San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport

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San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport

McChesney Field
San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport - California.jpg
Airport typePublic
OperatorSan Luis Obispo County
LocationSan Luis Obispo, California
Elevation AMSL212 ft / 64.5 m
Coordinates35°14′13″N 120°38′31″W / 35.23694°N 120.64194°W / 35.23694; -120.64194
KSBP is located in California
Direction Length Surface
ft m
11/29 6,100 1,859 Asphalt
7/25 2,500 762 Asphalt
Statistics (2014)
Airline Passengers407,646
Total aircraft operations74,729
Freight (in U.S. tons)1,425
Source: San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport Statistics Reports[1]

San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport (IATA: SBP, ICAO: KSBP, FAA LID: SBP), McChesney Field is a civil airport near San Luis Obispo, California. Four passenger airlines serve the airport with flights to nine cities: Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle. The airport was established in 1939 and used by the U.S. military between 1939 and 1945.


In 1933 Pacific Seaboard Air Lines single engine Bellanca CH-300s flew twice daily each way Los Angeles - Santa Barbara - Santa Maria - San Luis Obispo - Paso Robles - Monterey - Salinas - San Jose - San Francisco.[2] Pacific Seaboard later moved its operation to the eastern U.S., was renamed Chicago and Southern Air Lines, and became a large domestic and international airline that in 1953 was acquired by and merged into Delta Air Lines.[3][full citation needed]

Earl Thomson, along with his brothers-in-law, William "Chris" and David Hoover, talked county officials into leasing them the land for an airport. By April 1939 it opened with an 88-by-100-foot (27 by 30 m) hangar and dirt runways.[citation needed]

During World War II the federal government took over the airport: From 1938 until 1941, the U.S. Army Air Corps and the California National Guard used 218 acres as an aerial observation training center; In 1940 the War Department added hard surface runways and lights, barracks, hangars, and mechanic shops.[4] In 1940 and 1941, 183 private pilots and 20 advanced students were trained here though a federally sponsored Civilian Pilot Training Program for armed services fliers.[citation needed] In 1943, the Navy began using the airport as a training center for the Pacific Fleet.[4]

The federal government turned the airport back to the county in 1946.[citation needed] Southwest Airways started passenger flights with Douglas DC-3s that year.[citation needed]

Southwest's flights to San Luis Obispo ended in 1956 when the airline moved to Paso Robles Municipal Airport in northern San Luis Obispo County due to the 4000-ft runway at San Luis Obispo being too short for larger aircraft such as the Martin 4-0-4 and Fairchild F-27. Pacific Air Lines, Air West and Hughes Airwest, successors to Southwest Airways, listed San Luis Obispo in their timetables but actually served Paso Robles with F-27s until 1974.[5][6]

In 1947 county supervisors contracted for another hangar, ramp, and eventually an administration building. The supervisors named Chris Hoover full-time airport manager in 1953.[citation needed]

San Luis Obispo Airport had no scheduled airline service from 1956 until 1969 when locally-based Swift Aire Lines began scheduled flights with Piper Navajos. Swift Aire's headquarters were at San Luis Obispo; it eventually operated Fokker F27 Friendships bought new from Fokker as well as Nord 262s and de Havilland Herons.[citation needed]

In 1975, after ending service to Paso Robles the year before, Hughes Airwest was operating McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30s to nearby Santa Maria Public Airport to serve the San Luis Obispo area; these nonstops to Los Angeles and San Francisco soon ended.[7]

After the 1981 demise of Swift Aire after a merger with Golden Gate Airlines, Wings West Airlines established its headquarters in San Luis Obispo and flew several turboprop types, as an independent commuter carrier and then as American Eagle on behalf of American Airlines via a code sharing agreement. Propjets flown by Wings West to San Luis Obispo included the British Aerospace BAe Jetstream 31 and Jetstream 32, the Beechcraft C99, the Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner (Metro III models) and the Saab 340.[citation needed]

In 1987 the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport was dedicated as McChesney Field, in honor of Leroy E. McChesney for his leadership and dedication to aviation. McChesney lived in the county since 1920 and had been a pilot since 1949. He was a longtime member of the California Aviation Council, a member of the California Aeronautics Board, and the Grand Marshal of the first Airport Day in 1984.

In 1988 a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) control tower opened and SkyWest Airlines, WestAir operating as United Express and Wings West (later merged into American Eagle) were flying commuter turboprops, WestAir operating the Embraer EMB-110 Bandeirante and later the BAe Jetstream 31.

