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Shelby Hall

Hist 301
Prof. Resnik
April 30, 2014
Historical Site
Santa Monica Airport
What makes something historically important? Sure, my house was built in 1949 but did
it play an important part in history, no. I went to the Santa Monica Airport not only because it is
one of the largest key airports in the Los Angeles area but also because it is historically important
not only to Los Angeles but also to my family.
The Santa Monica Airport is the oldest airport in the Los Angeles area1. It was officially
founded in 1919 but some have reported it to have been used as early as 1917. Some of the
earliest flights into LA occurred at this airport with the use of its airstrip for WWI biplanes. In
1922, Douglas Aircraft moved in. The airport became famous when Douglas aircrafts biplane
became the first plane to fly around the world. Douglas Aircraft used this airport to test fly their
planes and the site is where most of their drafting and conceptualizing took place. Douglas also
built many military aircraft that was put into use during WWII. During WWII, the US
government took over the airport for the use of their pilots and housing of military aircraft.
During the 1960s the first passenger airliners began flying into the airport. These early jets were
extremely loud. There was eventually a lawsuit filed which stated that no jet liner was allowed to
land at the airport. This eventually became a noise ordinance agreement and Douglas Aircraft

1 "Airport History." Santa Monica Airport -. http://www.smgov.net/Departments/Airport/Airport_History.aspx


(accessed April 29, 2014).

moved out. To this day there are only small propeller and personal jet planes being flown into the
airport.
There is nothing better than a historical site also meaning something to you personally2. The
Santa Monica airport not only played an important part in WWII but also in my familys history.
During the war my grandfather was a fighter pilot. He flew many missions and loved to tell
about them. One particular story involved the Santa Monica Airport. While flying one of his
missions my grandfathers plane was hit by an enemy over the Pacific Ocean. His engine caught
fire. He immediately radioed in asking where the nearest landing strip was to him and it was the
Santa Monica Airport. He said he was coming in hot (literally) and to have another plane ready
for him when he landed. He flew into the airport and bailed out of the plane sending it flaming
down the runway. He ran across the tarmac to the awaiting plane, hopped in, taxied, and took off
again all in the span of 5 minutes. This was one of his and my favorite stories to tell.
Today, the Santa Monica Airport still plays an important role in private air travel. It is one of the
favored airports for celebrities and rich businessmen alike3. According to Yelp.com it is one of
the best places for airplane spotting. The flight deck has windows that span the area and they
play a live stream of the air traffic controller over the PA system. Across from the airport there is
the Santa Monica Museum of flying that houses many artifacts from the days when Douglas
Aircrafts was housed at the airfield. They also have many planes both to observe and for kids to
get in and play.

2 Raymond E. Cook, personal interview, 2005


3 "Santa Monica Airport." - Santa Monica. http://www.yelp.com/biz/santa-monicaairport-santa-monica (accessed April 29, 2014).

Currently the airport is in a legal battle over where or not the airport will be closed or
partially closed due to environmental hazards4. There is a possibility that this may occur starting
in 2015 however, this could not happen until a previous ruling stating that the historic site has to
remain an operating airport until 2023 is overturned. Only the future will tell what will become
of this historic airport. Overall, it is a fantastic historic site that is still making history today.

4 Weikel, Dan. "Santa Monica moves to close all or part of city's airport." Los
Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/2014/mar/26/local/la-me-santa-monicaairport-20140327 (accessed April 29, 2014).