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Fresno Yosemite International Airport

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Fresno Yosemite International Airport
Fresno Yosemite International Airport logo.png
Fresno Airport aerial.png
USGS aerial image, 2020
Airport typePublic / military
OwnerCity of Fresno
OperatorCity of Fresno Airports Division
ServesFresno, San Joaquin Valley, Yosemite National Park
OpenedJune 1946; 75 years ago (1946-06)
Elevation AMSL336 ft / 102 m
Coordinates36°46′36″N 119°43′08″W / 36.77667°N 119.71889°W / 36.77667; -119.71889Coordinates: 36°46′36″N 119°43′08″W / 36.77667°N 119.71889°W / 36.77667; -119.71889
FAA airport diagram
FAA airport diagram
FAT is located in Fresno, California
FAT is located in California
FAT is located in the United States
Direction Length Surface
ft m
11L/29R 9,539 2,907 Asphalt
11R/29L 8,008 2,441 Asphalt
Statistics (2020)
Aircraft operations9,600

Fresno Yosemite International Airport (IATA: FAT, ICAO: KFAT, FAA LID: FAT) is a joint civil-military airport in Fresno, California, United States. It is the primary commercial airport for the San Joaquin Valley and three national parks: Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon. It offers scheduled passenger flights to several major airline hubs in the United States and international service to Mexico. The facility opened in June 1942 as Hammer Field, a military airfield. The airport is owned and operated by the city of Fresno and operates two runways on a property spanning 1,728 acres (699 ha). Its airport code 'FAT' stands for "Fresno Air Terminal," a former name for the airport.

Due to its central location within the state, the airport is home to several military, law enforcement, firefighting, and medical air units. The Fresno Air National Guard Base on the southeast corner of the airport is home to the 144th Fighter Wing of the California Air National Guard. The Fresno Air Attack Base on the eastern side of the airport supports aerial firefighting aircraft. Other government and military operators with facilities at the airport include the California Army National Guard, the California Highway Patrol, the Fresno County Sheriff's Office, and the Fresno Police Department.

Fresno is home to a large operations base for SkyWest Airlines, the nation's largest regional airline.


Aerial view of Fresno Yosemite International Airport (2021)

Military beginnings[edit]

The Fresno Yosemite International Airport opened as a military airfield in June 1942, just six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, leading the United States to enter World War II. The new airfield was named Hammer Field and was used by the United States Army Air Forces as a training facility for the new pilots of the Fourth Air Force. It had a single northwest/southeast oriented runway with a length of 7,200 feet (now runway 11L/29R).[3]

Night fighter training, using Northrop P-61s, was moved to Hammer Field in January 1944, initially with the 481st Night Fighter Operational Training Group, replaced by the 319th Wing in May 1944. Training for the Bell P-59 Airacomet was added to the 319th mission in 1944, as well, confirmed Col. Ralph H. Snavely, commanding officer of the 319th Wing.[4]

At the time, civil and commercial aviation used Chandler Field that had opened in November 1929.[5] Chandler is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) west of downtown Fresno, on a small site. Less than a decade after it opened, it was clear that the small runway at Chandler would not be able to accommodate coming larger airliners.[5]

Conversion to civil use[edit]

After World War II, Hammer Field was inactivated by the Army Air Forces and the city of Fresno saw an opportunity to use the site to create a commercial airport much larger than Chandler Field. In 1946 the War Assets Administration reallocated the property to the city, which immediately began construction on a passenger terminal on the northeast side of the airfield. In 1948, the newly renamed Fresno Air Terminal (FAT) opened. Trans World Airlines (TWA) and United Airlines flights to San Francisco/Oakland and Los Angeles moved from Chandler Field to the newly opened airport. Chandler Field was retained by the city of Fresno as a reliever airport and continues to operate as the Fresno Chandler Executive Airport.[6][5]

Strategic Air Command facilities for Convair B-36 operations were initially proposed for “Hammer Air Force Base”, but objections from the City of Fresno led them to be changed to Travis Air Force Base instead. The Fresno upgrade was projected to cost $22.3 million.[7]

The California Air National Guard moved to the airport in the 1950s and established the Fresno Air National Guard Base on the southeast corner of the property. The guard also built munition storage bunkers along the northern edge of the airport grounds.[8] The 194th Fighter Squadron moved to the facility in late 1954, followed by the 144th Fighter Wing in 1957.[9] As the guard moved in, a second parallel runway (11R/29L) was constructed and opened to traffic in 1956.[6]

