Meadows Field Airport
Kern County Airport #1
|USGS 2006 orthophoto|
|IATA: BFL – ICAO: KBFL – FAA LID: BFL|
|Serves||Greater Bakersfield metropolitan area|
|Elevation AMSL||510 ft / 155 m|
|Source: Federal Aviation Administration|
Meadows Field (IATA: BFL, ICAO: KBFL, FAA LID: BFL) is a county owned, public use airport in Kern County, California, three miles northwest of downtown Bakersfield, California. It is the primary airport serving the Greater Bakersfield metropolitan area, and one of two international airports in the San Joaquin Valley. Also known as Kern County Airport #1, it is in Oildale, California.
Federal Aviation Administration records show 141,847 passenger boardings (enplanements) in calendar year 2008, 103,067 enplanements in 2009, and 111,699 in 2010. It is included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2011–2015, which categorized it as a primary commercial service airport (more than 10,000 enplanements per year).
Early history 
Aviation has been linked to Kern County almost as long as the existence of the industry. In 1891 Charles Howard ascended in a hot air balloon to 1,000 feet (300 m). He then proceeded to jump and landed safely with a parachute he designed and constructed. By 1910, only seven years after the Wright Brothers first airplane flight, aircraft began arriving in the county. They were brought in by Glenn Curtiss (in conjunction with the Kern County Board of Trade). The first flight in the area was flown by Charles Hamilton.
Bakersfield then had two airfields. The more prominent field was at Sacramento and Monterey Streets in East Bakersfield (at the time was primarily empty fields). It was named Bernard Field and was run by the Pacific Aero Club. The field would be a stop for US Air Mail between 1923 to 1926 (it was moved to Meadows Field in 1926). Another airfield was on the Panorama Bluffs in Northeast Bakersfield where Greenlawn Mortuary is today.
With the development of commercial air service Bakersfield needed a purpose built commercial airport. In 1926 the Kern County Chamber of Commerce constructed and operated a new airport called Kern County Airport No. 1. Originally at the intersection of U.S. Route 99 and Norris Road, the following year it was moved one mile east to its current location. The original facility had one runway, one terminal building, and a few hangars and other aircraft related buildings. In 1935 Kern County bought the airport from the Chamber of Commerce. It was the first county owned airport in the nation.
United States Army Air Force use 
In September 1939 war broke out in Europe, prompting Congress to appropriate $40 million for Development of Landing Areas for National Defense (DLAND). Under DLAND, the Secretaries of War, Commerce, and the Navy approved expenditures for airports. By 1941 the Army Air Corps had begun directing aid to Meadows Field for improvements to include operation of airport towers.
In late 1943 The United States Army Air Forces acquired usage rights to Meadows Field. It was placed under the jurisdiction of the IV Fighter Command. The 481st Night Fighter Operational Training Group (NFOTG) used the faciity as part of the Army Air Forces Night Fighter School which had transferred from Florida to Hammer Field, California. Meadows Field was used as an auxiliary training airfield and the school operated a combination of modified Douglas A-20 Havocs for night fighter operations, designated P-70, and brand-new prototype YP-61 Black Widow purpose-built night fighters.
Between May 1 and July 12, 1944, the 427th Night Fighter Squadron trained at Meadows Field; the 549th Night Fighter Squadron between July and October 1944. In addition, flights of P-61s from the 426th, 547th, 548th and 550th Night Fighter Squadrons moved in and out of Meadows Field during 1944 as part of their training prior to being deployed to combat units, primarily in the Pacific and CBI theaters.
In December 1944 the 481st NFOTG was inactivated as part of an AAF reorganization. Meadows Field was placed on standby status and the airport was only used for emergency purposes, being under the control of Hammer Field.
With the end of the war, the base was declared excess to requirements and returned to civil control.
Return to civil control and expansion 
After the war Meadows Field would return to its role as a commercial airport. In the mid-1950s Kern County would modernize the airport. Land was purchased and new facilities were built; in 1957 a new terminal and control tower was built east of the runway. That year the county renamed the airport Meadows Field (by a board of minute order on August 6, 1957), after Cecil Meadows. He was the county's Director of Airports from 1935–1957, except during World War II when he was a pilot in the armed forces. He was also responsible for the county purchasing the airport and modernization efforts.
