Santa Barbara Municipal Airport
Santa Barbara Airport
|Owner||City of Santa Barbara|
|Operator||Santa Barbara Airport Department|
|Serves||Santa Barbara, California|
|Location||Santa Barbara, California, United States|
|Elevation AMSL||13 ft / 4 m|
|Website||Santa Barbara Airport|
Runway layout at SBA
It is near the University of California, Santa Barbara and the city of Goleta. The airport was annexed to the city of Santa Barbara by a 7 miles (11 km) long, 300 feet (90 m) wide corridor, mostly under the Pacific Ocean (a shoestring annexation). Most of the airport is 10 to 15 feet above sea level and borders a wetland area, the Goleta Slough.
In 2019, the airport was categorized as a small hub primary airport by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), with 510,141 emplanements. As of May 2021, the airport is served by Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines.
Santa Barbara's aviation history began in 1914 when Lincoln J. Beachey flew an airplane across Goleta Valley. Two years later the Loughead brothers, who later changed their name to Lockheed, established a seaplane factory on State Street (Alco Hydro-Aeroplane Company) and constructed a wooden ramp on West Beach to launch their planes. In 1928, Gordon Sackett and Royce Stetson landed a Hisso-powered airplane in a cow pasture near the corner of Hollister and Fairview Avenues and set up a flight school on the spot. That first airstrip marked the beginning of what was to become the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport.
As airplane manufacturing grew in the late 1930s that airstrip developed into an airfield. Western General set up shop and began producing Meteor airplanes, while Santa Barbara Airways' founder Frederick Stearns II built two additional runways and two large hangars. Stearns also installed the first radio equipment at the airfield.
Airline flights began in 1932 on Pacific Seaboard Air Lines. In 1933, Pacific Seaboard was operating two daily round trip flights with single engine Bellanca CH-300s Los Angeles - Santa Barbara - Santa Maria - San Luis Obispo - Paso Robles - Monterey - Salinas - San Jose - San Francisco. Pacific Seaboard later moved its entire operation to the eastern U.S. and became Chicago and Southern Air Lines, a large domestic and international airline acquired by and merged into Delta Air Lines in 1953. United Airlines began flights from Santa Barbara/Goleta in 1936.
As war approached the United States Government established a program to build 250 airports across the country on a cost-sharing basis with local governments. Thomas M. Storke secured Santa Barbara's enrollment in the program, and in 1941 groundbreaking ceremonies were held for the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport.
With the outbreak of WWII the airport became MCAS Santa Barbara (Marine Corps Air Station Santa Barbara) in 1942, an aviator training base for the U.S Marines. It was expanded further with the addition of many hangars and other buildings, and reverted to a civilian airport in 1946.
The original Spanish-style terminal building, commissioned by United Airlines in 1942 was designed by William Edwards and Joseph Plunkett, an architectural team whose work, including the Arlington Theatre and the National Armory, helped shape the Mediterranean style of the city.
In 1947 the Santa Barbara Flying Club was formed to promote general aviation in the region.
In the 1951 war film Flying Leathernecks, John Wayne's character was stationed in Goleta. The movie references the airbase as being in Goleta because, during World War II, the airbase had not yet been annexed by Santa Barbara. The movie has a short clip of the airport and surrounding area.
Three runways are in use: 7/25 and two parallel runways 15/33. The airport originally had an additional strip: runway 3/21. The development of the University of California, Santa Barbara (to the southwest) and the construction of hangars in support of production of the Aero Spacelines Super Guppy (to the northeast) were factors in the removal of this runway.