The original part of the terminal building which opened in 1962 and includes the mosaic "Sky and Ground"

Construction started on a new, larger passenger terminal in 1959 on the south side of the field.[6] The building was a long, simple shape that housed a baggage claim area, a central lobby, and a ticketing area. The $1.5 million terminal had long walls of glass for the baggage claim and the ticketing areas, which bookended the central lobby of solid masonry block which bears a venetian glass mosaic called "Sky and Ground" from Raymond Rice.[10][11] From the central lobby, passengers used a tunnel to reach the open-air, remote concourse where they boarded planes from ground level.[6] The terminal opened on March 28, 1962 and shortly after received an honor award from the San Joaquin Valley Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.[12] Although renovated, the original terminal building is still in use today for the same functions that it was designed for. The current air traffic control tower was built around the same time as the terminal and opened in 1961.[6]

Pacific Air Lines was first to schedule jets to Fresno, with the Boeing 727-100s in 1966.[13] United was the dominant carrier at the airport throughout the mid-1970s. At the airlines peak they operated daily DC-8s jet service to Denver, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Hughes Airwest and PSA jets also served the airport at this time, but to much less destinations.[14]

The first significant expansion to the passenger terminal came in 1978 when a concourse was built straight out from the central lobby. This building, unlike the original remote concourse, was enclosed and climate-controlled.[6]

The airport saw significant down-gauging of flights following airline deregulation in 1978. By 1983, the airport mainly saw turboprop service from smaller carriers and United Airlines ended intrastate flights from Fresno.[15] Delta Air Lines operated mainline jets to Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Reno in the mid 1990s,[16] but by 1999, the only mainline jet flights remaining at Fresno was the American Airlines service to Dallas/Fort Worth.[17]

In 1996, the airport's name was changed from Fresno Air Terminal to Fresno Yosemite International Airport to attract out-of-state and international visitors to Yosemite National Park to the airport. Despite the new name, scheduled international commercial flights would not begin operating in Fresno for nearly a decade.[18] At the time, airport managers petitioned the FAA for a new identifier code to replace FAT, which they said carries a negative connotation and no longer matched the initials of the airport. The request was denied, with the FAA reaffirming its long-standing policy to only issue a new identifier code when an airport is physically relocated (such as in 1995 when Denver Airport was moved out of Stapleton).[19] In recent years, airport managers have embraced the FAT identifier code, naming a major expansion project “FAT Forward.”

Fresno has been the headquarters for a few airlines throughout its history. In the mid-1980s, Far West Airlines was founded in Fresno and used the airport as a small intrastate hub serving Burbank, Los Angeles, Modesto, Oakland, Orange County, Sacramento, and San Jose.[20] Air 21 was founded in Fresno in January 1994 and operated service between several western cities before ceasing operations in January 1997.[21] Allegiant Air was founded in Fresno in January 1997, and its headquarters were located in the city until it declared bankruptcy in 2000, and the new CEO moved its headquarters to a suburb of Las Vegas.

Expansion and remodeling[edit]

The new concourse with jet bridges

At the turn of the 21st century, the city began a series of projects that would expand and remodel the passenger terminal. The first and most notable project was the expansion of the boarding areas. The project, designed by DMJM Aviation extended the concourse further, creating a new two-level section with six jetbridges. Before this project passengers boarded all planes using stairs or ramps. When completed in 2002, the new concourse building received praise for its design and was named one of the top 10 projects in Fresno Architecture for the decade with critics commending the use of steel and the curved glass facade.[22]

A new Federal Inspection Services facility for international arrivals was completed in early 2006, giving federal officials space to check passports and complete customs work. Completion of that facility allowed Fresno to begin receiving scheduled international commercial flights. The first international service started in April 2006 with Mexicana operating flights between Fresno and Mexico City with an intermediate stop in Guadalajara.[18]

“Sequoiascape,” a public art display inside the terminal that depicts a sequoia forest