United Airlines served Meadows Field from 1946 until 1979-80 and again for three years beginning in the mid-1980s. United operated Boeing 727-100 and 737-200 jet flights to San Francisco and Los Angeles. Southwest Airways and its successors including Pacific Air Lines and Hughes Airwest (previously Air West) served the airport from 1956 until 1979 with Fairchild F-27 propjets. In 1966 Pacific Air Lines operated Boeing 727-100s from Bakersfield to Los Angeles and other California cities. This was the airport's first jet service. Continental Airlines flew Boeing 737-200 jets to Denver for a year or so in 1987-88. Continental had Douglas DC-9-30 jet flights nonstop to Las Vegas and one-stop to Houston at one point. Continental Express operated by ExpressJet flew nonstop Embraer ERJ 145 regional jets to Houston from 2004 to 2007. Continental Airlines resumed Houston service on April 3, 2011 using SkyWest Airlines. The flights were re branded as United Express in 2012. Pacific Express served the airport with BAC One-Eleven jets to San Francisco. ExpressJet independently served Meadows Field at one point with Embraer ERJ-145 regional jets. The last main line flights were American Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-80 jets to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport from 1984 until 1999. Earlier American MD-80 flights to Dallas/Ft. Worth made an intermediate stop in Santa Barbara. American Eagle Airlines ended Saab 340 turboprop flights to Los Angeles in 2001. In 2008 both Delta Connection and ExpressJet Airlines discontinued operations at the airport, and Mexicana ended its flights to Guadalajara. Mexicana subsequently ceased all operations. Allegiant Air began McDonnell Douglas MD-80 jet flights to Las Vegas in November 2010; these were discontinued in July 2011.
All current airline flights from Meadows Field are regional jets or turboprop aircraft. Skywest operating as United Express flies Canadair CRJ-700 regional jets nonstop to Houston and also has Canadair CRJ-200 regional jets nonstop to Denver. United Express flies Embraer EMB-120 "Brasilia" turboprops to San Francisco and Los Angeles. All United Express service is operated by SkyWest Airlines. US Airways Express also serves Bakerfield with CRJ-200 regional jets nonstop to Phoenix. US Airways Express previously operated as America West Express before America West Airlines was merged into US Airways. US Airways Express service will be re branded as American Eagle following US Airways' merger with American Airlines '
Deregulation and decline 
The airport saw increased air service during the 1950s and 1960s. By 1975, annual emplanements would reach 97,000. The growth ended with airline deregulation in 1978. While other major cities saw a decrease of prices and increase in service, almost all air service was eliminated from Meadows Field in favor of other airports such as Los Angeles International Airport (about 120 miles (190 km) south). The City of Bakersfield and the County of Kern attempted to prevent a reduction in service by filing a joint lawsuit; however, the court sided with the federal government. Annual emplanements fell 59%, from 147,866 in 1978 to 60,958 in 1981 (although the next year it would rebound to 90,000). Air service would eventually average 120,000 enplanements between 1980 and 2000.
Service was expensive compared to nearby airports, and normally ran during inconvenient times. Service was also inconsistent, with airlines frequently starting and ending routes. During the same time period, the region also saw a large growth in population. While the City of Bakersfield grew 134%, and the County of Kern grew 64%, the airport did not see an increase in service to match. Except for the lengthening of the main runway to accommodate wide body jets in 1987, few improvements were done at Meadows Field during that period.
Rebirth and rise to international airport 
In the early 2000s, the county started an initiative to address the problems in air service. In 2002, it was estimated that about 400,000 people who lived in the service area of the airport chose to fly from a different location, 25% of those flew to destinations in Mexico. Kern County started multiple projects to address the reluctance of airlines to use the airport. They included: installing centerline landing lights on the main runway, extending the second runway to 7,700 feet (the length most airplanes that use the airport would need), construction of a new terminal with jet bridges and inside baggage claim, and remodeling the existing terminal to accommodate international flights. Most improvements were completed by 2006, with the international terminal completed in 2007.
