their homes and schools being endangered by the army planes flying overhead. By the time the military was gone, LAX had become the dominant airport for passenger travel.

Déjà vu!

gerrie@beachcomber.news - See more at: http://www.beachcomber.news/content/long-beach-had-international-flights...

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