Southwest Airways and successors
Until 2002, Santa Barbara Airport was on a jet route to San Francisco and Los Angeles. The airport was served by Southwest Airways Douglas DC-3s and Martin 4-0-4s and by successors Pacific Air Lines, Air West and Hughes Airwest with Fairchild F-27s and Boeing 727-100, Douglas DC-9-10 and McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30 jets. The Southwest March 1, 1947 timetable lists two round trip Douglas DC-3s flying Los Angeles-Oxnard-Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-San Luis Obispo-Coalinga-Monterey-Santa Cruz/Watsonville-San Jose-San Francisco. The first jets were Pacific Air Lines Boeing 727-100s in 1966; the January 4, 1967 timetable lists 727s flying San Francisco-Monterey-Santa Barbara-Los Angeles. Air West served the airport with the B727-100s formerly operated by Pacific Air Lines while Hughes Airwest served Santa Barbara with Douglas DC-9-10s and McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30s.
The United Airlines timetable for February 1, 1937 listed a daily Douglas DC-3 Los Angeles-Santa Barbara-San Francisco-Oakland and back. In 1972 the United timetable listed direct Boeing 727-100s to New York Newark via LAX and Milwaukee. The primary United routes from Santa Barbara were nonstops to Los Angeles and San Francisco with some continuing to other cities. The first nonstop flights beyond California were United Boeing 727s to Denver in 1979 and to Chicago O'Hare in 1980. United ceased mainline jet service to SBA in 1990. Shuttle by United, a division of United Airlines (later renamed United Shuttle) flew Boeing 737-300s and 737-500s to San Francisco in the 1990s and early 2000s. United then turned all service over to SkyWest Airlines which now operates as United Express. Service was originally on Embraer 120 aircraft to SFO and LAX and CRJ200 to Denver. This was later turned over to a mix of SkyWest CRJ200, CRJ700, and E175. On June 8, 2017 United resumed seasonal mainline service to San Francisco and Denver. On June 3, 2021, United via United Express will resume service to Chicago-O'Hare.
American Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-80s started flying to Dallas/Fort Worth in 1984, some on a triangle route DFW-Burbank-SBA-DFW or DFW-Bakersfield-SBA-DFW. American also flew MD-80s to Chicago O'Hare via Ontario. After American Airlines dropped mainline service to SBA, American Eagle Airlines, its affiliate, began flying Saab 340Bs and later Embraer ERJ-140s between SBA and LAX. American Eagle flew Canadair CRJ-700s between SBA and DFW until April 2009. The airline flew SBA-LAX until November 14, 2012 when SkyWest Airlines (American Eagle) took over with Canadair CRJ-200s. American Eagle suspended its flights to Los Angeles on March 31, 2014, ending American Airlines service at the airport. With the merger of US Airways and American, American Airlines returned to SBA with nonstop American Eagle regional jet service to Phoenix. In June 2016 American Eagle relaunched nonstop service to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) on Mesa Airlines Canadair CRJ-900s. On April 4, 2017 American Airlines began a seasonal mainline Airbus A319 flight to DFW, the first mainline service since 2015 when Frontier Airlines left Santa Barbara. In September 2019, the DFW flights have been replaced with two daily Envoy Air E-175's.
Alaska-owned regional airline Horizon Air was the first Alaska affiliate to connect SBA with Seattle and Portland, flying Canadair CRJ-700s. From 2008 to 2010, Horizon also connected Santa Barbara non-stop to Sacramento and direct to Portland and/or Seattle. In 2011 Skywest Airlines took over the Horizon Canadair CRJ-700 jets and later replaced them with Embraer E175s, replacing Horizon for all Alaska-branded flying into Santa Barbara and continues to operate flights via a capacity purchase agreement with Alaska Airlines. From June 15, 2017 to August 26, 2017, Horizon returned to Santa Barbara by taking over the Seattle route from SkyWest with its own Embraer E-175s. On August 27, 2017 Alaska Airlines began mainline service to Santa Barbara for the first time when it took over the Seattle route from Horizon with its own Boeing 737s. Currently Alaska Airlines serves Seattle twice daily with Embraer E-175s under Horizon. On March 18, 2021 Alaska will add San Diego as its third destination from Santa Barbara.
