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Airport History

Photo of Earle Ovington and his wife for whom the histoic Terminal is named
Earle Ovington (first air mail pilot) & his wife at the Santa Barbara Airport 

The Santa Barbara Municipal Airport is a gateway to the enchantment of Santa Barbara. It is a landmark of aviation and architectural history with its red tile roof, dark wood beams and an old mission garden full of jasmine and bougainvillea.

Santa Barbara's aviation history began in 1914 when Lincoln Beachey flew an airplane across Goleta Valley. Two years later the Loughead Brothers, who later changed their name to Lockheed, established a seaplane factory on State Street seaplane and constructed a wooden ramp on West Beach to launch their planes. In 1928, Gordon Sackett and Royce Stetson landed a Hisso-powered airplane in a cow pasture near the corner of Hollister and Fairview Avenues and set up a flight school on the spot. That first airstrip marked the beginning of what was to become the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport.

As airplane manufacturing grew in the late 1930's that simple airstrip developed into an airfield. Western General set up shop and began producing Meteor airplanes, while Santa Barbara Airways' founder Frederick Stearns II built two additional runways and two large hangars. Stearns also installed the first radio equipment at the airfield.

Commercial service began in 1932 with Pacific Seaboard Airlines, and United Airlines inaugurated service from Santa Barbara/Goleta in 1936.

As the prospect of war escalated the United States Government established a defense program to construct 250 airports across the country on a cost-sharing basis with local governments. T.M. Storke secured Santa Barbara's enrollment in the program, and in 1941 groundbreaking ceremonies were held for the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport. The Spanish-style terminal building, commissioned by United Airlines in 1942 was designed by William Edwards and Joseph Plunkett, an architectural team whose work, including the Arlington Theatre and the National Armory, helped shape the Mediterranean style of the city.

Links to Airport History Information

Santa Barbara Airport's Memorial to World War II Veterans. The Memorial is located at Vista Overlook and is open to the public.

Memorial interpretive signage.


Last Updated: Aug 22, 2018
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