Several other commuter airlines served San Luis Obispo with turboprop flights to Los Angeles (LAX) including Delta Connection service by SkyWest with Fairchild Swearingen Metroliners (Metro II and Metro III models) and Embraer EMB-120 Brasilias, Imperial Airlines with Embraer EMB-110 Bandeirantes, Mesa Airlines flying as United Express with Beechcraft 1900Cs and USAir Express operated by Trans States Airlines with BAe Jetstream 32s.[8] As of 1996 only American Eagle and United Express remained, Delta Connection and US Air Express having left the year prior.

America West Express (Mesa Airlines) began flying de Havilland Canada DHC-8 Dash 8s to Phoenix in April 1999. Within a few years they had expanded to Las Vegas, and became the first airline to operate jets to the airport with the CRJ-200. The Las Vegas route was dropped shortly after the US Airways/America West merger.

In 2007 Delta Connection (Skywest) returned to San Luis Obispo, flying a CRJ-200 to Salt Lake City. The route ended in 2008. American Eagle left the airport in November 2008 as they retired their Saab 340s as part of a 12% reduction in services, and closed its base at the airport.

On August 27, 2008 US Airways Express flown by Mesa Airlines announced an expansion of service at San Luis Obispo. Beginning October 2, 2008 the Bombardier Canadair Regional Jet 900 (CRJ-900) replaced the smaller CRJ-200 on the Phoenix flights with 36 more seats on these twice-daily flights, and continues today as American Eagle service.[9] SkyWest (United Express) now has Canadair CRJ-200s on most nonstops to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Denver, but will change to the larger ERJ-175 for one daily flight each to Los Angeles and San Francisco, and all flights to Denver. Allegiant Air considered the airport for a daily nonstop McDonnell Douglas MD-80 to Las Vegas, but the short runway at the time at SBP resulted in their service being operated from the Santa Maria Airport[10]

In January 2009 a charter Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-400 arrived at SBP from Chico and was the largest aircraft ever to land at San Luis. The flight carried 125 members of the San Francisco Symphony arriving to perform at Cal Poly's Performing Arts Center.[11] From April 1 to the 4th, 2009 charter Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-700s, Frontier Airlines Airbus A319s, and Southwest Airlines Boeing 737s arrived at San Luis Obispo County carrying Oregon National Guard military troops. The A319 was the largest aircraft to have ever landed at San Luis Obispo.[12] Currently, there are no military charter operations at San Luis Obispo, however C-130 Hercules aircraft do occasionally stop at the airport. Allegiant Airlines provides charters from the airport for the Cal Poly Football team.

In October 2015 ground was broken on a new passenger terminal; it was expected that increases in the regional population and tourism would attract more service to the airport.

On April 13, 2017, Alaska Airlines (Horizon Air) began a daily Embraer ERJ-175 jet service to Seattle.

On December 13, 2018, American Airlines announced daily flights to Dallas/Fort Worth which began on April 2, 2019. The flights use American Eagle CRJ-700s and Embraer E-175s.

On June 26, 2019, Contour Airlines announced flights to Las Vegas which began October 17th, 2019 with Embraer ERJ-135s.

On September 4, 2019, Alaska Airlines announced daily flights with the ERJ-175 to Portland, Oregon (starting on June 18th, 2020), and San Diego which began January 7th, 2020.[13]

Environmental contamination[edit]

In 2015, the airport was suspected as a possible source of trichloroethylene or TCE, which was found in nearby water wells. However, an investigation ordered by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board[14] and conducted by a third-party engineering firm found that the airport was not the source of contamination. Water Board staff oversaw the county's field investigation activities. An estimated 48 residents had already filed claims against the county for negligence, even though the investigation concluded that the San Luis Obispo Regional Airport is not the source. In 2019, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board confirmed that the source of TCE contamination in the Buckley Road Area was emanating from 4665 Thread Lane, which is located across Buckley Road from the airport TCE Thread Lane Report


The airport covers 340 acres (138 ha) and has two runways:

  • 11/29: 6,100 x 150 ft (1,859 x 46 m) Asphalt
  • 7/25: 2,500 x 100 ft (762 x 30 m) Asphalt

A new passenger terminal replaced the older, smaller facility towards the north end of the airfield. A ground-breaking ceremony was held on October 8, 2015, and opened on November 1, 2017.[15] The new terminal features modern check-in counters and security screening, a pet relief area in a central courtyard, a post-security food stand, multiple gates with waiting areas, and two all-glass jet bridges in addition to the ground level gates. Artwork in the lobby includes tail sections and an engine nacelle from a Boeing 747. The airport is designed to accommodate up to 1.2 million passengers per year, well above the 450,000 seen by the airport at the time of construction.[16]

The airport also has the Spirit of San Luis Restaurant, in the original terminal from the 1950s. It has outdoor seating for patrons to watch planes take off and land, and is popular with private pilots to "Fly In" for lunch.