With the new concourse extension and new international arrivals facility completed, portions of the original 1960s terminal building were given a major renovation. The project was designed CSHQA and completed in several phases between 2006 and 2010. While keeping the facility operational, nearly every part of the building was updated including the baggage claim area, security checkpoint, central lobby, ticketing area, and low-level concourse. The centerpiece of the project was “Sequoiascape,” a public art display in the central terminal lobby that depicts life-size, replica sequoia forest, reflecting the airport's role as a gateway to the nearby national parks. The giant trees appear to be supporting the roof of the terminal and are surrounded by fallen logs, and other foliage, surrounded by the split rail fencing and granite curbs that visitors would see at the region’s national parks.[23][24][25][26]

A consolidated rental car facility opened at the airport in 2009. The $22 million project allows customers of most rental car companies to pick up and drop off vehicles just outside the terminal. The project also included the construction of maintenance buildings and storage lots on a nearby, 11-acre site.[27]

Direct international service from Fresno briefly ended in August 2010 when Mexicana went bankrupt. International service resumed, with more flights, less than a year later when both Aeroméxico and Volaris added service between Fresno and Guadalajara in April 2011.[28][29]

The secondary runway (11R/29L) was widened, lengthened and strengthened in a $30 million project completed in October 2012.[30]

Southwest Airlines began serving the airport on April 25, 2021, the first time the airline provided services at Fresno's airport, with daily flights to Las Vegas and Denver.[31]

Future expansion[edit]

Parking garage under construction, July 2021

Fresno Yosemite International Airport is currently working on a $115 million expansion project that will add a 917-space, four-level parking garage and expand terminal facilities adding two new gates. Construction on the garage began in fall 2020 is expected to be completed by October 2021.[32]

The project will make several changes to the terminal, including the addition of a new concourse building with two new gates that can be used for both domestic and international flights, enlarging the screening area for arriving international passengers, expanding the luggage-handling and sorting area for outbound flights, and expanding the Transportation Security Administration security checkpoint.[33]

Airport managers initially anticipated that construction on the terminal expansion would begin in early 2021 and be operational before the summer 2022 travel season.[34] However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the process was delayed and construction is now slated to begin in spring 2022[32] and be completed in 2024.[35]

Airline service[edit]

Alaska Airlines Embraer 175 operated by SkyWest Airlines parked at the gate at Fresno Yosemite International Airport. SkyWest is a major operator from Fresno with a maintenance facility and aircrew base located at the airport.

The majority of scheduled commercial flights to Fresno use smaller regional jet aircraft operated by regional airlines, and the airport is home to a significant operations base for SkyWest Airlines, the nation's largest regional airline. Fresno does still see mainline jet service on the busiest routes, and while only a few international flights operate to Mexico each day, they are some of the airport's most well patronized.[36]

SkyWest carries between 50 and 60 percent of the passenger traffic at Fresno, with seasonal variability.[2] The regional airline operates under contract with mainline partners as American Eagle, Alaska Airlines, Delta Connection and United Express. SkyWest has a 17-acre maintenance and overnight parking facility on the east side of the airfield with 21 aircraft positions, and an approximately 92,000 square foot hangar.[6] SkyWest also uses Fresno as a crew base for pilots and flight attendants.[37]

Mainline air carrier service includes Allegiant Air, which offers service to Las Vegas. American Airlines operates to Dallas/Fort Worth, United Airlines offers service to Denver and Chicago, Frontier Airlines has service to Denver, and Southwest Airlines offers service to Denver and Las Vegas. International carriers also use mainline jets on their service to Mexico. All airlines use narrow-body aircraft from either the Airbus A320 family or the Boeing 737 family of jets.

Aeroméxico and Volaris both operate international service between Fresno and Guadalajara, Mexico's second-largest city and a major airline hub in the country. Additionally, Volaris also operates service to Morelia, the capital of and largest city in Mexico's Michoacán state and starting on October 29, 2019 will fly to León, the largest city in Mexico's Guanajuato state. Direct international service from Fresno began on April 1, 2006, and are now some of the busiest flights from the airport. As of 2016, international service on Aeroméxico and Volaris accounted for about 6% of all flights to Fresno, but carried more than 13% of all passengers flying to the airport, a combined total of almost 201,000 people.[36]

