The Santa Barbara Airport is the municipal airport serving the Santa Barbara county. This county Institution is exactly a mile away from UC Santa Barbara and provides services to many students. The Santa Barbara airport use to be a Marine base and a race car attraction and has recently been designed with LEED (an energy and environmental design). 


Much of what would become the Santa Barbara Airport was part of the Goleta Slough. The local Chumash used the Slough  for its rich resources. Many Chumash Villages, resided on an island in the slough or around it. 

Cold War

After the war, the Civil Aeronautics Board replaced the military as the regulator for the nation’s civilian Airports[1].  Americas Cold War military machine still reserved the right to deputize airports in the case of National emergency which still hold true to this day. During the cold war scare the airport expanded commercial flights and the Space Race against Russia brought high technological industries to the region.  These companies including Raytheon and General Motors either engaged in research and development for weapon systems and worked on the creation of the Lunar Rover Vehicle that was tested on what is now airport grounds and was utilized Apollo 15,16, &17 [1].

Santa Barbara Airport as a Marine Base

The Goleta area was chosen as a training base for the Marine VMSR 244 Dive Bomber Squadron[2]. Goleta was seen as a reliable site due to the good weather which allowed for year-round non-stop training of pilots and air crew. The establishment of an airport in Goleta allowed for expansion of facilities rather than starting afresh in a brand new undeveloped area[2]. This showed not only showed a lack of consideration but also a lack of important placed on historic sites. In order to expand the space, the Goleta Slough had to be filled in. This was done by removing most of Mescaltitlan Island and part of the UCSB Bluffs to use as filler. This act had a multitude of impacts on the environment. The first was the loss of the pristine nature of the slough. The environment was now disrupted and no longer untouched. It also caused the loss of artifacts of Indian culture. Lastly the opportunity to make the area into a harbor once more was lost due to the shift of land and filling process[2]. The land from Mescaltitlan Island and the UCSB Bluffs were also used to form the new Marine air station runways (See Figure 1).

Figure 1[4]. A few years before the war, in 1938. Red arrow points to downtown Goleta, while arrow points to beginning stages of the airport, green arrow points to Mescatitlan Island.

There was a human aspect to the Marine base that is Santa Barbara Airport today. The base was mainly comprised of personnel that trained for war. They created social aspects to the base in order to interact with each other and other personnel in a recreational manner. For example, a paper was published in order to coordinate life on the bases (the title of the newspaper was BEAM)[1].

Figure 2[4]. Announcement in 1942 of the airfield being commissioned by the Marines as the Marine Corps Air Station Santa Barbara

In 1944 the West runway was added. This runway was added in order for flight paths to avoid the Lemon Association buildings on La Patera. This shows how close the airport is to commercial buildings and how involved the facility is with the community. At the end of World War II, Goleta was disbanded and placed on the war surplus list. The Airport was then acquired by the University of California, Santa Barbara. Most of the Marine buildings along Hollister were rented or leased. Today, the building which is now the Santa Barbara Airport was once the United Airlines Administration Building. One can also find the mark of the Marines at campus point. Campus point acted as a rifle range and skeet range for target practice. Skeets still litter the floor here- the artifacts of our recent past are still ever present in our current day.

Figure 3[4]. The circled part of the image below outlines the area that acted as a skeet and rifle range.

Santa Barbara Airport as a Race Track[3]

Members of the Motor Monarchs Club from Ventura approached the Airport Manager to see if they could use the airport property to schedule the first organized drag races. They were granted permission only if they obtained insurance which they did. Beginning in the late 1940s and extending through the late  half of the 1950s Road Races were held over Labor Day and Memorial Day Weekend. One of the first runs held on the Santa Barbara Airport surfaces, attracted nearly 25,000 spectators and 135 entrants. As popularity of these events soared the average entrants increased to roughly 300, while the spectators also increased to 30,000 people.  The proximity the airport had to Hollywood drew many celebrity racers at the time such as Steve Mcqueen which undoubtedly  increase the popularity of the airport.

Santa Barbara Airports “Hub” Role in the Goleta Environment [5]

In 1970, the Santa Barbara airport was expected to be a giant commercial-mass transportation hub. “Goleta Valley will be the new metro center of the south Coast because that’s where the growing room is and the airport will be its commercial hub because that’s the only place where enough land is available” said William Pereira, creator of the airports master plan. At the time there was discussion of the new airport terminal being built north of the old one, next to Hollister Avenue. This would create a transportation center for not only the airlines but also cars, buses, rapid mass transit systems, and helicopters. During the time, there was a want for the preservation of the Goleta Slough. However, there was a desire to add zoos and museums to display specimens of plant, bird and animal life there.

