Meadows Field Airport

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Profile appeared in our 31-1 Issue – April 2014

As long as man has had the opportunity to take to the skies, we’ve done so with passion and determination. So it stands to reason that the early history of Meadows Field Airport is full of pioneers aiming to ensure our airport succeeded.

Cecil Meadows and his Flying Service plane, 1930s

Cecil Meadows and his Flying Service plane, 1930s

When it was first constructed in 1926 by the Kern County Chamber of Commerce, our airport was known as Kern County Airport #1. It was located at the intersection of U.S. Route 99 and Norris Road. Just a short time later, in 1927, airport facilities—including one runway, one terminal building, a few hangars, and other aviation-related buildings—were moved one mile east to their present location. The County of Kern bought the airport from the Chamber in 1935, and it became the first county-owned airport in the nation. During this time period, the airport’s namesake, Cecil Meadows, had established the Kern County School of Aviation. Meadows had been a pioneer in his early flying career, setting many world altitude records and organizing the Meadows Field Flying Service in 1933.
Commercial air services, private aviation, and flight instruction were conducted at a steady rate until the United States Army Air Forces acquired the rights to the airport in late 1943.
At that time, the airport was placed under the jurisdiction of the IV Fighter Command for use as one of the Army Air Forces Night Fighter School training sites. It was also used as a general auxiliary training airfield until civil control was restored at the end of World War II.
It wasn’t until the mid-1950s that the airport began showing substantial growth. After purchasing additional land, a new air passenger terminal and air traffic control tower facility were constructed and opened in 1957. Three days after Meadows’ death in August, 1957, the airport was renamed in honor of his dedication and leadership in the field of aviation.
Passenger flights increased during the ‘50s, ‘60s, and early 1970s—by 1978, a record 147,900 passengers flew out of Meadows Field Airport.

Cecil Meadows and his School of Aviation plane, 1930s

Cecil Meadows and his School of Aviation plane, 1930s

Of course, changes in national commercial air service regulations affected our local airport (major airlines began forming large hubs in major cities, offering cheaper flights from places like L.A.), so turbulent years followed in the 1980s and 1990s with minor unstable startup airlines initiating service and then failing. But those standing behind the airport never threw in their wings.
The late ‘90s and early 2000s brought with them the completion of several modernizing projects, including the new William M. Thomas Terminal in 2007, which provided a fresh look for passengers from around the country. It also reestablished the airport in local eyes so that more Bakersfieldians were happy to utilize the safe, secure, and modern Kern County airport. Currently, Meadows Field serves more than 700,000 residents of the San Joaquin Valley with nonstop flights to Denver, Phoenix, Houston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, and, with an eye on the skies, will continue evolving in an effort to stay your local airport.

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