Meadows Field Airport

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Meadows Field

Kern County Airport No. 1
Meadows Field Airport - California.jpg
Airport typePublic
OwnerKern County
OperatorKern County Department of Airports
ServesGreater Bakersfield metropolitan area
LocationOildale, California
Elevation AMSL510 ft / 155 m
Coordinates35°26′02″N 119°03′28″W / 35.43389°N 119.05778°W / 35.43389; -119.05778Coordinates: 35°26′02″N 119°03′28″W / 35.43389°N 119.05778°W / 35.43389; -119.05778
Location of Meadows Field
BFL is located in California
BFL is located in the United States
Direction Length Surface
ft m
12L/30R 10,855 3,309 Asphalt
12R/30L 7,703 2,348 Asphalt
Statistics (2011)
Aircraft operations131,102
Based aircraft219
Former airport logo

Meadows Field (IATA: BFL, ICAO: KBFL, FAA LID: BFL) is a public airport in Kern County, California, three miles northwest of Downtown Bakersfield.[1] It is the main airport for the Bakersfield 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,[2] 103,067 in 2009 and 111,699 in 2010.[3] The National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2011–2015 categorized it as a primary commercial service airport (more than 10,000 enplanements per year).[4]


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.[5]

Terminal at Meadows Field

Bakersfield then had two airfields. The more prominent field was at Sacramento and Monterey streets in East Bakersfield (at the time, mostly 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 from 1923 to 1926 (when that moved to Meadows Field). Another airfield was on the Panorama Bluffs in Northeast Bakersfield where Greenlawn Mortuary is today.[5]

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.[6][7] The original facility had one runway, one terminal building, and a few hangars and other buildings. In 1935, Kern County bought the airport from the Chamber of Commerce. It was the first county-owned airport in the nation.[7]

United States Army Air Force use[edit]

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 facility 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 night fighters.

Between May 1 and July 12, 1944, the 427th Night Fighter Squadron trained at Meadows Field; the 549th Night Fighter Squadron trained there 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.

A U.S. Air Force T-38 Talon supersonic jet trainer is on display at the entrance to the old terminal at Skyway Drive and Hanger Way (not in use for passengers).

Return to civil control and expansion[edit]

After the war, Meadows Field would return to being 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.[7] He was the county's Director of Airports from 1935 to 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.

Airport diagrams for 1955 and 1965

Past airlines[edit]

United Airlines served Meadows Field from 1946 until 1979–80 and again for three years starting around 1984; United flew the Boeing 727-100, 727-200 and 737-200 to San Francisco (SFO) and Los Angeles (LAX). Southwest Airways and successors Pacific Air Lines, Air West and Hughes Airwest served the airport from 1956 until 1979 with Fairchild F-27s. In 1966, Pacific Air Lines flew new Boeing 727-100s from Bakersfield nonstop to Los Angeles and Fresno and one-stop to San Francisco; this was the airport's first jet service. Pacific Express served the airport with BAC One-Elevens nonstop to San Francisco and Santa Barbara. Continental Airlines flew Boeing 737-200s to Denver in 1987–88; Continental also flew McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30s to Houston IAH via Las Vegas. Continental ended service to Meadows Field in 1994. American Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-80s flew to Dallas/Fort Worth from 1984-1999, some flights being via Santa Barbara. In 1998, American Airlines flew a Boeing 757-200 to John Wayne Airport and on to Chicago-O'Hare.

A number of commuter airlines have served the airport including Air Pacific, American Eagle Airlines, Aspen Airways, Imperial Airlines, Golden Gate Airlines, Golden West Airlines, Pacific Coast Airlines, SkyWest (initially operating independently and later as Western Express for Western Airlines and Delta Connection, Sun Aire, StatesWest Airlines and Swift Aire Lines.[8]

Continental Express Embraer 145s flew to Houston 2004-2007. Service resumed in 2011 under the United Express brand using the Canadair CRJ-700 but ended in 2016. US Airways Express flew to Las Vegas in 2005-2008. ExpressJet Airlines independently flew Embraer ERJ-145s to Sacramento and San Diego in 2007–2008. Delta Connection Canadair CRJ-200s flew to Salt Lake City in 2005-2008. United Express Embraer 120 Brasilias flew to San Francisco and Los Angeles until 2014.

Mexicana Airbus A318s flew to Guadalajara, Mexico from 2007 to 2008.

Allegiant Air began McDonnell Douglas MD-80 flights to Las Vegas in November 2010; these ended in July 2011. Frontier Airlines operated Airbus A319s to Denver in May-November 2014.

Current airlines[edit]

American Eagle uses the Canadair CRJ-700 operated by SkyWest Airlines and the Canadair CRJ-900 operated by Mesa Airlines to Phoenix.

United Express operated by SkyWest Airlines uses the Canadair CRJ-200 and Embraer 175 to Denver and San Francisco.

Deregulation and decline[edit]

The airport saw increased air service during the 1950s and 1960s; in 1975, annual enplanements would reach 97,000. The growth ended with airline deregulation in 1978. While other 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.[9] Annual enplanements 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.[10]

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.[10][11][12] 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[edit]

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.[13] 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.[14] 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 enplanements above the levels set in 1978.[15] However, high gas prices and the subsequent recession of 2008 would reduce service to 2002 levels, including the loss of the airport's 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.[16]


Meadows Field covers 1,357 acres (549 ha) at an elevation of 510 feet (155 m). It has two asphalt runways: 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).[1]

The main runway, 12L-30R, is the longest in the San Joaquin Valley. It is classified as a commercial D-IV runway, but can handle Boeing 747s. The other runway, 12R-30L, is a general aviation B-II runway. Although only 75 feet of width is required for this classification, the runway is 25 feet wider to allow it to serve as an alternate runway for turboprop and regional jets.[17]

In the year ending February 28, 2011, the airport had 131,102 aircraft operations, average 359 per day: 90% general aviation, 8% air taxi, 2% airline, and <1% military. 219 aircraft were based at the airport: 94% single-engine, 4% multi-engine, and 2% helicopter.[1]


William M. Thomas Terminal (Domestic)[edit]

William M. Thomas Terminal has four gates: 2, 3, 5 and 6 (Gate 6 is on the ground level), and houses all commercial 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.[18]

Kern County Air Terminal (International)[edit]

Kern County Air Terminal was built in 1957 and has been closed since 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.