Sun Country Airlines served Santa Barbara twice weekly between August and December to Minneapolis/St. Paul on Boeing 737s. Service began on August 16, 2018, and ended on December 9, 2018. On May 22, 2019, Sun Country resumed seasonal service with an increase to four times a week for the 2019 season. At the end of the 2019 season, Sun Country indicated that they do not plan to return.
Frontier Airlines flew to Denver until 2015 with the Embraer E-190 and Airbus A319/320. After a multi-year hiatus, Frontier resumed service on August 21, 2018 with three times a week year-round service to Denver on the Airbus A320. In November 2019, they went seasonal and planned to return in 2020. Due to COVID-19, no new date has been announced for resumption of service.
Contour Airlines began service on October 16, 2018. They fly daily to Oakland International Airport and ten times a week to Las Vegas McCarran International Airport using a fleet of 30-seat ERJ-135s. Contour recently announced an expansion of Santa Barbara as a focus city, and added a flight to Sacramento International Airport in April 2019. Contour ended all service on March 31, 2020; terminated all contracts with employees and the airport.
Delta Air Lines began three daily flights to Salt Lake City International Airport in August 2019, via Delta Connection partner SkyWest. The flights are operated with ERJ-175 aircraft. However, because of COVID-19, the airline suspended service indefinitely on July 8, 2020. No flights are currently for sale and equipment has been removed from the terminal, but Santa Barbara remains a destination on their website.
Southwest started operating flights out of the Santa Barbara airport on April 12, 2021 & have daily nonstop flights to the following airports: Las Vegas (LAS) Oakland (OAK) Denver (DEN) 
Locally based commuter airlines
In the 1980s Santa Barbara-based Apollo Airways, a commuter airline which subsequently changed its name to Pacific Coast Airlines, flew Handley Page HP.137 Jetstream propjets from the airport with nonstop service to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Jose, CA, Monterey, Fresno and Bakersfield with direct flights to Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. Another locally based airline was Connectair operating Fairchild F-27J turboprops with nonstop flights to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Jose, California. Both air carriers are no longer in existence.
Other jet airlines
Pacific Air Lines flew Boeing 727-100s to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Monterey, Continental Airlines Boeing 737-300s flew nonstop to Denver (some flights stopped at Bakersfield enroute from SBA), Air West (later renamed Hughes Airwest) Boeing 727-100s, Douglas DC-9-10s, and McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30s flew to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas and other cities, Allegiant Air McDonnell Douglas MD-80s flew to Las Vegas, Pacific Express BAC One-Elevens flew to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Bakersfield, Air Wisconsin (United Express) BAe 146-200s and BAe 146-300s flew to Denver, and ExpressJet flew Embraer ERJ-145s nonstop to Sacramento and San Diego.
Other past commuter airline service
A number of commuter air carriers served Santa Barbara over the years primarily with turboprop aircraft. In 1968, Cable Commuter Airlines was operating de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter service to LAX. Cable Commuter was then acquired by Golden West Airlines which in turn began operating high frequency shuttle service to LAX with de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter, de Havilland Canada DHC-7 Dash 7 and Short 330 aircraft. According to the Official Airline Guide (OAG), by 1981 Golden West was the only airline operating scheduled service between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles with fourteen round trip flights on weekdays. Other commuter air carriers that served SBA with turboprop aircraft in later years included America West Express, American Eagle operated by Wings West, Dash Air, Delta Connection operated by SkyWest Airlines, Imperial Airlines, Sun Aire Lines, United Express operated by West Air and later by SkyWest Airlines, USAir Express and successor US Airways Express operated by Trans States Airlines and StatesWest Airlines. According to the OAG, turboprop aircraft operated into SBA by these commuter airlines included the Beechcraft 1900C, British Aerospace BAe Jetstream 31, de Havilland Canada DHC-8 Dash 8, Embraer EMB-110 Bandeirante, Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia, Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner (Metro II and Metro III models), Saab 340B and Short 360. In addition, Air Resorts operated Convair 440 prop aircraft on flights to LAX in 1983.