Initial response was favorable. Four new airlines would start service at the airport, including international jet service to Mexico operated by Mexicana Airlines. This would also increase emplanements above the levels set in 1978. However, high gas prices and the subsequent recession of 2008 would reduce service to 2002 levels, including the loss of its international carrier. However, the US Customs house would remain open. In addition to serving international charter and unscheduled flights, it would process international cargo. Both the Tejon Industrial Complex (south of Bakersfield) and the International Trade and Transportation Center (in Shafter, west of Bakersfield) would lease warehouse space at the airport for use by their clients.
Facilities and aircraft 
Meadows Field covers an area of 1,357 acres (549 ha) at an elevation of 510 feet (155 m) above mean sea level. It has two runways with asphalt surfaces: 12L/30R is 10,855 by 150 feet (3,309 x 46 m) and 12R/30L is 7,703 by 100 feet (2,348 x 30 m).
The main runway, 12L-30R, is the longest in the San Joaquin Valley. It is classified as a commercial D-IV runway, but is capable of serving Boeing 747 aircraft. The other parallel runway, 12R-30L, is classified as a general aviation B-II runway. Although only 75 feet width is required for this classification, the runway is 25 feet wider to allow it to serve as an alternate runway for turboprop and small regional jet aircraft.
For the 12-month period ending February 28, 2011, the airport had 131,102 aircraft operations, an average of 359 per day: 90% general aviation, 8% air taxi, 2% scheduled commercial, and <1% military. At that time there were 219 aircraft based at this airport: 94% single-engine, 4% multi-engine, and 2% helicopter.
William M. Thomas Terminal (Domestic) 
William M. Thomas Terminal has three gates and houses United Express and US Airways Express. It serves all domestic flights at the airport. The terminal also contains an Omni Goods gift shop and a Blimpie restaurant. Features of the terminal include a rotunda with compass point floor design and a scaled model of Spaceship One (which flew out of Mojave about 50 miles (80 km) east of Bakersfield). It is also constructed on a hill, which allows for all passenger services to be on the second level, while airport services are on the first. The terminal was constructed in 2006 at a cost of $33.8 million and designed by Odell Associates, Inc. It was initially occupied by America West Express, Continental Express, Delta Connection, and United Express.
Kern County Air Terminal (International) 
Kern County Air Terminal has three open air gates, and is currently closed. The terminal was closed in 2008, when the only carrier, Mexicana, ended scheduled international flights. The adjacent US Customs house remains open, and processes both international charter flights and international cargo. If the terminal was opened, it would serve all international flights.
The terminal was constructed in 1957, and originally served all domestic flights. A variety of carriers would operate out of the terminal, as companies started and ended service at the airport. In 2006, the terminal was served by America West Express, Continental Express, Delta Connection and United Express. That same year, they would move to the new Domestic Terminal. The Kern County Air Terminal would undergo a $1 million renovation and an adjacent $7 million US Customs house would be constructed. The number of gates would also be reduced from 5 to 3. The terminal would reopen in 2007, and was initially occupied by Mexicana.
The Terminal previously had an onsite motel "Skyway Inn" and a restaurant "Skyway Steakhouse". Both closed following the airports downturn due to the loss of American Eagle shortly after 9/11 and were subsequently demolished prior to the opening of the William M. Thomas Terminal.
Airlines and destinations 
Scheduled passenger services 
|United Express operated by SkyWest Airlines||Denver, Houston-Intercontinental, Los Angeles, San Francisco|
|US Airways Express operated by SkyWest Airlines||Phoenix|
Scheduled cargo services 
|FedEx Feeder operated by West Air||Ontario|
Traffic and statistics 
|Rank||Airport||Passengers[note 1]||Carriers[note 2]|
|1||Phoenix, Arizona||55,000||US Airways Express|
|2||San Francisco, California||19,000||United Express|
|3||Denver, Colorado||17,000||United Express|
|4||Los Angeles, California||11,000||United Express|
|5||Las Vegas, Nevada||7,000||Allegiant Air|
|6||Houston, Texas||4,000||United Express[note 3]|
|9||San Antonio, Texas||<1,000|
|Source: Meadows Field |
Terminal connections 
Although the International Terminal is currently closed (the US Customhouse remains open), when the terminal was open there was no airport transportation between it and the Domestic Terminal. There is also no road connection, or pedestrian access between the two terminals. For passengers to transfer, they would leave the airport and turn left on Airport Drive. They would then turn left on Merle Haggard Drive. Passengers would then reenter the airport at Wings Way, a distance of approximately 2.5 miles (4.0 km). There is a long term plan to extend Wings Way through the airport, which would provide a more direct connection, but there is no date for construction.
