Palmdale Regional Airport

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Palmdale Regional Airport
Palmdale Regional Airport - California.jpg
Airport typePublic/military (joint use)
Owner/OperatorCity of Palmdale &
United States Air Force
ServesPalmdale, California
Elevation AMSL2,543 ft / 775 m
Coordinates34°37′46″N 118°05′04″W / 34.62944°N 118.08444°W / 34.62944; -118.08444Coordinates: 34°37′46″N 118°05′04″W / 34.62944°N 118.08444°W / 34.62944; -118.08444
PMD is located in California
Location of airport in California
Direction Length Surface
ft m
4/22 12,001 3,658 Concrete
7/25 12,002 3,658 Concrete
72/252 6,000 1,829 Concrete
Statistics (2008)
Aircraft operations64,433
See: United States Air Force Plant 42 for the United States Government use of the facility

Palmdale Regional Airport (IATA: PMD, ICAO: KPMD, FAA LID: PMD) is an airport in Palmdale, California, United States. The city of Palmdale took over the airport at the end of 2013, managing it via the Palmdale Airport Authority.[2]


Palmdale Regional Airport has a small airline terminal and a hangar. The airport terminal is at the southwest corner of the airport and began civilian operations in 1971. The FAA's Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center is next to the facility.

The airport is included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2011–2015, which categorized it as a primary commercial service facility based on enplanements in 2008 (more than 10,000 per year).[3] Federal Aviation Administration records say the airport had 10,392 passenger boardings (enplanements) in calendar year 2008, 82% more than the 5,712 in 2007.[4]

PMD has two main runways: 4/22 and 7/25, both over 2 miles (3 km) long. 7/25 was built to withstand an 8.3 Richter Scale earthquake, making it one of the world's strongest runways. Another smaller runway, 72/252, is used as an assault strip.[5]

PMD and Plant 42 are separate facilities that share a common runway at the site. The facility is located in the Antelope Valley, approximately 60 miles from downtown Los Angeles.


LA/Palmdale Regional Airport terminal

The airport covers 5,832 acres (2,360 ha) at an elevation of 2,543 feet (775 m) above mean sea level. It has three runways with concrete surfaces: 4/22 is 12,001 by 150 feet (3,658 x 46 m); 7/25 is 12,002 by 200 feet (3,658 x 61 m); 72/252 is 6,000 by 75 feet (1,829 x 23 m).[1]

During the 1990s, airlines operated out of the Palmdale Regional Airport, which consisted of the terminal and parking lot on leased land. The last airline pulled out in 1998.

Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) owns 17,000 acres east of Plant 42 that was acquired for an airport. The city of Los Angeles bought the land in the 1960s when it planned to build an airport in Palmdale, but the airport was never built. In March 2001 Los Angeles County hired Tri-Star Marketing to prepare the presentations needed to bring air-passenger service back to Palmdale Regional Airport. However, the regional transportation plans formulated by the Southern California Association of Governments focus on having airports in Burbank, Ontario, Irvine and El Toro to handle the excess air-passenger service for the Southern California region.

Airline service: 2007–2008[edit]

After several airlines were unable to sustain operations at Palmdale, the terminal was remodeled and reopened in May 2007. Convincing airlines of the marketability of the airport without subsidies has been difficult. Although Palmdale Airport offers airline passengers a quicker ground travel time northbound from Sherman Oaks than the LAX airport car trip southbound down the 405 freeway,[citation needed] it has not provided the range of destinations that would make passengers choose it over LAX and Bob Hope Airport. The communities around LAX and Burbank do not want the noise of additional flights, but most Antelope Valley residents support expanding service at Palmdale.

Looking down runway 7 from about 6000 feet AGL in 2007

In January 2007 subsidies valued at $4.6 million, with $2 million slated to underwrite losses incurred from providing airline service, were raised to restore commercial service to the airport. The incentive package included a $900,000 grant from the federal government to the city of Palmdale to develop regional airport service.[6]

In February 2007 the city of Palmdale and LAWA selected United Airlines to provide service between Palmdale and San Francisco International Airport (SFO). (The only other proposal was from Delta Air Lines to Salt Lake City). The United Express flights operated by SkyWest Airlines offered twice-daily, Canadair CRJ-200 regional jet service beginning on June 7, 2007.

