Redlands airport flying high after 70 years








REDLANDS >> Aviation continues to have a place in the community 70 years after the opening of the Redlands airport.

In recognition of the impact aviation has had on the country, and here in Redlands, local pilots will celebrate National Aviation Day Aug. 19 at the city-owned airport, 1755 Sessums Dr., with a day of barbecue and free airplane rides for potential future aviators.

“The purpose of the event is to get the community out to the airport,” said Ted Gablin, president of the Redlands Airport Association. “It’s a public airport. We want to spark interest in aviation. Maybe some youngsters will decide they want to be a pilot or a mechanic or aeronautical engineer.”

This is the association’s second year recognizing the aviation holiday, which received its proclamation in 1939 by President Franklin Roosevelt. The holiday coincides with the birthday of Orville Wright, pilot of the Wright Flyer.

At the celebration, pilots will serve burgers, hot dogs and more from 11 a.m. to noon for $7.

The Experimental Aircraft Association Redlands Chapter 845 will also be available to take children ages 8 to 17 on free flights through its Young Eagles program.

A HISTORY OF AVIATION

Redlands’ aviation history dates back to the early 1900s, long before the Redlands Municipal Airport was constructed.

In 1911, those interested in aviation held the first air meet at the University of Redlands, according to the city’s website.

In 1947, Robert Kanaga and Austin Welch built the city’s first airport, known as the Redlands Flying Inn Airport, which featured a 3,500-foot runway, maintenance shop and hangar.

The two sold the airport in the 1950s to the Southern California Turkey Grower’s Association, which operated a turkey and chicken ranch at the site, according to the website.

Roy Haskins and Alexander Theos purchased the turkey ranch in the late 1950s and worked to turn it back into an aviation facility. The city purchased the site in 1962 using a $20,000 loan from Lockheed. The city then expanded the airport into a municipal facility.

THE IMPACT OF AVIATION

In 2016, the airport association’s first National Aviation Day celebration was postponed because the airport was being used by the U.S. Forest Service in its efforts to fight the Blue Cut fire.

The airport’s frequent use during fire season is one of the reasons why it’s a benefit to the community, Gablin said.


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“I’ve talked to a lot of people over the years that got their start in aviation either for their career or personal use at Redlands airport or a municipal airport just like that,” he said. “So it’s the breeding ground for the next generation of pilots and airplane mechanics. Not to mention there’s some uncapped potential at our airport that has yet to be discovered that we could grow a little more.”

Establishing the next generation of pilots and mechanics is where the EAA Redlands Chapter comes in.

The Experimental Aircraft Association has been offering free flights for youth for the past 25 years through its Young Eagles program. In that time, about 2 million children worldwide have participated, said Beverly Buck, Young Eagles coordinator for the Redlands chapter.

“Since I’ve been in charge of the Young Eagles program (in Redlands), we’ve probably flown 600 kids,” Buck said. “We had two Januaries in a row we flew over 120 kids. We always have a good turnout.”

THE FUTURE OF AVIATION

It’s these reasons and others, that have kept the Redlands Airport Association, Airport Advisory Board and other airport users involved in airport affairs.

The pilots have been vocal in protecting the airport, including speaking out against residential housing encroachment and obstructions near the runway, working with Hangar 24 on the annual airfest and working with the city on various airport improvements.

The group also gave its input on the Airport Business Plan, which was adopted by the City Council in July 2016. The plan outlines recommendations for boosting the airport’s economic viability.

While the airport is in better shape than it was a few years ago, Gablin said, there is still a long way to go.

“We have made some great strides out there and would like to see it continue,” Gablin said.

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