Once described by a city councilman to only be good “for raising bullfrogs” Fullerton’s abandoned sewer farm has become the last general aviation airfield in Orange County, Fullerton Municipal Airport.
In the summer of 1926 William Dowling drove past the abandoned farm and decided it would be the perfect site for a landing strip. On Apr. 21, 1928, the airport was officially dedicated.
“From very humble beginnings [the airport] is now a business center,” Airport Manager Brendan O’Reilly said
The airport is used for general aviation aircraft which ranges from single engine propeller airplanes all the way to business class airplanes, O’Reilly explains.
The airport holds approximately 300 planes and employs 300 people according to O’Reilly. It takes up 86 acres with a 3,121–foot runway and can hold up to 600 aircraft.
The Fullerton Municipal Airport houses two flight schools, a helicopter flight school, a helicopter charter business and a simulated dogfight business. It also houses public safety services such as law enforcement aircraft, Orange County Fire Authority and an air ambulance.
Garrett Hess, owner of Fun Outside Aviation flight school, has operated his school at the airport since 2006. Hess decided to operate his flight school from the Fullerton Municipal Airport because of the social climate.
“The atmosphere of how the tower interacts with people, how friendly the airport is for aviation and ease of operation,” Hess said.
Hess explained how the Fullerton Municipal Airport is different than other airports.
“There are a lot of other airports kinda in the area that is harder to get around, it’s harder to taxi, it’s harder to get off the ground and this airport it is very nice where we start an airplane and take off without any kind of delays,” Hess said.
California Highway Patrol officer and pilot Jordan Van Meter is one of 18 personnel and two supervisors stationed at the airport. The CHP has three helicopters and one fixed-wing airplane stationed at the airport.
Van Meter’s area of responsibility is to cover the LA and OC county. They are on duty from 6:00 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. seven days a week.
“From this base here at Fullerton airport it is in a great geographic location to cover Los Angeles and Orange County,” Van Meter said. “The Fullerton airport its size, its operation, the way that it is run it’s been a great place for us to run our operation and we hope it lasts that way for many years.”
O’Reilly has been a manager since May 2013. He has had his pilots license for 20 years. He had been working in airports for around 10 years prior to his current position.
An airport in Fullerton is important for the area because public safety aircraft could be on scene in minutes, O’Reilly adds.
“If there was a natural disaster we could turn the airport into a base for getting supplies in medical supplies, food and whatnot. That’s a great thing to have right here in the community,” O’Reilly said.
The Fullerton Municipal Airport holds a free yearly event on the second Saturday in May called Airport Day. This event allows the public to tour the airport and take a ride in an airplane or helicopter. There are aircraft on display, food vendors and aerial demonstrations.
“We are hoping to get to about 10,000 people annually in the next few years,” O’Reilly said.