The History of Redlands Airport
Civil Aviation has been a part of Redlands, California since the first known “air meet” was held at the University of Redlands in 1911. Among the area’s first notable aviation figures was Mr. Beryl Williams who founded the Redlands Aircraft Company in 1916. He later moved the business to Riverside and changed the company name to the Riverside Aircraft Company. Williams is best remembered at the time for painting his bi-plane with seven coats of light blue paint so it would not be visible from the ground.
While we know that Redlands had a history of early aviation, little is known about any formal airstrip serving the Redlands community. Then again, in the early days of aviation, farmer’s fields served as airstrips for most pilots.
It wasn’t until 1947, when Robert Kanaga and Austin Welch built the Redlands Flying Inn Airport that Redlands had its first formal airport. Kanaga and Welch constructed a 3,500 foot runway, and a Quonset style hangar for aircraft maintenance that is still used today.
Celebrities flying to the West Coast often chose to fly into Redlands airport for its privacy. Additionally, because of its elevation, Redlands was often the only airstrip in the Los Angeles area that was not fogged in.
During the 1950’s, Kanaga was called up for active duty in the Korean War and he and Welch were forced to sell the airport. At the time, the City did not have funds to purchase the airport so it was sold to the Southern California Turkey Growers Association who ran a turkey and chicken ranch on the site.
In the late 1950’s, Roy Haskins and Alexander Theos purchased the turkey ranch and began to refurbish the buildings to turn it back into an aviation facility. The hangar built by Kanaga and Welch which had become a turkey processing facility was cleaned up and became the Red Aero aircraft maintenance shop. The Red Aero shop was operated by Denton (Denny) Haskins from 1955 until 2014. Aircraft maintenance is still performed there today, but the building is currently leased by Blue Raven Aviation.
In 1962, with the help of a $20,000 loan from Lockheed, the City of Redlands was able to purchase land to expand the airport site and make the airport a municipal facility. Several airport improvement projects followed to extend and widen the runway, install lights, erect an aerodrome beacon, and install fencing.
Redlands Airport -1970
The aerodrome beacon tower and the adjacent hangar (now operated by Blue Raven Aviation) is a prominent landmark for Redlands airport. The beacon and tower were surplus FAA equipment donated to the city of Redlands in 1966. The beacon was originally installed on Box Springs mountain near March Air Force Base. The tower was initially installed as part of the US Airway Beacon system and was originally located approximately three miles southwest of Beaumont. The US Airway Beacon system used lights and later radio beams to guide pilots navigating cross-country.
Today, Redlands Municipal Airport (FAA identification KREI) sits on 180 acres in northeast Redlands. It is home to a variety of businesses including a fixed base operator with a fueling station, flight training schools, and various aircraft repair and refurbishing establishments. – Courtesy of City of Redlands
Some Facts About Redlands Airport….
Redlands airport is an active municipal airport. It is truly a gateway to Redlands and surrounding communities.
Redlands Airport Stats:
- Home to 295 aircraft owned by individuals and businesses.
- Facilitates about 80,000 annual operations. These include operations from visitors, business and personal travel, recreational flights, flight training activities, air ambulance operations and firefighting activities. The flight training activities at the airport are significant and provide valuable training to the next generation of pilots.
- The airport is also part of US National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems and will be used to facilitate emergency air support to the community during civil emergencies.
Redlands Airport is important for many reasons including:
- Facilitates business and personal transportation via small aircraft.
- Is used by area businesses for business transportation.
- Has 7500 visitors a year.
- The airport businesses employ approximately 75 jobs onsite and indirectly support another 1500 jobs.
- It generates a total economic output of approximately $8 million a year.
- The four flight schools at Redlands Airport help train the next generation of pilots.
- Revenues raised at the airport support its operation 100% without subsidy from the City of Redlands general fund.
- Redlands Airport is Used for the Following Emergency Services:
- Air Ambulance Operations
- Aerial Law Enforcement
- Utility Patrol Aircraft
- Wildfire Control by USFS and Cal Fire
Redlands Municipal is your Community Airport
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