The carrier that has the longest continuous operation out of the Fresno Yosemite International Airport is United Airlines, which began serving the airport on its opening day. For about two decades, United did not directly operate its service to Fresno, instead shifting service in the mid-1990s to SkyWest, which operated flights as United Express. United resumed mainline jet service on August 15, 2017, between Fresno and its hub in San Francisco, reflecting the increased traffic on the route.[38] A little less than a year later, United launched seasonal, non-stop service to its hub at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on June 7, 2018 using Embraer 175 regional jets.[39][40] The route is currently the longest operating from Fresno. Although mainline service to San Francisco was eventually shifted entirely back to SkyWest in late 2018, United's second mainline absence from Fresno would turn out to be much shorter than its first. Because of the Chicago route's successful first summer, United announced that it would resume service to O'Hare on March 31, 2019 for the spring and summer seasons, as well as up-gauge the route to larger Airbus A319 mainline aircraft.[41] Service to Chicago was later extended to year-round, with United mainline aircraft providing service from March through December, and SkyWest regional jets providing service in January and February. At the same time that it made the Chicago route year-round, United also scheduled an up-gauge for one of its daily flights between Fresno and Denver to mainline aircraft, with service beginning in the fall of 2019.[42]


Check-in counters


Fresno Yosemite International Airport covers 1,728 acres (699 ha) at an elevation of 336 ft (102 m) above mean sea level, with two paved asphalt runways. The primary runway, 11L/29R, is 9,539 by 150 ft (2,907 by 46 m) and the secondary runway, 11R/29L, 8,008 by 150 ft (2,441 by 46 m).[1]


In 2019, 1.96 million passengers flew in and out of Fresno Yosemite International Airport, representing an 11% increase from the previous record set in 2018, when 1.77 million passengers flew in and out of the airport.[43]

For the year ending March 31, 2017, the airport had 99,559 aircraft operations, an average of 273 per day: 61% general aviation, 18% scheduled commercial, 15% air taxi and 6% military. At that time there were 179 aircraft based at the airport: 56% single-engine, 14% multi-engine, 13% military, 9% jet and 7% helicopter.[1]

Airlines and destinations[edit]


Aeroméxico Guadalajara [44]
aha! Reno/Tahoe [45]
Alaska Airlines Los Angeles, Portland (OR), San Diego, Seattle/Tacoma [46]
Allegiant Air Las Vegas [47]
American Airlines Dallas/Fort Worth
Seasonal: Chicago–O'Hare, Phoenix–Sky Harbor
American Eagle Phoenix–Sky Harbor [48]
Delta Connection Los Angeles, Salt Lake City
Seasonal: Seattle/Tacoma
Frontier Airlines Denver [51]
Southwest Airlines Denver, Las Vegas [52][53]
United Airlines Chicago–O'Hare, Denver [54]
United Express Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco [54]
Volaris Guadalajara, León/El Bajío, Mexico City, Morelia [55]


Ameriflight Burbank, Santa Maria, Ontario [56][57]
FedEx Express Denver, Grand Junction, Memphis, Oakland, Visalia [57]
UPS Airlines Louisville, Ontario [58]


Airport traffic[edit]

Annual passenger traffic at FAT airport. See source Wikidata query.

Top destinations[edit]

Busiest domestic routes from FAT (September 2020 – August 2021)[2]
Rank City Passengers Carriers
1 Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas 140,220 American
2 Denver, Colorado 92,490 Frontier, Southwest, United
3 Las Vegas, Nevada 86,170 Allegiant, Southwest
4 Phoenix, Arizona 63,370 American
5 Seattle–Tacoma, Washington 62,540 Alaska
6 Salt Lake City, Utah 61,930 Delta
7 Los Angeles, California 51,060 Alaska, Delta, United
8 San Francisco, California 29,170 United
9 Portland, Oregon 24,840 Alaska
10 San Diego, California 24,760 Alaska

Airline market share[edit]

Largest airlines at FAT (September 2020 – August 2021)[2]
Rank Airline Passengers Share
1 SkyWest Airlines 639,000 48.63%
2 American Airlines 325,000 24.70%
3 Southwest Airlines 109,000 8.29%
4 Allegiant Air 97,370 7.41%
5 Horizon Air 63,080 4.80%
All others 81,280 6.18%

Passenger traffic[edit]