Between June 7 and December 31, 2007, the airport served 12,022 passengers,[7] about 58 per day.

On September 3, 2008, the San Francisco United Express service operated by SkyWest Airlines was increased from two 50-seat regional jets a day to four 30-seat Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia turboprop flights per day.[8] On its September 18 schedule update, United canceled all flights beginning December 7, 2008, the day after the expiration of the federal grant and 18 months after the beginning of the SFO-PMD services.

The airport currently does not have any scheduled passenger airline service.


The Blackbird Airpark Museum[9] and the adjacent Palmdale Plant 42 Heritage Airpark (now "Joe Davies Heritage Airpark")[10] have been opened on Plant 42 property along Avenue P, with displays of the SR-71, U-2, Century Series fighters and other aircraft designed, engineered, manufactured, and flight tested at its facilities. Both museums are free to the public.

The Blackbird Airpark Museum is an extension of the AFFTC Museum at Edwards AFB, while the Heritage Airpark is operated by the city of Palmdale. Both are manned by retirees who had previously worked in the aerospace industry, some actually having worked on the aircraft displayed at the two parks. All of the aircraft have been carefully restored for public display. The two airparks are located at Avenue P and 25th Street East near Site 9.

FAA operations[edit]

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) operates the Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) at its site near Plant 42 at Avenue P and 25th Street East. This center controls and tracks aircraft over much of the western United States, including parts of California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and the Pacific Ocean.


Palmdale Airport in 1953, showing its World War II configuration

The origins of Palmdale Regional Airport go to the early 1930s, when a small airstrip was built in the desert. It was listed in 1935 documentation as CAA Intermediate #5. It was established by the Bureau of Air Commerce (later the Civil Aeronautics Administration) who maintained a network of emergency landing fields. It provided a pilot in distress with a better alternative than landing on a public road or a farmer's field.[11]

World War II[edit]

In 1940, Palmdale Army Airfield was activated as a United States Army Air Corps (later Air Forces) airfield for use as an emergency landing strip and for B-25 Mitchell medium bomber support training during World War II. It was one of many intermediate fields that were used as auxiliary fields or emergency landing fields by the AAF during World War II. Their dispersion along the air routes, their infrequent use, and their U.S. government ownership made them ideal for use by military aircraft. It acted as a sub-base for Muroc Army Airfield and Hammer Army Airfield.[11]

Postwar use[edit]

Palmdale Army Airfield was declared a surplus facility in 1946 and was purchased by Los Angeles County for use as a municipal airport. The outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 caused the Air Force to reactivate the property for use in final assembly and flight testing of military jet aircraft.

Both the Air Force and its aircraft contractors needed a location away from major population centers - due to sonic booms, other noises and security concerns - but close enough to the major centers of aircraft design and production, while having excellent flying weather the year around. The land that became Plant 42 fit these criteria. Consequently, the Air Force agreed to purchase the land from Los Angeles County in 1951.

Lockheed assembled 250 new TriStar wide body jetliners at their manufacturing plant located at the airport from 1968 to 1984.[12]

Past airline service[edit]

Eastern TriStar at Palmdale Regional Airport in 1974. Palmdale was meant to become an alternative to LAX.

From 1970 to 1983 the Los Angeles Department of Airports, now called Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), acquired about 17,750 acres (72 km2) of land east and south of United States Air Force Plant 42 in unincorporated Los Angeles County to be developed into the future "Palmdale Intercontinental Airport," an alternative to LAX. LAWA has not developed its Palmdale airport land beyond the small airport terminal.