The terminal handled all airline flights until the William M. Thomas Terminal opened in 2006. The Kern County Air Terminal would undergo a $1 million renovation and an adjacent $7 million US Customs house would be built.[19]

The terminal had an motel, "Skyway Inn", and a restaurant, "Skyway Steakhouse". Both closed following the airport's downturn after the September 11 attacks and they were demolished in 2005.

Airlines and destinations[edit]


American Eagle Dallas/Fort Worth, Phoenix–Sky Harbor
United Express Denver, San Francisco


Ameriflight Ontario
FedEx Feeder
operated by West Air


Top destinations[edit]

Busiest routes from BFL
June 2018 – May 2019
Rank Airport Passengers Carriers
1 Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Arizona 53,400 American Eagle
2 Denver, Colorado 31,940 United Express
3 San Francisco, California 20,730 United Express
4 Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas 5,910 American Eagle
Traffic by calendar year
2001 254,589
2002 192,027
2003 179,860
2004 236,560
2005 291,091
2006 345,149
2007 329,699
2008 285,951
2009 208,677
2010 213,001
2011 253,200
2012 270,922
2013 270,707
2014 283,638
2015 245,692
2016 203,585
Source: Meadows Field [15]

Terminal connections[edit]

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 (from the international terminal to the domestic terminal), they would leave the airport and turn left on Airport Drive. They would then turn left on Merle Haggard Drive. Passengers would then re-enter 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.[21]

Ground transportation[edit]


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.[22] The International Terminal provides free parking for both short term, and long term parking.

Public transportation[edit]

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.[23]

Rental car/taxi[edit]

Rental cars are only available at the Domestic Terminal. Currently four companies are located at the airport.[22] 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 lists two taxi companies on their website, which provide 24-hour pickup, if no taxis are available.[22]


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.[24]

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.[25]


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 them 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.[25]

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).[26]

See also[edit]



Inline citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d FAA Airport Master Record for BFL (Form 5010 PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. Effective May 31, 2012.
  2. ^ "Enplanements for CY 2008" (PDF, 1.0 MB). Federal Aviation Administration. December 18, 2009.
  3. ^ "Enplanements for CY 2010" (PDF, 189 KB). Federal Aviation Administration. October 4, 2011.
  4. ^ "2011–2015 NPIAS Report, Appendix A" (PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. October 4, 2010. Archived from the original (PDF, 2.03 MB) on September 27, 2012.
  5. ^ a b Brewer, Chris. Historic Kern County. Historic Publishing Network: San Antonio, Texas. 2001. ISBN 1-893619-14-1. Pages: 70–71.
  6. ^ "Meadows Field – Master Plan" (PDF). County of Kern. December 2006. pp. 1–5.
  7. ^ a b c Darling, Curtis. Kern County Place Names. Kern County Historical Society. 2003. ISBN 0-943500-18-4. Page: 89.
  8. ^, Route Maps
  9. ^ "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.
  10. ^ a b "Meadows Field Airport – Airport Master Plan" (PDF). December 2006. pp. 2–12.
  11. ^ "Population and Housing Data" (PDF). City of Bakersfield. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 20, 2012. Retrieved October 28, 2011.
  12. ^ "Population by counties 1900–1990, California". US Census. Retrieved October 28, 2011.
  13. ^ "Meadows Field – Master Plan" (PDF). County of Kern. December 2006. pp. 2–13.
  14. ^ "Meadows Field Status" (PDF). Kern County Department of Airports. June 28, 2005. Retrieved November 3, 2011.
  15. ^ a b "Passenger Enplanements and Deplanements" (PDF). Meadows Field. Retrieved October 30, 2011.
  16. ^ "What's Up" (PDF). Meadows Field. November 2010. p. 1. Retrieved October 30, 2011.
  17. ^ "Meadows Field – Master Plan" (PDF). County of Kern. December 2006. pp. 3–4.
  18. ^ Weiser, Matt. New Bakersfield Terminal Set to Take Flight. The Bakersfield Californian. June 28, 2003. Retrieved November 3, 2011.
  19. ^ Burger, James.Did the County Waste Millions on International Terminal. The Bakersfield Californian. April 29, 2008. Retrieved November 3, 2011.
  20. ^ "RITA | BTS | Transtats". May 2015. Retrieved August 19, 2019.
  21. ^ "Meadows Field – Master Plan" (PDF). County of Kern. December 2006. p. 5-2.
  22. ^ a b c "Parking and Ground Transportation". Meadows Field. Retrieved September 16, 2011.
  23. ^ "Airport Transportation". Golden Empire Transit. Retrieved September 16, 2011.
  24. ^ "Meadows Field – Master Plan" (PDF). County of Kern. June 20, 2006. pp. 3–19, 5–2 to 5–3.
  25. ^ a b "Meadows Field – Master Plan" (PDF). County of Kern. June 20, 2006. pp. 5–2 to 5–3.
  26. ^ "Meadows Field – Master Plan" (PDF). County of Kern. June 20, 2006. pp. 4–6, 5–2 to 5–3.

Other sources[edit]

External links[edit]