Santa Barbara Municipal Airport

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Santa Barbara Airport
Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (logo).svg
Santa Barbara Municipal Airport photo D Ramey Logan.jpg
Santa Barbara Municipal Airport, March, 2015
Airport typePublic
OwnerCity of Santa Barbara
OperatorSanta Barbara Airport Department
ServesSanta Barbara, California
LocationSanta Barbara, California, United States
Elevation AMSL13 ft / 4 m
Coordinates34°25′34″N 119°50′25″W / 34.42611°N 119.84028°W / 34.42611; -119.84028Coordinates: 34°25′34″N 119°50′25″W / 34.42611°N 119.84028°W / 34.42611; -119.84028
WebsiteSanta Barbara Airport
Runway layout at SBA
Runway layout at SBA
SBA is located in California
Location in California
SBA is located in the US
SBA (the US)
Direction Length Surface
ft m
7/25 6,052 1,845 Asphalt
15L/33R 4,180 1,274 Asphalt
15R/33L 4,184 1,275 Asphalt

Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (IATA: SBA, ICAO: KSBA, FAA LID: SBA) is a public airport 7 miles (11 km) west of downtown Santa Barbara, California, United States. SBA covers 948 acres (384 ha) of land.[1]

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 is bordered by the wetland area known as the Goleta Slough.

Santa Barbara Airport, new terminal

Three commercial airlines serve the airport as of January 2015 with non-stop flights to Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco by United Airlines; Portland and Seattle by Alaska Airlines; Phoenix and Dallas/Fort Worth by American Airlines; Denver by Frontier Airlines; Minneapolis by Sun Country Airlines; Oakland and Las Vegas by Contour Airlines. SBA has 21 daily commercial departures, and in 2013 more than 710,000 passengers used the airport.

There are two fixed-base operators[discuss] on the field, Signature Flight Support and Atlantic Aviation, and three flight schools, Above All Aviation, Red Baron Aviation, and Spitfire Aviation.[citation needed]

In addition to regularly scheduled flights offered by other airlines, Surf Air operates service to Burbank and San Carlos in California using eight seat Pilatus PC-12 turboprops via a membership only, pay-as-you-fly program.[2]


Early years[edit]

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.[3]

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-300 aircraft on an intrastate routing of Los Angeles - Santa Barbara - Santa Maria - San Luis Obispo - Paso Robles - Monterey - Salinas - San Jose - San Francisco.[4] 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 airline and then in 1953 be acquired by and merged into Delta Air Lines thus providing Delta with its first international routes.[5] United Airlines then inaugurated flights from Santa Barbara/Goleta in 1936. United would provide mainline passenger air service for many years at the airport.

As the prospect of war escalated the United States Government established a program to construct 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.[6]

Original passenger terminal building

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.

Postwar developments[edit]

In 1947 the Santa Barbara Flying Club was formed to promote general aviation in the region.[7]

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.

Passengers boarding an American Eagle Saab 340B turboprop aircraft for a flight to Los Angeles in October 2008

Southwest Airways and successors[edit]

Until 2002 Santa Barbara Airport was on a mainline jet route between San Francisco and Los Angeles operated by several airlines over the years. The airport was served by Southwest Airways Douglas DC-3s and Martin 4-0-4s and also 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 on a routing of 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.[8]


The United Airlines system timetable dated February 1, 1937 listed daily round trip service flown with a Douglas DC-3 twin prop aircraft on a routing of Los Angeles-Santa Barbara-San Francisco-Oakland. By 1972, the United timetable listed direct, no change of plane Boeing 727-100 jet service to New York Newark (EWR) via stops at LAX and Milwaukee (MKE).[9] The primary jet routes initially flown by United from Santa Barbara were nonstops to Los Angeles and San Francisco with some flights then continuing on to other destinations. The first nonstop flights beyond California from SBA were flown by United with Boeing 727s to Denver in 1979 and to Chicago O'Hare in 1980. Over the years, United operated Boeing 727-100, 727-200, 737-200 and 737-300 jetliners into Santa Barbara. United ceased mainline jet service to SBA in 1990. Shuttle by United, a division of United Airlines (later renamed United Shuttle) operated mainline 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 currently 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 CRJ200, CRJ700, and E175 aircraft all operated by SkyWest Airlines. On June 8, 2017, United resumed mainline service to San Francisco and Denver, but has since been discontinued.


