While many may not yet be familiar with the Stockton Metropolitan Airport, it offers what people want most, ease of travel. It’s conveniently located between Interstate 5 and State Highway 99, in the city of Stockton, Calif. Reminiscent of airports past, travelers can enjoy their pre-flight time with family or business associates, right up to their departure. Small enough to achieve “personal” service, and loaded with the modern amenities we’ve come to expect. Stockton Metropolitan Airport is by far the friendliest air travel for the Central Valley.
In the fall of 2013, a chance encounter between Harry Mavrogenes, Interim Airport Director of Stockton Metropolitan Airport and Bill Fields, floor specialist and President of Surtec, Inc., (a local chemical manufacturer) resulted in a partnership of restoration. They discussed the airports desperate need of a cosmetic overhaul and complete replacement of the Terminal Building carpet was being considered. Upon inspection, a discovery was made, under the stained and worn carpet tiles laid a once gorgeous “real” terrazzo floor. This propelled the prospect of restoration of the terrazzo floor, rather than replacement of the carpet. Stripping and polishing tests were conducted and the decision was made to restore the original terrazzo floor, saving thousands of tax dollars. Surtec, in cooperation with local contractor, DCS Facility Services, began the process of restoration.
Stockton City and Airport History
Gold was discovered on the American River in early 1848, transforming Stockton from a small settlement into a thriving commercial center. The city was officially founded in 1849 by German immigrant Charles M. Weber, when he purchased 49,000 acres of land. Early settlers included gold seekers from around the globe. The name Stockton was given to honor Commodore Robert Stockton.
After the gold rush, shipbuilding became the main industry of the area until agriculture took the lead near the end of the 1800’s. By the early 1900’s the railroad began laying tracks to the area as it was forecasted to become a substantial hub. This solidified Stockton’s stance as an agricultural hub of the entire nation.
In 1925, the first flier landed at what is now Stockton Metropolitan Airport. In 1927 the small airfield was converted by the City of Stockton to handle increasing Army air traffic. During those early years, much land was acquired for expansion, adding roadways, wells and pumps, taxiways, lighting and fencing. On May 7, 1927, Stockton Municipal Airport became the fields name and the City held a dedication ceremony that included the first air show. By 1928 the U.S. Army used Stockton Municipal Airport as a “gas stop” during training flights throughout the state.
The U.S. Army, City of Stockton and the County of San Joaquin entered into a Lease Agreement, on August 15, 1940, for the Federal Government (Army) to operate an airbase for one dollar per year from 1940 to 1965. At that time the County of San Joaquin partnered with the City of Stockton to help absorb costs and share responsibility. On January 11, 1941, the Army held a dedication ceremony, when Stockton Field became the official name of the Airport.
The Army took command of the field and began building an advanced pilot training school, initially garrisoned by the 68th Air Base Group (Special) under the Air Corps Advance Flying School. On January 2, 1942, flight instruction began with a class of 93 cadets. Stockton Field would become the largest advanced pilot training base in the west. The last group of cadets to graduate was on March 2, 1945. Many of the graduates went on to become decorated “Aces” of WWII. Most notable, were eleven of the thirty-six pilots who participated with General “Jimmy” Doolittle on his historic raid over Tokyo on April 18, 1942. Another to call Stockton Airfield his Alma mater was Lt. Thomas Lanphier, who shot down Admiral Yamamoto’s plane in the Pacific during the battle of New Guinea. Admiral Yamamoto was the chief architect responsible for planning the surprise raid on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.
In August of 1946, after the end of World War II, the Federal Government announced the return of the airfield to the City of Stockton and the County of San Joaquin, who would again take joint ownership. Stockton born, Chinese American Architect, Warren C.T. Wong was commissioned to design the Terminal Building, which was built with the last of the Federal construction funds.
The City of Stockton and the County of San Joaquin resumed operating the former Stockton Municipal Airport in December 1946 under a joint (interim) license. There were approximately 175 buildings, including 50 airport-related structures. The buildings were primarily the Quartermaster 700-series and 800-series type construction with concrete foundations, wood floor, composition roof and wood lap siding. On July 1, 1946 United Airlines began its’ first scheduled service from Stockton to Los Angeles and San Francisco with DC-3 aircraft. In 1948 the U.S. Army, with exception of the Sharp Annex, left the field and officially dedicated the Airport back to civil use with the City and County assuming administration. Sole ownership was transferred to the County on July 1, 1956.
Throughout the 1950’s and 60’s the airport grew steadily, commercial passenger airliners including United, Frontier and Southwest had flights there. On July 11, 1964, Stockton Municipal Airport was officially renamed the Stockton Metropolitan Airport, reflecting its changing role as a civil airport. The County made many improvements for private passenger and freight use, including parking, landscaping, lighting, air conditioning and passenger circulation areas. A main concern at that time was ensuring low maintenance costs and material selection was critical.
By the 1970’s nearly 300,000 passengers used Stoctkon airport annually, until 1978 when deregulation of airlines had an adverse reaction for many small airports, including Stockton. Airlines knew that longer flights provided better fuel usage and higher profits. These longer flights were associated with bigger airports, enticing airlines to abandon smaller airports in favor of larger internationals.
Commercial passenger carriers came and went over the next three decades. There were no commercial passenger flights from 2003 until 2006 when Allegiant Air began round trip service to Las Vegas.
After a Mexican Airline expressed interest in 2005, Stockton Airport officials began to promote the idea of creating a customs facility to accommodate international flights to and from Mexico. Approval was obtained, but San Joaquin County Supervisors decided against financing the project.
In 2014 Allegiant Air remains. Offering limited flight schedules to Honolulu, Las Vegas, Phoenix/Mesa and Scottsdale. The discussion of adding customs facilities in order to include international travel is a matter that is back on the table according to current Airport Director Harry Mavrogenes.