The 1980s built terminal covers 16,000 square feet, and sits vacant with no current plans for redevelopment.

There are numerous parking spots for general aviation aircraft, and multiple FBOs, including Air San Luis and ACI Jet Center, as well as aircraft rentals and flight schools.[17]

Airlines and destinations[edit]


Alaska Airlines Portland (OR) (begins June 25, 2020), San Diego, Seattle/Tacoma
American Eagle Dallas/Fort Worth, Phoenix–Sky Harbor
Contour Airlines Las Vegas
United Express Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco

On July 17, 2013, US Airways Express operated by Mesa Airlines resumed Bombardier Canadair Regional Jet 900 (CRJ-900) service to San Luis Obispo from Phoenix.[18] These flights are now operated as American Eagle by Mesa Airlines with all flights to Phoenix featuring Canadair CRJ-900 and CRJ-700 regional jets. American Eagle offers four daily flights to between San Luis Obispo Airport and Phoenix.[19]

On April 7, 2015, SkyWest Airlines operating as United Express began flying Canadair CRJ-200s on all flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco, replacing Embraer EMB-120 Brasilias as they moved the type into retirement, so all scheduled passenger airline flights at San Luis Obispo are now operated with regional jets for the first time.[20][full citation needed] The daily flights to Denver, as well as two of the flights to Los Angeles and one flight to San Francisco, will be operated with Embraer 175s beginning April 9, 2018, promising more comfort and higher capacity.[21]

Alaska Airlines announced new nonstop service between Seattle and San Luis Obispo which began on April 13, 2017 and was originally flown by SkyWest Airlines with Embraer 175s.[22] Alaska Airlines subsidiary Horizon Air took over this code share service on June 9, 2017. In September 2019, the airline announced plans to fly nonstop service to San Diego beginning January 7, 2020 and to Portland, OR beginning June 18, 2020.[23]

Delta briefly operated a CRJ-200 between San Luis Obispo and Salt Lake City International Airport between 2007 and 2008, until shelving the flights due to the recession.[24]

With the terminal upgrades, it is now theoretically possible to operate mainline aircraft into the airport such as the Airbus A319 or Boeing 717 which would allow higher capacity flights to destinations like Denver, Phoenix, or Seattle, or longer flights to destinations such as Houston or Chicago, but the runway is not long enough for these aircraft at MTOW.

Top destinations[edit]

Busiest domestic routes from SBP
(December 2018 – November 2019)
Rank City Passengers Carriers
1 Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Arizona 78,370 American
2 San Francisco, California 57,740 United
3 Los Angeles, California 43,990 United
4 Denver, Colorado 40,920 United
5 Seattle/Tacoma, Washington 23,780 Alaska
6 Dallas/Fort Worth,Texas 16,610 American
7 Las Vegas, Nevada 520 Contour

Annual traffic[edit]

Annual passenger traffic at SBP
(enplaned + deplaned)
1998 through 2019[26]
Year Passengers Change
1998 298,279 -
1999 310,571 Increase 4.12%
2000 311,041 Increase 0.15%
2001 310,076 Decrease 0.31%
2002 307,132 Decrease 0.95%
2003 295,076 Decrease 3.93%
2004 321,278 Increase 8.88%
2005 358,428 Increase 11.6%
2006 354,998 Decrease 0.96%
2007 368,423 Increase 3.78%
2008 312,172 Decrease 15.3%
2009 241,061 Decrease 22.8%
2010 264,732 Increase 9.82%
2011 272,420 Increase 2.90%
2012 259,505 Decrease 4.74%
2013 272,268 Increase 4.92%
2014 302,652 Increase 11.2%
2015 292,462 Decrease 3.37%
2016 330,231 Increase 12.9%
2017 407,646 Increase 23.4%
2018 485,911 Increase 19.2%
2019 544,575 Increase 12.1%


Airline Destination
Ameriflight Burbank, CA
FedEx Feeder

operated by West Air


Fixed-base operators[edit]

  • ACI Jet[27] - ACI Jet offers a complete aircraft management program, which eliminates the frustrations and hassles involved with owning your own aircraft.
  • Air San Luis[28] - Air San Luis is a local Cessna parts dealer and maintenance shop.
  • SunWest Aviation[29] - SunWest was founded in 1987 as a family operation providing flight management services and has grown to become an executive air charter specialist, aircraft rental service, flight school, and maintenance shop.
  • Aerocademy[30] - Aerocademy was founded in 2007 to give future and current SLO area pilots a place to further their aviation education.


