Airport gives wings to community

Michael Duvernay

Fullerton Airport was founded in 1927 when pioneer aviators William and Robert Dowling convinced the city to establish an airfield on land that was used as a hog and sewer farm. In 1913, crop dusters and barnstormers used the site as a makeshift landing strip.

The two brothers had a vision that one day the farm would become a local airport that would become a major transportation center for Orange County. The Fullerton Airport was officially dedicated on April 28,1928.

A little more than two decades after the airport opened, in March of 1949, Dick Ridel and Bill Barris took off from Fullerton Airport. They flew the “Sunkist Lady” to a world endurance flight record of 42 days. On April 26, Riedel piloted the plane to a smooth landing at Fullerton Airport before a crowd of more then 10,000 people.

Today, Fullerton airport sits on 86 acres, and can accommodate over 600 airplanes. Its expansion long gone, the airport now concentrates its resources on maintaining a reputation for quality.

The Airport is the last general aviation airfield working in Orange County. It is owned and operated by the City of Fullerton and is home to many aviation businesses like flight schools, fuel sales, aircraft maintenance for airplanes and helicopters.
While the Airport is self-supporting and does not receive any subsidies from the City of Fullerton, revenues are maintained through airport fees, hangers and tie down rental businesses. The revenues pay for the cost of airport operations and maintenance.

On the second Sunday of every month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., visitors are invited to view the display of classic aircraft.

Every two years Airport Day is held at Fullerton municipal. The next event is scheduled for May 2014. The event will feature displays of vintage aircraft, classic cars and aviation related booths. The air operations of The Orange County Fire Authority, The Anaheim Police Department, and The California Highway Patrol will display their helicopters.

The 2014 Master Of Ceremonies for Airport Day will be renowned helicopter pilot and radio personalty Commander Chuck Street.

Many homeowners living under the airport flight approach have had many safety concerns over the years.

“The Airport is a special need to Fullerton but we need to know that safety comes first,” said Pilot Larry Smith who has two planes at Fullerton airport, “I’ve been flying out of this Airport for 25 years and safety is the airport’s first priority. They set up a call center that takes complaints regarding low flying and noisy aircraft.”

Since the Fullerton Municipal Airport has been in existence, 121 airplanes have crashed on or near the airport, totaling 19 people that have died in crashes,” said Jim Gandee, head of the Fullerton Airport Pilots Association, he noted that air traffic along the 91 Freeway corridor is so busy that the FAA set up a special radio frequency for pilots to talk to each other when flying in the area. “It’s the only space on the charts that they do that,” Gandee said. “Even the FAA recognizes the substantial traffic.”

“Those who frequent the 85-year-old airport say it is more than a place where dreams are born; it’s where they come true. Life long friendships are forged over a cup of coffee and aspiring airline pilots fly solo for the first time after training,” said Pilot Fred Pecoraro, 73, of Anaheim who’s flown for 45 years and owns a four-seat Beechcraft Bonanza at the Airport.

Bill Griggs, a pilot and airport-based business owner, “said about 7,000 non-Fullerton based flights come in and out of the airport each month, but that safety will remain high under any circumstance.”

Jackie De Costa of Fullerton and member of the Chapter of the 99’s International Orgnizations of Women Pilots said “She enjoy flying out of the Airport on short trip to San Diego and Palm Springs with he flying club.”

The Airport also offer a diner hall “The Fullerton Airport Diner is open 7 days a week from 7:00 am to 2:00 pm.The Airport iis located at 4011 W Commonwealth Ave, west of Magnolia Avenue and north of the Riverside Freeway, in Fullerton.