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 type Public
Operator San Luis Obispo County
Location San Luis Obispo, California
Elevation AMSL 212 ft / 64.5 m
Coordinates 35°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 Passengers 302,652
Total aircraft operations 67,772
Freight (in U.S. tons) 5,651
Based aircraft 305
Source: San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport Statistics Reports [1]

San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport (IATA: SBPICAO: KSBPFAA LID: SBP), McChesney Field, is near San Luis Obispo, California. Two passenger airlines have flights to Los Angeles, Phoenix, and San Francisco. The airport also has general, cargo and corporate/executive aviation facilities.


The airport began as one man's dream. Earl Thomson, along with his brothers-in-law, William "Chris" and David Hoover, talked county officials into leasing them the land. By April 1939 the airport opened with an 88-by-100-foot (27 by 30 m) hangar and dirt runways. Prior to the present airport being established, Pacific Seaboard Air Lines served San Luis Obispo. In 1933, Pacific Seaboard was operating two daily round trip flights with single engine Bellanca CH-300 aircraft on an intrastate routing of Los Angeles - Santa Barbara - Santa Maria - San Luis Obispo - Paso Robles - Monterey - Salinas - San Jose - San Francisco.[2] Pacific Seaboard would subsequently move its entire operation to the eastern U.S., be renamed Chicago and Southern Air Lines, become a large domestic and international air carrier and then in 1953 be acquired by and merged into Delta Air Lines thus providing Delta with its first international routes.[3]

In 1940 hard surface runways and lights were installed by the War Department. 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.

The federal government took over the airport during World War II and turned control back to the county in 1946. Southwest Airways started passenger flights with Douglas DC-3s that year.

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.

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. Mr. McChesney resided 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 other aviation organizations. Mr. McChesney was the Grand Marshal of the first Airport Day in 1984.

The airport has a terminal building, restaurant, numerous hangars and airplane related businesses. In 1988 a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) control tower opened.

Southwest Airways Douglas DC-3 flights to San Luis Obispo lasted from 1946 to 1956 when the airline then moved its service to Paso Robles Municipal Airport (PRB) in northern San Luis Obispo County due to the short runway at San Luis Obispo not being able to accommodate more modern aircraft such as the Martin 4-0-4 and Fairchild F-27. Pacific Air Lines, Air West and Hughes Airwest, the successors to Southwest Airways, listed San Luis Obispo in their respective timetables but actually served Paso Robles with Fairchild F-27 turboprops until 1974.[4][5] In 1975, after ceasing all service to Paso Robles the year before, Hughes Airwest was operating McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30 jet service into nearby Santa Maria Public Airport (SMX) in an attempt to continue to also serve the San Luis Obispo area; however, this nonstop jet service to Los Angeles and San Francisco flown from SMX in northern Santa Barbara County only lasted a short time.[6]

San Luis Obispo Airport did not have any scheduled airline service from 1956 until 1969 when Swift Aire Lines began scheduled flights as the primary runway at SBP had been lengthened to 4,800 feet by that time. Swift Aire's headquarters were located in San Luis Obispo; it eventually operated Fokker F27 turboprops (purchased new from Fokker) as well as Nord 262 turboprops and de Havilland Heron prop aircraft. When the control tower opened in 1988 SkyWest Airlines, WestAir operating as United Express and Wings West (later merged into American Eagle) were in operation flying commuter turboprop aircraft with WestAir operating the Embraer EMB-110 Bandeirante followed by the British Aerospace BAe Jetstream 31.

After the 1981 demise of Swift Aire following an unsuccessful merger with Golden Gate Airlines, Wings West Airlines established its headquarters in San Luis Obispo and flew several turboprop types first operating as an independent commuter air carrier and later as American Eagle. Propjet types flown by Wings West into 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. American Eagle later flew Embraer ERJ-140 regional jets to Los Angeles and San Jose. American Eagle ceased serving San Luis Obispo in November, 2008, and closed its maintenance and operational base on the airport.[7] Several other commuter airlines served San Luis Obispo as well over the years with turboprop aircraft flying nonstop to Los Angeles (LAX) including Delta Connection service operated by SkyWest with Fairchild Swearingen Metroliners (Metro II and Metro III models) and Embraer EMB-120 Brasilias, Imperial Airlines operating Embraer EMB-110 Bandeirantes, Mesa Airlines flying as United Express and operating Beechcraft 1900Cs and USAir Express operated by Trans States Airlines flying British Aerospace BAe Jetstream 32s.[8]

The airport also previously had Delta Connection service flown by SkyWest nonstop to Salt Lake City (SLC) operated with Canadair CRJ-200 regional jets which ended on September 1, 2008. America West Express Canadair CRJ-200s operated by Mesa Airlines flew nonstop to Phoenix and Las Vegas; the Las Vegas flights were then discontinued. With the merger of America West Airlines and US Airways, the America West Express service between San Luis Obispo and Phoenix was transferred to US Airways Express which now operates as American Eagle following the completion of the American Airlines-US Airways merger.

Two airlines now serve San Luis Obispo: United Express operated by SkyWest Airlines and American Eagle operated by Mesa Airlines. United Express Canadair CRJ-200 regional jets fly nonstop to Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO) while American Eagle Canadair CRJ-900s fly nonstop to Phoenix (PHX). The CRJ-900 is currently the largest aircraft ever flown on scheduled passenger flights into San Luis Obispo.