Year Passengers Change Fresno Yosemite International Airport passenger totals 2002–present (in millions)
2002 908,314 -
2003 915,911 Increase00.7%
2004 1,031,291 Increase012.6%
2005 1,092,130 Increase05.9%
2006 1,189,967 Increase08.9%
2007 1,248,255 Increase04.9%
2008 1,273,813 Increase02.0%
2009 1,128,695 Decrease011.4%
2010 1,146,685 Increase01.6%
2011 1,159,989 Increase01.2%
2012 1,240,286 Increase06.9%
2013 1,328,972 Increase07.1%
2014 1,390,704 Increase04.6%
2015 1,392,070 Increase00.1%
2016 1,540,623 Increase010.6%
2017 1,504,763 Decrease02.3%
2018 1,765,963 Increase017.36%
2019 1,964,489 Increase011.24%
2020 990,627 Decrease049.57%

Military and government operations[edit]

The 144th Fighter Wing of the California Air National Guard is based out of the Fresno Yosemite International Airport.[59] The California Army National Guard also has an Aviation Classification Repair Activity Depot (AVCRAD) at the airport.[6] The depot performs high-level maintenance and repair of Army aircraft. Its jurisdiction covers a 15-state region in the Western United States.[60]

The United States Forest Service, Sierra National Forest and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) jointly operate the Fresno Air Attack Base at the airport for fighting forest fires with aerial tankers.[61] The air attack base has a command center and four loading pits where fire retardant is pumped into aircraft with the capacity to load up to 300,000 gallons each day.

Other government operators with facilities at the airport include the California Highway Patrol, the Fresno County Sheriff's Office, and the Fresno Police Department.

Ground transportation and access[edit]


The airport is located about a mile away from California State Route 180, with vehicles using Peach Avenue to connect between the airport and the highway.[62] California State Route 180 connects to all of the other freeways in the Fresno area: California State Route 41, California State Route 99, and California State Route 168.[63] Yosemite National Park can be accessed by California State Route 41 and Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park can be accessed by California State Route 180.[64][65]


The city of Fresno offers paid on-site parking in a large lot located just south of the airport terminal. The lot is divided into a short-term area with 283 stalls and a long-term area with 1,879 stalls. A separate cell phone waiting lot located off the airport's main driveway has 47 stalls, designated for drivers waiting for arriving passengers.[66]

Public transportation[edit]

Fresno Area Express (FAX) operates two public transit buses to the airport, each with half-hourly service.[67] Route 26 Palm / Butler runs between the airport and North Fresno via Southeast and Downtown Fresno (where passengers may transfer to other FAX routes). Route 39 FYI/Clinton runs between the airport and West Fresno.

The City of Visalia operates the V-Line bus between the airport and the Visalia Transit Center (where passengers can connect to Visalia Transit routes) and the Visalia Airport (which offers V-Line passengers free long-term parking for up to ten days).[68][69]

Rental car facility[edit]

The airport offers a consolidated rental car facility at the west end of the terminal. Nine rental car companies have passenger service counters inside the terminal near the baggage claim area and up to 400 cars can be parked in a lot just west of the terminal building.[27] The 11-acre rental car facility opened in 2009 and was built at a cost of US$22 million.[27]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On December 14, 1994, a private jet on a military training mission, attempting to land at Fresno, crashed onto a street and skidded into an apartment complex, killing both pilots and injuring 21 people on the ground.[70] The Learjet 35, piloted by two civilians and belonging to a Georgia-based company, Phoenix Air Group, was contracted by the US Air Force to provide training for California Air National Guard pilots. The plane had been involved in a war game with an F-16 fighter jet and was on its way back to the airport when the flight crew declared an emergency due to engine fire indications. They directed the plane toward their requested runway but the aircraft continued past the airport. On radio transmissions, the flight crew was heard attempting to diagnose the emergency conditions and control the aircraft, until the plane crashed with its landing gear down about 2 miles (3.2 km) southwest of the airport. It then plowed into an apartment complex and exploded in a fireball. Twelve apartment units in two buildings were destroyed or substantially damaged by the impact or the subsequent fire. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable causes of the accident were improperly installed electrical wiring that led to an in-flight fire which damaged the aircraft's systems causing a loss of control and improper maintenance and inspection of the aircraft.[71]
  • On September 13, 2015, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 jetliner converted into a firefighting air tanker operated by Erickson had an engine failure after taking off from the airport. Pieces of the engine struck a car, damaging it. The aircraft was able to return to the airport safely.[72]


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External links[edit]

Media related to Fresno Yosemite International Airport at Wikimedia Commons