American Airlines first started service with McDonnell Douglas MD-80 jetliners to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) in 1984, with some of these flights operating a triangle routing of DFW-Burbank-SBA-DFW or DFW-Bakersfield-SBA-DFW. American also operated direct MD-80 one stop service to Chicago O'Hare (ORD) via Ontario (ONT). After American Airlines dropped mainline service to SBA, American Eagle Airlines, a wholly owned regional affiliate of American, began flying Saab 340B turboprops and later Embraer ERJ-140 regional jets between SBA and LAX. American Eagle also operated Canadair CRJ-700s between SBA and DFW until it ended this nonstop service in April 2009. The airline continued to provide SBA-LAX service until November 14, 2012 at which time SkyWest Airlines operating as American Eagle took over with Canadair CRJ-200 regional jet flights. American Eagle subsequently suspended its only remaining Santa Barbara service to Los Angeles on March 31, 2014 thus ending American Airlines service at the airport. With the merger of US Airways and American completed, American Airlines then 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) with Canadair CRJ-900 aircraft operated by Mesa Airlines.[10] On April 4, 2017, American Airlines resumed mainline service to DFW on a seasonal basis utilizing an Airbus A319. This was the first mainline service since 2015 when Frontier Airlines ceased flying to Santa Barbara.


Alaska-owned regional airline Horizon Air was the first Alaska affiliate to connect SBA with Seattle and Portland, flying Canadair CRJ-700 series regional jets. From 2008 to 2010, Horizon also connected Santa Barbara non-stop to Sacramento with continuing direct, no change of plane service to the Portland and/or Seattle. In 2011, Skywest Airlines took over the Horizon Canadair CRJ-700 jets and then later replaced them with Embraer E175 regional jets, replacing Horizon for all Alaska-branded flying into Santa Barbara and continues to operate flights via a capacity purchase agreement with Alaska Airlines connecting SBA with the Pacific Northwest. 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 E175 regional jets. 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 737 jets.

Sun Country[edit]

Sun Country Airlines served Santa Barbara twice weekly between August and December to Minneapolis/St. Paul utilizing their fleet of Boeing 737 jets. Service began on August 16th, 2018, and ended on December 9th, 2018. Listings on the airline's website[11] show a return on May 23rd, 2019, until August 18th, 2019, with an increase to four times weekly after June 2nd.


Frontier Airlines previously served the airport to Denver until 2015. Starting August 21st, 2018, Frontier began 3 times a week seasonal service to Denver flying the Airbus A320.


Contour Airlines began service on October 16th, 2018. They fly daily to Oakland International Airport and 5 times a week to Las Vegas McCarran International Airport using a fleet of 30-seat ERJ-135s.

Locally based commuter airlines[edit]

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.[12] Another locally based airline was Connectair operating Fairchild F-27J turboprops with nonstop flights to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Jose, CA.[13] Both air carriers are no longer in existence.

Other airlines operating jet service in the past[edit]

Until January 2015, the current version of Frontier Airlines was operating nonstop service between SBA and Denver with Airbus A319 aircraft. Frontier suspended service to Santa Barbara on January 6, 2015. Besides American and United, other airlines operating jets from SBA included Pacific Air Lines with Boeing 727-100s to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Monterey, Continental Airlines with nonstop Boeing 737-300s to Denver, Air West (later renamed Hughes Airwest by owner Howard Hughes) with Boeing 727-100s as well as Douglas DC-9-10s and McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30s to Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities, Allegiant Air with McDonnell Douglas MD-80s to Las Vegas, Pacific Express with British Aircraft Corporation BAC One-Elevens to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Bakersfield, Air Wisconsin (flying as United Express) with British Aerospace BAe 146-200 and BAe 146-300s to Denver, and ExpressJet operating independently and flying Embraer ERJ-145 regional jets nonstop to Sacramento and San Diego.

Other past commuter airline service[edit]

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.[14] 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.[15] 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.[16] 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.[17]

Current air service[edit]

With the suspension of Frontier Airlines Airbus A319 service to Denver in January 2015, all commercial airlines operating out of Santa Barbara had regional airline affiliates flying smaller regional jet aircraft. American Eagle flights to Phoenix are operated with Mesa Airlines Canadair CRJ-900s.[18] In June 2016, American Eagle relaunched service to Dallas-Fort Worth with Canadair CRJ-900 aircraft and American Airlines took over the route on an Airbus A319 jet.[10] Additional mainline service returned to the airport in the Summer of 2017 when United Airlines began service to Denver and San Francisco utilizing Airbus A319/A320 and Boeing 737 aircraft on select flights June 8, 2017. United Express flights to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Denver operated by SkyWest use Canadair CRJ-200s, Canadair CRJ-700s and Embraer E175s. SkyWest Airlines operated Embraer E175s flying as Alaska Airlines nonstop to Seattle and Portland, but Horizon Air took over the Seattle route with their E175. Alaska Airlines took over the Seattle route on a Boeing 737 on August 27, 2017 and due to the pilot shortages at Horizon Air, SkyWest filled the void with spare CRJ200's. Horizon Air will once again takeover the Portland flight on May 20, 2018, with an Embraer E175. On May 1st, 2018, it was announced that Frontier Airlines would be resuming 3 times a week service to Denver. One day later on May 2nd, 2018, it was announced that Sun Country Airlines would be starting up twice weekly seasonal flights to Minneapolis-St Paul Airport. On August 22nd, 2018, Contour Airlines announced daily flights to Oakland International Airport and Las Vegas McCarran International Airport.