Public Art at the Airport[7]

Art featured at the airport reflects the history and culture of the region. The Santa Barbara Airport Public Art Program was launched in 2011 alongside the creation of the new airline terminal. The program is created of four major sectors: existing art, commissioned art, long term loan art and regional art. As for the architecture of Santa Barbara Airport- the complex was designed in a traditional Spanish-Colonial revival style by architects Edwards and Plunkett. This firm has created other Spanish style buildings all over Santa Barbara. This style involves a tall white tower that anchors thick white walls. It also includes the traditional orange and red spanish tile for the roof paired with stone arcades. These features have created “The Santa Barbara Style”.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design 

The Santa Barbara airport has worked to make their services accessible and affordable. Since they offer parking, they made sure that it was cheaper than parking in other airports like Los Angeles, Ontario, and Burbank. The airport was also pushing for a more “green” facility and have accomplished this in 2011. This meant that they reduced water consumption for landscape irrigation and installed a photovoltaic system to reduce the energy usage and lower the energy cost. With more water and energy in mind, they also added bike racks and changing facilities for employees and passengers and used recycled material. The overall goal of the airport was to have a more energy efficient and have more of an environmental design to airport. This was done through the U.S. Green Building Council’s (LEED) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Program and was then recognized with an award in 2013.


1920- Earle Ovington purchased land and built a home and aircraft hangar that was a 1500 foot runway.

1928- Roy Horton, Ray Romero, and Gordon Sackett wanted to create a runway for their biplane and began to clear the land from cows to create the airstrip.

1931- General Western Aero Corporations came in and created a larger runaway for manufacturing meteor aircraft.

1936- Federcick Stearns II payed thee runaways and added radio equipment.

1940- United Airlines started daily services.

1941- Mayor Patrick J. Maher purchased the airport property.

1941- Construction of the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport begins and runways and taxiways were extended further.

1942- United States Marines invades Goleta.

1942- United Airlines constructed a terminal under a 25-year lease from the City of Santa Barbara.

February 1942 Attack from Japanese on Ellwood Oil Fields

August 1942 Marine Headquarters were moved from Old Terminal to new United Airlines Terminal and United Airlines and Marine flight coordinated airline services alongside. Airport extended all the way to the land that is currently occupied by UC Santa Barbara.

1943 By this time over 100 wooden buildings were produced on the Mesa above the Slough (barracks, mess halls, chapels, theaters, laundry, administration buildings)

1943 First of the Women Reserves came aboard the Goleta Air Station

1945 Almost all the squadrons trained in Goleta were assigned to aircraft carriers

1948 Memorial was created in front of the Airport Administration building and dedicated to all the fallen soldiers who had trained at the based

1953-1957- John T. Jack Rickard was mayor and worked on improving airport.

1953- Santa Barbara Road Races first took place on Labor Day weekend which attracted many celebrities and community members.

1961- Federal Government annexed the land and the city of Santa Barbara received it after Judge John Rickard fought for it.

1965- Aero Spacelines relocated one of the two first guppies to Santa Barbara and named it Spirit of Santa Barbara.

1967- Jack Conroy flew Spirit of Santa Barbara to Paris Air Show and received the Medal of the City of Paris.”

1969- Santa Barbara Municipal Airport’s terminal was named after Earle Ovington.

1980 Wing of a Corsair was found two miles off Campus Point with machine guns were still attached

Januaray 2013- LEED project completed.

2013- New airport terminal named after Judge John T. “Jack” Rickard.


Santa Barbara Airport Website


1. Santa Barbara Municipal Airport- Photography Museum Section

2. Santa Barbara History Museum- "Goleta: Pueblo de Las Islas. A Pictorial History of the Goleta Valley" by Justin M. Rubge

3. "Ghost Tracks History." Ghostracks USA. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 June 2017.

4. "The Marines Invade Goleta." Goleta History. N.p., 07 Mar. 2017. Web. 04 June 2017.

5. Santa Barbara History Museum- Newspaper Archives, January 29th 1970

6. University of California Santa Barbara Library- Special  Collections (images of BEAM news articles)

7.  Santa Barbara Municipal Airport Newsletter

8. Santa Barbara History Museum- Newspaper Archives, "Santa Barbara Yesterdays News"