The year was 1946. Fifteen young men from the Santa Ynez Valley attended a meeting of the Board of Supervisors in Santa Barbara with a request that the County purchase 155 acres of land in the Valley – a peach orchard bisected by two ravines and having a power line across the center. The County supervisors agreed to the request, but the story doesn’t start there.
The story begins in 1943 with Hal Hamm, Santa Ynez High School Superintendent, Arden Jensen, Attorney, and Leonard Parsons, Pharmacist. Pooling their efforts they arranged to grade a field in Solvang close to Bethania Lutheran Church on what was then the Skytt Farm. That was the start of what would become the Santa Ynez Flying Club.
These early pilots moved the landing strip from one place to another, gathering likeminded men who were interested in flying. When they felt that had a strong enough group to petition the County to buy the 155 acre parcel where the airport is now located, they drafted a proposal to submit to the County. The County agreed to purchase the land.
The original Santa Ynez Valley Flying Club was composed of Anker Johnson, Arden Jensen, Jack Wood, Leonard Parsons, Clarence Reed, Ray Paaske, Erwin Paaske, Nels Nielsen, Carl Nelson, Einar Johnson, Tom Garland, Axel Nielsen, Gale Kraul, Al Woodell, and Hal Hamm. Their first act as a flying club was to buy a Piper J3 Cub, then create a dirt runway for landing and taking off. A fifty gallon drum was the first fuel storage tank. Later they were given a 500 gallon in ground tank. A note affixed to the pump which read: “If you want fuel, call the pharmacy.”
The J3 Cub crashed and was replaced by a Cessna 120. After that came, in order, a Cessna 140, a Luscome, an Arrow Champ, and finally, a Piper Clipper.Many new members were added to the Flying Club and from the membership; individuals were elected to manage the airport affairs, thus becoming the first FBO. (Fixed Base Operator) As flying became more popular, more and more planes were kept at the airport. The Club relinquished control to a full time airport operator named Bill Luke. But that is another story to be told. (Coming soon.)
Santa Ynez Airport Timeline
1. October 29, 1947, the County purchased 137 acres from J.J. Mitchell, using funds received from the FAA.
2. September 30 1949, the State of California, Division of Aeronautics issued the first official airport permit.
3. 1950, with federal funding the drainage was improved and a 2,000 foot strip with a parallel taxi-way was constructed.
4. 1954, runway light were installed.
5. 1955, the glider port was established.
6. 1957, the runway was lengthened to it current 2,800 feet.
7. 1960, Bill Luke took over management of the airport, installing three 10,000 gallon fuel tanks and in 1963 started purchasing the now famous 1958 Chevy rental cars.
8. 1967, the first row of county hangers were built, with the second row being completed in 1968.
9. 1970-71, Fletcher Jones built a large maintenance hangar at the west end of the airport.
10. 1975, Bill Luke lost the lease on the airport at which time he had acquired 24 of the blue 1958 Chevrolets.
11. 1976, Dave and Shy Smith took over the lease at the airport, increasing the fleet of ’58 Chevy’s to 38 cars. The operation offered a flight school, rental aircraft, charter, glider lessons, and aircraft maintenance, becoming a full service airport.
12. 1977, local pilots and Shy Smith developed a 20 year Master plan.
13. 1978, the State funded the last two rows of County Hangers.
14. 1980, the first private hangers were built on J row.
15. 1982, the Smith gave up their lease and the ’58 Chevies were sold and Joe Heslin, Santa Barbara Aviation took over the lease.
16. 1983-84, private hanger rows G and D were completed.
17. 1985, an extension to the office was completed, using funds collected from air shows.
18. 1992, the original master plan was completed and two more rows of private hangers were completed, E and F rows.
19. 1993, the airport management was relinquished from Santa Barbara County and the Santa Ynez Valley Airport Authority was adopted.
20. 1994, within the first year, the Airport Authority turned the airport into a positive cash flow operation.
21. 1996, The Authority cleaned up the old fuel system, initiated, up graded, and completed the installation of one of the first aviation automated fuel systems on the west coast.
22. 2008 With grants from the FAA the airport runway, taxi ways, and parking apron were resurfaced.
23. 2012 the county hangers electrical, A, B, and C row, were brought up to current standards with new service.
24. 2012 the old dump site at the East of the field finally got capped after years of monitoring.
25. 2013 New handicap ramp constructed from airport office to ramp. Office was freshened up with new paint, carpet, cabinets, new couch, chairs in conference room and a refreshed snack area. The West end taxi ramp along J row was replaced along with a improved drainage.
26. Signage added to the taxiways 2014