History of Long Beach Airport

As the Long Beach Airport (LGB) gets set to celebrate its 100th anniversary, a glance back at its history suggests the self-described “boutique” airport–declared one of the world’s most beautiful by the BBC and just “too perfect” by CNN–was destined to achieve greater heights.

From famous aviators, to assisting war efforts and the development of the aerospace industry, to providing the most convenient and pleasurable air travel for locals and visitors alike, Long Beach Airport’s first century has been equal parts historic and cherished. A match made in the heavens … and at the beach.

Coinciding with its 100th anniversary has been Long Beach Airport’s multi-phase Terminal Area Improvement Program, including a new ticketing lobby and baggage area as well as renovations to its iconic terminal.

“In one sense we are celebrating 100 years of operation, but nothing about us looks that way,” said Cynthia Guidry, Long Beach Airport’s Executive Director. “We are experiencing a full-body makeover, and I sense the excitement of renovating our historic terminal, discovering old mosaics, and preparing for a brand new look in 2024.”

In 1911, Cal Rodger completed the first U.S. transcontinental flight in Long Beach. In 1919, Earl Daugherty, the greatest stunt pilot of his time, opened the world’s first flight school in Long Beach that proved so popular he and city officials agreed to develop a 60-acre municipal flying field that was dedicated on Christmas Day, 1920. Three days later, after having been dazzled by an air show at the field, a young woman signed up for lessons. Her name was Amelia Earhart.

That architecture would not only become emblematic of Long Beach Airport, but also, in many ways, came to represent to many what an airport looked like since the terminal soon, and often, found its way onto the silver screen.

Today, Long Beach Airport covers 1,166 acres and has three runways, the longest being 10,000 feet, used by major passenger airlines and cargo services. It has served as a hub of corporate activity, most especially McDonnel Douglas and Boeing, which established Southern California as a leader in aerospace. There are more than 200 businesses located on airport property now.

And as the airport heads into its second century, there’s still plenty of history, and happiness, to be made.

“I’ve heard passengers talk about how much they enjoy flying in and out of LGB, and those first-time user comments are especially sweet. I may or may not share that I’m the Director, but I’ve had some great conversations about how easy-going and charming the airport is,” Guidry said. “Throughout this construction journey, we’ve certainly had our own ooh and aah moments. It’s an honor to build and restore one of the city’s most precious assets. It really feels like Long Beach Airport’s rich past, present and future are all culminating into this moment.”

About the Author
Steve Lowery
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