Current air service
Alaska Airlines serves Seattle twice daily and Portland once daily with E-175s operated by Horizon Air. On March 18, 2021, flights to San Diego are scheduled to begin.
United Airlines serves Los Angeles with a mix of SkyWest CRJ-200/CRJ-700/E-175 regional jets. United serves San Francisco and Denver with a mix of SkyWest CRJ-200/CRJ-700/E-175s and United Airbus A319/320 aircraft. On March 4, 2021, United will resume mainline service to Chicago-O'Hare using a Boeing 737-700. Due to COVID-19, flights to Los Angeles are suspended.
On August 18, 2011 the airport opened a new 72,000 square foot terminal to add to the single story terminal built by United Airlines in 1942. The new facility was built next to the existing terminal and cost approximately $63 million. Additions to the historic terminal made in 1967 and 1976 were removed and the original building was restored. It then was raised to meet modern flood plain regulations, and moved and incorporated into the new terminal. The aircraft parking ramp was redesigned, and a new loop road and short term parking lot were constructed. The new terminal building features many environmentally sustainable elements and is registered with the U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). It was originally designed to feature four glass passenger boarding bridges and four hardstands, but due to decreased flight activity, three jetbridges were constructed with five hardstands.
In late 2019, the fourth boarding bridge was installed to replace a hardstand to help the airport cope with increased flight activity and upgauging. Relocation of the car rental lot also allowed all four jetbridges to accommodate mainline aircraft, up from two previously. Further changes are being explored to help keep up with the increased passenger counts.
Airlines and destinations
|Alaska Airlines||Portland (OR), San Diego (begins June 17, 2021), Seattle/Tacoma|||
|American Airlines||Seasonal: Chicago–O'Hare (begins May 8, 2021), Dallas/Fort Worth|
|American Eagle||Dallas/Fort Worth, Phoenix–Sky Harbor|
|Southwest Airlines||Denver, Las Vegas, Oakland|||
|United Airlines||Chicago–O'Hare (begins July 1, 2021), Denver, San Francisco|||
|United Express||Chicago–O'Hare (begins June 3, 2021), Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco|
|Ameriflight||Burbank, San Luis Obispo|
|1||Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Arizona||31,030||American|
|2||San Francisco, California||30,520||United|
|3||Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas||28,450||American|
|6||Salt Lake City, Utah||8,890||Delta|
|8||Los Angeles, California||4,390||United|
The airport is located off of State Route 217 at the Sandspit Road exit. It can also be reached from US 101 by taking State Route 217 or exiting off of Fairview Avenue. Short-term and long-term parking are available at the terminal, while the economy parking lot is located near Lopez Road and Hollister Avenue north of the airport.
Taxis and private door-to-door shuttles depart from their designated zones outside the terminal.
Accidents and incidents
- April 8, 1985: The non-instrument-rated pilot of a Cessna P210N, registration number N6099P, was killed when the aircraft crashed into the ocean about 1 mile (1.6 km) south of the airport after departing in low visibility. The accident was attributed to spatial disorientation and the pilot's decision to continue flying under visual flight rules into instrument meteorological conditions (VFR into IMC).
- July 23, 1985: A student pilot and a passenger in a Cessna 150L, registration number N11490, were killed when the aircraft crashed on Runway 25 and was consumed by fire following a late-night takeoff. The accident was attributed to a failure to maintain airspeed, an inadvertent stall, and the pilot's alcohol intoxication. The pilot also had not received any formal instruction in night flying, and his "lack of recent experience in type operation" and "overconfidence in personal ability" were cited as contributing factors.