New terminal[edit]

The original terminal building being prepared for moving and integration with the new terminal building

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).[19]

Airlines and destinations[edit]


Alaska Airlines Portland (OR), Seattle/Tacoma
American Airlines Seasonal: Dallas/Fort Worth
American Eagle Dallas/Fort Worth, Phoenix–Sky Harbor
Contour Airlines Las Vegas,[20] Oakland[20]
Frontier Airlines Denver[21]
Sun Country Airlines Seasonal: Minneapolis/St. Paul[22]
United Airlines Seasonal: Denver, San Francisco
United Express Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco


Ameriflight Burbank
FedEx Feeder
operated by Empire Airlines


Top destinations[edit]

Busiest routes from SBA
(October 2017 - September 2018)[23]
Rank Airport Passengers Carriers
1 San Francisco, California 97,830 United
2 Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Arizona 89,140 American
3 Denver, Colorado 52,930 Frontier, United
4 Los Angeles, California 47,800 United
5 Seattle/Tacoma, Washington 44,150 Alaska
6 Dallas/Fort Worth,Texas 31,070 American
7 Portland, Oregon 19,220 Alaska
8 Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota 1,180 Sun Country
9 Oakland, California 1,180 Contour

Annual traffic[edit]

Annual passenger traffic at SBA
(enplaned + deplaned)
1998 through 2017[24]
Year Passengers
1998 823,160
1999 792,548
2000 776,904
2001 725,140
2002 731,464
2003 752,762
2004 823,935
2005 855,371
2006 858,549
2007 819,327
2008 817,093
2009 746,730
2010 754,071
2011 721,551
2012 727,679
2013 708,854
2014 662,661
2015 627,048
2016 658,955
2017 710,614

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b FAA Airport Master Record for SBA (Form 5010 PDF), effective June 21, 2018.
  2. ^ Aviation International News, April, 2014 edition, Vol. 46, No. 4, page 66, "Wave Off at Surf Air"
  3. ^ "Santa Barbara - Airport".
  4. ^, Summer 1933 Pacific Seaboard Air Lines system timetable
  5. ^, Chicago and Southern (C&S) Air Lines
  6. ^ Marine Corps Air Station Santa Barbara
  7. ^ "Santa Barbara Flying Club".
  8. ^ February 1, 1976 Official Airlines Guide (OAG), North American edition
  9. ^, June 1, 1972 United Airlines system timetable
  10. ^ a b "New Air Service Begins to Dallas/Forth [sic] Worth from Santa Barbara". February 19, 2016. Retrieved February 20, 2016.
  11. ^
  12. ^, July 1, 1984 Pacific Coast Airlines route map
  13. ^,Sept. 18, 1985 Connectair route map
  14. ^, Dec. 1, 1968 Cable Commuter Airlines system timetable
  15. ^, Nov. 15, 1979 & April 1, 1981 editions, Official Airline Guide (OAG), Los Angeles-Santa Barbara flight schedules
  16. ^, Official Airline Guide (OAG), Los Angeles-Santa Barbara flight schedules, April 1, 1983; Feb. 15, 1985; Dec. 15, 1989; Oct. 1, 1991; April 2, 1995; June 1, 1999 editions
  17. ^, April 1, 1983 Official Airline Guide (OAG), Los Angeles-Santa Barbara flight schedules
  18. ^ "Santa Barbara - Flight Schedule".
  19. ^ "Santa Barbara - Airport".
  20. ^ a b
  21. ^ "Where We Fly". USA Today. May 1, 2018. Retrieved May 1, 2018.
  22. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  23. ^ "Santa Barbara, CA: Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (SBA)". Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Nov 16, 2018. Retrieved Nov 16, 2018.
  24. ^ "Reports. Retrieved on April 28, 2018". Retrieved 2018-07-11.

External links[edit]