By Claudine Burnett
LGB TODAY with a new check-in facility left of the main terminal building.

As discussed in part one of this series, Aviator Earl Daugherty saw the opportunities aviation presented. Early in his career, he utilized the long beach, on the city’s shoreline, eventually buying land to establish his own flying field in an area of Long Beach known as “Chateau Thierry.” He was just getting started.

On July 16, 1920, Daugherty received official city endorsement to develop a municipal flying field on land situated west of Long Beach Boulevard, and south of Willow.

This low-lying land, purchased by Daugherty and not suitable for residential or other uses, would be filled in by the city, turning it into a municipal flying field. Arrangements were made between Daugherty and the City of Long Beach to grade, level and fill the 60 acres where needed.

7,000 cubic yards of dirt were placed in the hollows but much of the field was already so level it required little fill. All that was needed was three to four inches of decomposed granite spread over the surface of the acreage to put it in ideal condition. In consideration for his help, the name Daugherty Municipal Aviation Field was agreed upon. Long Beach was now one of a few Western cities to have a municipal airfield, one open to all visiting aviators and Army and Navy flyers free of charge.

The grand opening and dedication of the Long Beach Municipal Aviation Field took place on Christmas day 1920 during the Aero Club of Southern California’s National Flying Show and Races held on Dec. 25, 26 & 27, 1920. Over 2,500 paid admissions were recorded each day. Daugherty told the Daily Telegram why the Long Beach field was the most ideal of all the aviation fields in Southern California:

Many cities have landing fields, but most of these fields are away from car lines and not convenient to the center of cities. The new Daugherty Municipal Flying Field is ideally located, on the main boulevard, leading into town, on a main car line, five minutes’ drive from the post office and express companies. It will be but a very short time until a great deal of mail and express will be delivered by airplane to every city having a handy and first-class flying field. Long Beach is far ahead of all the other Southern California cities by having the field convenient.”

At the dedication, there were thrills a plenty. Nineteen-year-old stunt walker Wesley May amazed spectators by standing on his head on the wing of Daugherty’s aircraft while the plane was landing, setting a world’s record. Also featured was a spectacular 20-mile race between two women pilots, Aloysia McLintic, a pupil of Daugherty’s, and Neta Snook. The two raced over the course in the first all-female air race ever held in Southern California. (Sorry, no report on who won).

The three major races were a 100-mile free-for-all race, an 80-mile handicap race and a dirigible airship race. The dirigible competition fascinated many, not just because there were only two such craft in the area, the Goodyear “Pony Blimp” and a Navy “C” type blimp, but because famous movie actress Coleen Moore was present to start the race, which the Navy won. Exhibits also attracted attention, such as: a 220-horsepower French “Spad” plane, used extensively by American aviators overseas; a huge working model of a 700-pound Liberty motor; the Goodyear blimp; a Boeing seaplane; two huge passenger planes; and a $15,000 ($219,000) all-metal airplane.

Long Beach was very fortunate to have Earl Daugherty and his $4,500 ($66,000) a year aviation business in the city. Besides carrying an average of 35 passengers every Sunday and many others during the week, Daugherty was also a director of the Aero Club of Southern California, which was in the process of creating “air taxi” stations in various cities. In July 1922, Daugherty revealed plans for regular passenger airplane service between Long Beach and San Diego. The running time would be a little more than an hour, and the fare slightly more than the rail fare. One advancement was that the planes would be equipped with a radio telephone, which meant direct radio communication could be maintained between the plane and both flying fields at all times during its flight.

You will find more not only on Long Beach airport (s), but early balloonists, parachutists, aviators, air races, and the history of aviation throughout Southern California, in my book “Soaring Skyward: A History of Aviation in and Around Long Beach, CA.” In the next installment of this series, you’ll find out how the current Long Beach Airport came to be.

Claudine Burnett is a retired Long Beach Public Library librarian who compiled the library’s Long Beach History Index. In her research, she found many forgotten, interesting stories about Long Beach, which she has published in 12 books as well as in monthly blogs. You can access information about her books and read her blogs at www.claudineburnettbooks.com.


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