- October 30, 1986: The two pilots of a Fairchild Swearingen SA-226TC Metroliner, N6099P, operated by Wings West Airlines on a scheduled commuter flight for American Eagle carrying 12 passengers, performed a gear-up landing after intentionally disabling the landing gear warning horn and subsequently neglecting to lower the landing gear. As the aircraft struck the runway, fragments of the starboard propeller punctured the passenger cabin, causing serious injuries to one passenger and minor injuries to another; an additional passenger suffered unspecified minor injuries. The accident was attributed to the crew's failure to follow proper procedures, their disabling of the landing gear warning system, and the captain's inadequate supervision of the first officer, who was flying the aircraft at the time.
- May 17, 1990: A Cessna 150H, registration number N7156S, disappeared over the ocean during night touch-and-go landing practice. A pair of wheel chocks bearing the aircraft's number were among the few items recovered; the pilot and passenger were presumed dead. The accident was attributed to "[t]he pilot's failure to maintain control of the airplane. Factors which contributed to the accident were the dark night and the pilot's lack of night flying experience."
- October 21, 1990: A Cessna 172M, registration number N13670, descended steeply and crashed while maneuvering in the airfield traffic pattern. The pilot and two passengers were seriously injured, the other passenger was killed, and the aircraft was destroyed. The accident was attributed to "[t]he pilot's failure to maintain proper glidepath while on final approach. A contributing factor was sunglare."
- June 28, 1991: The 4 occupants of a Mitsubishi MU-2B-36A, registration number N2CJ, were killed when the aircraft crashed into the ocean in low visibility while maneuvering to maintain spacing from another aircraft that was on an Instrument Landing System (ILS) approach. The MU-2 pilot had not filed a flight plan and was flying VFR without an approach clearance; controllers had to issue multiple instructions to the MU-2 pilot upon realizing the close proximity of the two aircraft. The accident was attributed to "[t]he pilot's failure to maintain directional control of the airplane after becoming spatially disoriented. Factors related to the accident were: darkness, low overcast cloud condition, the pilot's decision to continue VFR flight into instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), which resulted in a near collision with another aircraft, his self induced pressure and diversion of attention, while coping with the situation that he had encountered."
- June 7, 1996: A Piper PA-32R-300, registration number N4303X, crashed into the ocean during an ILS approach to Runway 7 in fog; the two pilots were killed. The accident was attributed to "failure of the flying pilot to maintain control of the airplane, due to spatial disorientation, which resulted in an uncontrolled descent and collision with the water. Factors relating to the accident were: the lack of recent instrument experience by the flying pilot and the lack of monitoring (and/or remedial action) by the other pilot."
- November 20, 1996: A Beechcraft 95-B55 Baron, registration number N210WW, crashed into rising terrain during an ILS approach to Runway 7 in low visibility; the pilot, who was the sole occupant, was killed. The pilot had not been responding properly to controllers' instructions and had failed his last instrument proficiency review. The accident was attributed to "failure of the pilot to maintain control of the aircraft during an instrument approach, due to spatial disorientation, and/or his failure to maintain proper altitude. Factors relating to the accident were: the pilot's delay (or failure) to initiate a missed approach, and his lack of instrument competency."
- December 6, 2016: An Airborne Windsports Edge XT-912-L, registration number N188M, descended and crashed near the airport. The pilot, who was the sole occupant, was killed. The accident was attributed to "[t]he pilot's failure to maintain aircraft control while maneuvering in the traffic pattern."
- August 25, 2019: A Lockheed C-130A, registration number N119TG, was badly damaged in a runway excursion on Runway 7. After departing from Santa Maria Public Airport, passengers heard a "loud bang," and the aircraft began having engine and hydraulic system problems. The pilots made an emergency landing at Santa Barbara but could not maintain directional control, prompting the captain to initiate a ground loop to avoid plowing into buildings and parked aircraft. The seven people on board were not injured, but airport lighting and signage were damaged, halting all flight operations for 19 hours. Investigators found that the number 3 bleed air duct had failed, blowing hot air towards nearby wiring and hydraulic lines. The accident is under investigation.
- PDF, effective June 21, 2018.
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