Past and current notable operations[edit]

  • From April 1 to the 4th, 2009 Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-700 and Frontier Airlines Airbus A319 jetliners operated as charter flights arrived at San Luis Obispo County transporting Oregon National Guard military troops. The A319 is the largest aircraft to have ever landed at San Luis Obispo.[9] Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 jet aircraft have also recently landed at San Luis Obispo Airport as part of military charter operations.
  • On January 23, 2009 an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-400 jetliner arrived at SBP from Chico, California as a charter flight and was the largest aircraft ever to land at San Luis at that time. The flight was carrying 125 members of the San Francisco Symphony arriving to perform at Cal Poly's Performing Arts Center.[10]
  • On August 27, 2008 US Airways Express flown by Mesa Airlines announced an expansion of service to San Luis Obispo Airport. Beginning October 2, 2008 the Bombardier Canadair Regional Jet 900 (CRJ-900) replaced the smaller CRJ-200 series on the Phoenix flights. The CRJ 900 had 36 more seats on these twice-daily flights.[11] US Airways later turned this service over to SkyWest Airlines which was flying the nonstop service to Phoenix with Canadair CRJ-200 regional jets with 50 coach seats as US Airways Express. SkyWest also now currently operates Canadair CRJ-200 regional jets as United Express on all nonstop flights to Los Angeles and 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 Airport from Phoenix. Three daily flights include one flight operated with a CRJ 900 with First Class and one flight operated with a CRJ 900 without First Class, both operated by Mesa Airlines, in addition to one flight operated with a CRJ 200 by SkyWest.[12] These flights are now operated as American Eagle service with all flights to Phoenix featuring larger Canadair CRJ-900 regional jets.

Future expansion plans[edit]

Planned expansion includes:

  • 1,000-foot (+/-) extension on the northwest end to make Runway 11-29 6,300 feet (1,900 m).
  • Extension of parallel Taxiways A and M to the end of the extended runway.
  • Straightening of Taxiway A at the present terminal ramp. Upon relocation to the new terminal, the part of Taxiway A in front of the existing terminal may be aligned with the rest of the taxiway.
  • Other taxiway improvements include the extension of Taxiway C to the west ramp, closing of Taxiway E and replacement with a rightangled taxiway between Taxiway A and Taxiway J, and realigning of Taxiway F. Taxiway J will be widened next to the west ramp to allow two-way taxiing.
  • A new passenger terminal, ramp, and structured parking deck will be built in the location recommended in the 1998 Airport Master Plan. The 66,350-square-foot (6,164 m2) terminal is designed to have space for post 9-11 security requirements (including inline bag screening), with additional building and concourse added as needed.
  • Shifting of the Runway 25 threshold, creating an interim length of 2,500 feet (760 m) on Runway 7-25. In addition, consistent with the runway’s B-I design category, the runway may be narrowed to 60 feet (18 m). After the relocation of Santa Fe Road the runway may be extended 500 feet (150 m) to the west for an ultimate runway length of 3,000 feet (910 m). Additional taxiways have been placed on either side of the runway.
  • Hangar facilities totaling 82,000 square feet (+/-) for general aviation aircraft southeast of the fixed base facilities. These facilities will have 65 (+/-) individual storage units on the east side of the airfield. Parking ramp will be southeast of the hangars. The hangars will be outside of the primary surface area for Runway 11-29 (500 feet from runway centerline).
  • Lease parcels along the south side of Runway 7-25 for potential construction of 120,000 square feet (11,000 m2) of individual hangars, with access from Buckley Road.


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

Fixed base operators[edit]

Airlines and destinations[edit]


Airlines Destinations
American Eagle Phoenix [13]
United Express Los Angeles, San Francisco

On April 7, 2015, SkyWest Airlines operating as United Express began flying Canadair CRJ-200 regional jets on all flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco as replacement aircraft for the Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia turboprops formerly used for many years on these routes.[14] With this new United Express regional jet service, all scheduled passenger airline flights serving San Luis Obispo are now being operated with jets for the first time in the history of the airport.

Cargo airlines[edit]

Incidents and accidents[edit]

  • 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.[15]
  • 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.[16]
  • 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 plane 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 planes were delayed. The one occupant of the plane, the pilot, was not injured.[17]
  • 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.[18]

Airport Ownership and Management[edit]

Ownership: Publicly owned


Phone 805-781-5200

Manager: Kevin Bumen


Phone 805-781-5205

ASST MGR: CRAIG PIPER (805) 781-4376.

See also[edit]


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  1. ^ San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport, 2014 Statistics Reports
  2. ^, Summer 1933 Pacific Seaboard Air Lines system timetable
  3. ^, Chicago and Southern (C&S) Air Lines
  4. ^, April 2, 1968 Pacific Air Lines system timetable & July 1, 1968 Air West system timetable
  5. ^, July 1, 1972 Hughes Airwest system timetable
  6. ^, Oct. 26, 1975 Hughes Airwest system timetable
  7. ^ Stark, Lisa (2008-09-12). "Struggles of a Small California Airport". Retrieved 2013-07-15. 
  8. ^, July 1, 1983 & April 2, 1995 Official Airline Guide (OAG) editions
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ url=
  13. ^
  14. ^, Press Releases
  15. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Beechcraft C99 N6399U San Luis Obispo, CA". Aviation Safety Network. 1985-08-29. Retrieved 2009-04-01. 
  16. ^ Myers, Justin (2009-01-08). "Crash-landing at San Luis Obispo airport closes runway". KSBY 6 Action News. Retrieved 2009-04-01. 
  17. ^ James, Jill (2009-03-17). "Plane misses the runway at San Luis Obispo's airport". KSBY 6 Action News. Retrieved 2009-04-01. 
  18. ^ Hickey, Julia (2013-06-26). "San Luis Obispo plane crash investigation continues". Retrieved 2013-07-16. 

External links[edit]