Ground transportation 
The airport is located at the intersection of Merle Haggard Drive and Airport Drive, in Oildale (also called North Bakersfield). Access to the Domestic Terminal is from Merle Haggard Drive while access to the International Terminal is from Airport Drive. The primary signed route to the airport is via SR 99 (Golden State Freeway). Drivers traveling north exit at Porterville Highway (SR 65) while drivers traveling south exit at 7th Standard Road/Merle Haggard Drive. In both cases, drivers then turn east on Merle Haggard Drive, which leads to the airport. There is an alternate signed route via Golden State Highway (SR 204 Freeway). Drivers exit at Airport Drive, and travel north to the airport.
The Domestic Terminal provides fee parking for both short term, and long term parking. People can also park for free in the short term parking for a limited amount of time. The International Terminal provides free parking for both short term, and long term parking.
Public transportation 
Public transportation to the airport is provided exclusively by Golden Empire Transit (GET). Travel to/from the International Terminal is provided by Route 3 (Downtown), which runs between the Downtown Transit Center and North Bakersfield. The bus will only stop at the terminal when requested. There are no scheduled bus routes to the Domestic Terminal. Special express service is provided between the terminal and the Downtown Transit Center, if requested 24 hours in advance.
Rental car/taxi 
Rental cars are only available at the Domestic Terminal. Currently four companies are located at the airport. Rental car counter space is on the east side of the terminal, with the car lots directly outside the east exit.
Taxi stands are located outside the north entrance to the terminal, across the street. Taxis are typically available when flights are arriving at the airport. Meadows Field also list two taxi companies on their website, which provide 24 hour pickup, if no taxis are available.
Kern County has planned several improvements to the airport over the next 20 years, all of which are based on future demand.
The domestic terminal was constructed in anticipation of future expansion. Currently it has three sky bridges to connect passengers to airplanes. Without any new construction, two additional sky bridges can be added. The existing gate area can then be extended towards the runway for an additional seven gates. After that, a new concourse can be constructed on the west side of the terminal for 12 more gates. That puts the ultimate capacity for the terminal at 24 gates.
Other facilities are planned to expand with these future changes to the terminal. The existing parking lot will grow both east and west. The rental car parking lots will be consolidated and relocated east of the terminal. Wings Way, the road that connects to the airport, will be extend to Airport Drive, and connect to Day Avenue.
Currently, all cargo operations are conducted out of a small facility, east of the international terminal. A new, expanded cargo facility is planned west of Merle Haggard Drive, north of the runway. Ultimate build out will contain 12 sortation buildings, 30,000 square feet (2,800 m2) each. A road will connect then to trucking/warehouse/distribution facilities west of the airport. That road will terminate at Porterville Highway (SR 65) and Merle Haggard Drive (at Wings Way). Other aviation-related structures are planned in the area.
In addition, there is a long term plan to construct a third parallel runway. Designated 13-31, it will be located north of the cargo facilities, as well as Merle Haggard Drive. The runway is planned to be 8,000 feet (2,400 m) long and 150 feet (46 m) wide. It will be widely spaced, which will allow for simultaneous Instrument Flight Rule (IFR).
See also 
- California World War II Army Airfields
- Army Air Force School of Applied Tactics
- List of airports in Kern County, California
Waiting-area/Lobby at BFL, with a full-scale replica of Space Ship One above and the Baggage Claim in the distance
- List includes both non-stop and multiple stops to a given destination. Destinations with less than 1,000 passengers are listed in the same order as the Bureau of Transportation Statistics list.