From the late 1960s and early 1980s, commuter air carriers Cable Commuter Airlines followed by successor Golden West Airlines operated de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter turboprop service from the airport with several nonstop flights a day to Los Angeles (LAX).[13][14] By 1983, Mojave Airlines was operating several nonstop flights a day to LAX with Beechcraft C99 commuter turboprops.[15]

In 1989, LAWA and the U.S. Air Force came to an agreement concerning use of the Plant 42 complex's facilities and land for commercial use. The agreement allows a maximum of 400 flights per day.

LAWA used Plant 42's facilities in past years for scheduled air carrier service. In 1990, America West Airlines was operating nonstop service to Las Vegas and Phoenix with de Havilland Canada DHC-8 Dash 8 turboprops.[16] However, this America West service lasted less than a year.[17] Also during the 1990s, several commuter airlines used the Palmdale Regional Airport passenger terminal sited on Plant 42. These air carriers included SkyWest Airlines operating as the Delta Connection flying Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner propjets nonstop to LAX in the early 1990s and Mesa Airlines operating as United Express flying Beechcraft 1900C turboprops to LAX in the mid 1990s.[18] Both airlines operated up to six round trip flights a day between the airport and LAX before ceasing all service. This civilian terminal was unused from 1998 to 2004; on December 29, 2004, civilian use resumed when Scenic Airlines began scheduled service to North Las Vegas, Nevada, although that service officially terminated in January 2006. United Airlines regional airline affiliate United Express operated by SkyWest then began daily service to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in June 2007, first with Canadair CRJ-200 regional jets, which were then replaced with Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia turboprops. However, United Express then suspended all flights on the SFO-PMD route in December 2008 upon the expiration of grants that subsidized this scheduled air service.

In late 2008, the city of Palmdale expressed interest in assuming operations at Palmdale Airport, including management of the terminal, taxiways, and parking, from LAWA. LAWA indicated that it was receptive to transferring the lease. The city took over the airport at the end of 2013, managing it via the Palmdale Airport Authority.[2]

Related incident[edit]

On February 1, 1991, SkyWest Flight 5569 departing to Palmdale Regional Airport collided at LAX with USAir Flight 1493 on the runway, which killed all 12 occupants onboard the Skywest plane.

See also[edit]


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

  1. ^ a b FAA Airport Form 5010 for PMD PDF. Federal Aviation Administration. Effective April 5, 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Airport Guides - Flight Tracking & Status, Airport Parking, Maps & More".
  3. ^ "2011–2015 NPIAS Report, Appendix A" (PDF, 2.03 MB). Federal Aviation Administration. October 4, 2010.
  4. ^ "Enplanements for CY 2008" (PDF, 1.0 MB). Federal Aviation Administration. December 18, 2009.
  5. ^ Pike, John. "Air Force Plant 42 - Palmdale, CA".
  6. ^ "United Airlines selected for Palmdale-Frisco service". LA Daily News. February 2, 2007. Archived from the original on March 6, 2008. Retrieved February 2, 2007.
  7. ^ "L.A. Area Airport Totals for 2007". Long Beach Press Telegram. January 30, 2008. Archived from the original on March 5, 2008. Retrieved January 30, 2008.
  8. ^ "LA/Palmdale Regional Airport To Double Air Service In September". News Release. Los Angeles World Airports. June 18, 2008.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ Black Airpark Museum part of Air Force Flight Test Center Museum
  10. ^ "City of Palmdale > Visitors > Joe Davies Heritage Airpark".
  11. ^ a b California World War II airfield database Archived September 27, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^, photos of new L-1011 aircraft at the Lockheed plant at Palmdale Airport (KPMD)
  13. ^, June 1, 1968 Cable Commuter Airlines system timetable
  14. ^, Nov. 15, 1979 Official Airline Guide (OAG), LAX-Palmdale schedules & April 26, 1981 Golden West Airlines system timetable
  15. ^, 1983 Mojave Airlines system timetable
  16. ^, Oct. 28, 1990 America West Airlines route map
  17. ^, Oct. 27, 1991 America West Airlines route map
  18. ^, Oct. 1, 1991 & April 2, 1995 Official Airline Guide (OAG) editions, LAX-Palmdale schedules

External links[edit]