  • August 24, 1984 - Wings West Airlines / Flight 628 Midair collision. Shortly after departing the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport on a commuter flight to San Francisco International Airport, a Wings West Airlines twin-engine Beechcraft C99 (N6399U) collided head-on with a private Rockwell Commander 112TC aircraft (N112SM) that was descending for a landing at the same airport.[31]
  • August 1, 2005 - A Piper Cherokee flew into the side of Islay Hill shortly after takeoff in dense fog. The newly licensed pilot was not instrument rated and was killed in the crash. A fire on top of the hill burned 1/8th of an acre before being contained. The 700 foot tall Islay Hill lies 1 mile east of the airport boundary, however a red warning beacon was removed many years before the accident and has never been replaced.[32]
  • January 8, 2009 - A Beechcraft Bonanza (BE36-A36) landed with its gear up causing runway 29/11 to be closed for about an hour. The pilot was the only person aboard and was not injured. The runway closure caused a SkyWest flight from San Francisco to divert to Southern California.[33]
  • March 17, 2009 - At 3:00pm a Piper Comanche (PA-24) missed the runway on landing, apparently catching a wind gust. The wind caused the aircraft to veer off the runway, down a grass side embankment and through a fence. The incident caused the runway to be closed for 10 to 15 minutes but no aircraft were delayed. The one occupant of the aircraft, the pilot, was not injured.[34]
  • June 24, 2013 - A Cessna Skymaster crashed into a Federal Express truck and a building about 1.5 miles northwest of the airport after takeoff, killing the pilot. The pilot had reportedly made a mayday call shortly before the crash.[35]
  • December 15, 2015 - A Cessna 210 landed with its gear up and caused the closure of runway 29/11. There were no injuries to any of the three passengers, and the runway was reopened the same day. It is unknown why the landing gear failed to extend.[36]
  • February 6, 2018 - An Ameriflight Fairchild Metroliner experienced a runway excursion without injury. There were minor delays for commercial flights.[37]

See also[edit]


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

  1. ^ San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport, 2014 Statistics Reports
  2. ^ Summer 1933 Pacific Seaboard Air Lines timetable
  3. ^ Chicago and Southern (C&S) Air Lines
  4. ^ a b CHRIS MCGUINNESS (27 April 2016). "Military's use of SLO Airport may have played a role in groundwater contamination". NewsgroupTimes New Times Check |newsgroup= value (help). Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  5. ^ April 2, 1968 Pacific Air Lines timetable & July 1, 1968 Air West timetable
  6. ^ July 1, 1972 Hughes Airwest timetable
  7. ^ Oct. 26, 1975 Hughes Airwest timetable
  8. ^ July 1, 1983 & April 2, 1995 Official Airline Guide
  9. ^ Seiler, Colin (2008-08-27). "U.S. Airways to expand service to San Luis Obispo's airport". KSBY 6 Action News. Retrieved 2008-09-01.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ Stark, Lisa (2008-09-12). "Struggles of a Small California Airport". Retrieved 2013-07-15.
  11. ^ Lee, Amber (2009-01-23). "A first for San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport as a Boeing 737 arrives". KSBY 6 Action News. Retrieved 2009-04-01.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ Wilson, Nick (6 January 2020). "SLO County airport launches new flight to San Diego this week". The Tribune. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  14. ^ California, State of. "Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board". Retrieved 2016-10-12.
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^, Press Releases
  21. ^
  22. ^, Newsroom
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ "San Luis Obispo, CA: San Luis County Regional (SBP)". Bureau of Transportation Statistics. December 2018.
  26. ^ "California Air Traffic Statistical Reports". Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Beechcraft C99 N6399U San Luis Obispo, CA". Aviation Safety Network. 1985-08-29. Retrieved 2009-04-01.
  32. ^
  33. ^ Myers, Justin (2009-01-08). "Crash-landing at San Luis Obispo airport closes runway". KSBY 6 Action News. Retrieved 2009-04-01.[permanent dead link]
  34. ^ James, Jill (2009-03-17). "Plane misses the runway at San Luis Obispo's airport". KSBY 6 Action News. Retrieved 2009-04-01.[permanent dead link]
  35. ^ Hickey, Julia (2013-06-26). "San Luis Obispo plane crash investigation continues". Retrieved 2013-07-16.
  36. ^ Fountain, Matt (15 December 2015). "Plane lands at SLO airport without landing gear". The Tribune. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  37. ^

External links[edit]