- Carriers list only include non-stop service to a given destination.
- Houston-Intercontinenal flights are operated under the Continental Airlines reservation code.
Inline citations 
- FAA Airport Master Record for BFL ( PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. Effective May 31, 2012.
- "Enplanements for CY 2008" (PDF, 1.0 MB). CY 2008 Passenger Boarding and All-Cargo Data. Federal Aviation Administration. December 18, 2009.
- "Enplanements for CY 2010" (PDF, 189 KB). CY 2010 Passenger Boarding and All-Cargo Data. Federal Aviation Administration. October 4, 2011.
- "2011–2015 NPIAS Report, Appendix A" (PDF, 2.03 MB). National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems. Federal Aviation Administration. October 4, 2010.
- Brewer, Chris. Historic Kern County. Historic Publishing Network: San Antonio, Texas. 2001. ISBN 1-893619-14-1. Pages: 70-71.
- "Meadows Field - Master Plan" (PDF). County of Kern. December 2006. pp. 1–5.
- Darling, Curtis. Kern County Place Names. Kern County Historical Society. 2003. ISBN 0-943500-18-4. Page: 89.
- "County of Kern and City of Bakersfield vs Civil Aeronautics Board and United Airlines". United States Ninth Circuit of Appeals. Nos. 79-7308, 80-7099. May 13, 1981. Retrieved October 28, 2011.
- "Meadows Field Airport - Airport Master Plan" (PDF). December 2006. pp. 2–12.
- "Population and Housing Data" (PDF). City of Bakersfield. Retrieved October 28, 2011.
- "Population by counties 1900-1990, California". US Census. Retrieved October 28, 2011.
- "Meadows Field - Master Plan" (PDF). County of Kern. December 2006. pp. 2–13.
- "Meadows Field Status" (PDF). Kern County Department of Airports. June 28, 2005. Retrieved November 3, 2011.
- "Passenger Enplanements and Deplanements" (PDF). Meadows Field. Retrieved October 30, 2011.
- "What's Up" (PDF). Meadows Field. November 2010. p. 1. Retrieved October 30, 2011.
- "Meadows Field - Master Plan" (PDF). County of Kern. December 2006. pp. 3–4.
- Weiser, Matt. New Bakersfield Terminal Set to Take Flight. The Bakersfield Californian. June 28, 2003. Retrieved November 3, 2011.
- Burger, James.Did the County Waste Millions on International Terminal. The Bakersfield Californian. April 29, 2008. Retrieved November 3, 2011.
- "RITA | BTS | Transtats". Transtats.bts.gov. May 2011. Retrieved September 13, 2011.
- "Meadows Field - Master Plan" (PDF). County of Kern. December 2006. p. 5-2.
- "Parking and Ground Transportation". Meadows Field. Retrieved September 16, 2011.
- "Airport Transportation". Golden Empire Transit. Retrieved September 16, 2011.
- "Meadows Field - Master Plan" (PDF). County of Kern. June 20, 2006. pp. 3–19, 5–2 to 5–3.
- "Meadows Field - Master Plan" (PDF). County of Kern. June 20, 2006. pp. 5–2 to 5–3.
- "Meadows Field - Master Plan" (PDF). County of Kern. June 20, 2006. pp. 4–6, 5–2 to 5–3.
Other sources 
- Meadows Field, official site
- This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.
- Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
- Maurer, Maurer (1969), Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II, Air Force Historical Studies Office, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. ISBN 0-89201-097-5
- Shaw, Frederick J. (2004), Locating Air Force Base Sites History's Legacy, Air Force History and Museums Program, United States Air Force, Washington DC, 2004.
- Meadows Field (BFL), official site
- Atlantic Aviation, a fixed base operator at BFL
- Bakersfield Jet Center, a fixed base operator at BFL
- Epic Jet Center, a fixed base operator at BFL
- Aerial image as of September 1994 from USGS The National Map
- (PDF), effective May 2, 2013
- FAA Terminal Procedures for BFL, effective May 2, 2013
- Resources for this airport: