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History & Community

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Below is a compilation of history and community information for several County of San Diego airports:

Borrego Valley Airport   Fallbrook Airpark   Gillespie Field   McClellan-Palomar Airport   Ramona Airport

Borrego Valley Airport

History: The Burnand family, developers of Borrego Springs, sold approximately 145 acres to the County of San Diego in 1947 for the development of Borrego Valley Airport. The County owns and operates the facility and contracts with an on-site manager for day-to-day operations.

Community: There is no time like Springtime in the desert. And Borrego Valley Airport is an ideal location to start desert exploration. The weather is usually pleasant and the flora is adorned with a rainbow of colors between March and May. 

The airport and town are surrounded by the 600,000-acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Fly in, grab breakfast, lunch or dinner at the airport's Assaggio Ristorante Italiano (760) 767-3388, Saturday and Sunday. Hours: closed Monday, open Sat-Sun from 9am to 9:30 pm; open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 11 am to 9:30 pm. Assaggio Ristorante Italiano is closed during the months of July and August. Rent a car (760) 767-7415 at the terminal to begin a day's adventure or a week's vacation. 

Resorts and motels are available, as well as many campgrounds and picnic areas. A short drive from the airport is the State Park Visitor’s Center with many displays of desert life, area history and other interesting information.

In front of the center is a display of the various plants which will help you learn the difference between a chollas and beavertail cactus, for example. The center also has maps of the numerous hiking trails in the area. If your interest is in nature, follow trails through nearby canyons. You may be lucky enough to see a rare bighorn sheep or exotic birds.

If you’re more interested in playing golf or tennis, or just laying by a swimming pool, there are several top-quality resorts which offer courses, courts and comfortable waters. Several provide shuttle service from the airport.

Borrego Home

Fallbrook Airpark


1963 – Land deeded to the County of San Diego by the United States government to develop for public aviation use.

1968 – Additional land deeded to the County of San Diego by the United States government for non-aviation development, co-located with aviation property. 

1969 to 1997 – Operated by Fallbrook Community Airpark, Inc.

1997 – County assumed management in November.

Community: Tucked away in northern San Diego County is a gem of a community: Fallbrook. The emerald hills and valley are home to celebrities and everyday people.

Fallbrook Community Airpark is a gateway to this village of 35,000. It sits atop a hill, and  houses about 125 aircraft. Fuel and transient parking are available. Views from the runway and the adjacent viewing and picnicking area are spectacular: Mt. Palomar to the east, Camp Pendleton. to the west, the San Luis Rey Valley to the south and downtown Fallbrook to the north.

When you think of the area, avocados probably come to mind. True, it is a center of agriculture and avocado groves are everywhere, but Fallbrook’s Main Street is a real find, an eclectic collection of antique shops, restaurants, art galleries, jewelry stores and other interesting businesses. There’s even an historical museum which traces the community’s growth from 1886 when the Reche brothers named the area after their home in Pennsylvania (Fall Brook).

Over the years celebrities found their way to town. Hall of Fame baseball player Duke Snider, Martin Milner (Adam 12, Route 66), movie director Frank Capra (It’s a Wonderful Life), Henry Fonda, John Barrymore, Lon Chaney, Liberace and Earle Stanley Gardner all had or have homes in Fallbrook.

Golf is another attraction to the area. Some of the best courses in Southern California are in or near Fallbrook. Pala Mesa Resort, San Luis Rey Downs, Golf Club of California, Fallbrook Golf Club and Temecula Creek Inn are all popular destinations for those with a love of the game.

Fallbrook Home

Gillespie Field


1942 -- Commissioned as a Marine Corps parachutists facility and named for Marine Lieutenant Archibald H. Gillespie. Camp Gillespie served in that capacity until Marine parachute units were phased out in1944.

1946 – December, the County of San Diego leased Gillespie Field and converted it to a public airport.

1952 – County granted ownership of the facility by the federal government. 

1971 – San Diego County Sheriff stationed ASTREA, the law enforcement aviation section, at the airport.

1993 – San Diego Aerospace museum located its restoration operations and a special exhibit at the field. 

Community: Nestled in the northwest corner of El Cajon, Gillespie Field is a gateway to the world. It’s an important part of its community.

Gillespie Field is the oldest and largest of the County’s eight airports. It includes not just runways, tower, and a terminal, but many airport-related businesses as well.  Local Information--Hotels, Attractions, etc.

In addition to the airport itself, Gillespie Field includes two business parks which provide more than 3,000 jobs in the City of El Cajon and a $110 million boost to the local economy in direct, indirect and induced revenues.

The airport is home to flight schools, repair and maintenance shops, aircraft storage, food and beverage services, fuel, instrument and avionics shops, rental cars and aircraft sales and rental services. Hotels are within easy reach of the field.

Gillespie Home

McClellan-Palomar Airport


1957 -- County of San Diego picks Carlsbad site to replace Del Mar Airport.

1958 -- Construction begins.

1959 -- Airport opens March 20, for daytime operations.

1960 -- Terminal building constructed

1961 -- Airport expanded to a 4700’ runway.

1962 -- Terminal expanded, adding airport administrative offices.

1973 -- FAA control tower placed into operation March 26.

1977 -- Instrument landing system (ILS) and approach lights installed.

1978 -- Airport annexed into the City of Carlsbad.

1991 -- American Eagle Airlines begins scheduled service from Carlsbad to Los Angeles on April 15.

1994 -- United Express Airlines begins service to Los Angeles.

1996 -- FAA issues certification and permit to operate aircraft which carry in excess of 30 passengers.

1999 -- America West Express begins service to Phoenix April 4.

1999 -- New 3,600 sq. ft. temporary terminal installed in 24 hrs., April 7-8.

2006 -- North side ramp opens in August.

2007 -- Ground broken for new terminal building to combine airline terminal/security screening with restaurant, Customs facility and other amenities.

2009 -- Grand Opening of a new 18,000 sq. ft state-of-the-art terminal on January 29th.

The airport is named for aviator Gerald McClellan, a North County community leader.

Community: McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad is a gateway to and from San Diego’s North County. It serves the general aviation community, corporate aircraft and commercial services. 

What makes this airport so popular is its proximity to business and recreation. Major corporations and world-class resorts are just minutes from McClellan-Palomar. Some of the finest beaches in San Diego County are close to the airport and offer surfers, swimmers and sun worshipers balmy weather and beautiful ocean waters most of the year. Oceanside Harbor, with its shops, yachts and fishing boats, is a pleasant place to spend time. Legoland is two miles west of the airport.

La Costa Resort & Spa is just a short drive from McClellan-Palomar, and the Four Seasons Aviara Resort is also nearby.

McClellan-Palomar is an ideal spot for North County airline passengers who want to avoid a long commute and the congestion of downtown San Diego. United Express provides regularly scheduled non-stop service to Los Angeles with connections to the world.

The airport is an important part of the community with its $108 million/year contribution to the local economy.

Palomar Home

Ramona Airport


1943 -- Airport built by U.S. Navy as an emergency landing field.

1945 -- 4,000’ runway built by Navy.

1956 -- Airfield conveyed to County of San Diego.

1958 -- US Forest Service and California Department of Forestry opened joint Air Attack Base at Ramona Airport.

1966 -- Parallel taxiway built .

1979 -- Transient aircraft parking apron was constructed.

1995 -- First on-site manager assigned to Ramona.

2002 -- Runway extension project completed.  Extended runway and parallel taxiway to 5,000', expanded run-up area at north east corner and improved taxiway at southeast corner of airport.

2003 -- Sewer line installed at airport

2003 -- Air Traffic Control Tower project completed.  

2004 -- Tower began operation in January.

Community: Ramona is rural. Just ask the residents of San Diego County ’s Valley of the Sun and they’ll tell you. They like it that way. Surrounded by rock-strewn coastal mountains, the valley was first inhabited by Native Americans and then the Spanish who named it "Nuevo," meaning New. Milton Santee, who helped develop the area, changed the name to Ramona in 1884 after a popular book of the era.

Spread over 154 square miles and with a population of over 40,000, the community attracts many new residents and businesses each year. It’s only 40 minutes from downtown San Diego and the beach and a half-hour away from Cuyamaca and Laguna Mountain resorts.

In 1943 the U.S. Navy built a small, dusty airstrip at what is now the Ramona Airport. In 1956, the facility was conveyed to San Diego County and the airport has now grown to become the aviation center for community service to San Diego 's inland and mountain communities. The Ramona Airport is the third busiest facility in the County’s system with just over 155,000 operations each year.

The Ramona Air Attack Base is located in the CAL FIRE San Diego Unit and was established in 1957 by the then California Division of Forestry, making it the oldest Air Attack Base in the Department’s system. In 1960, the US Forest Service set up and operated from Ramona, separate from CDF, until 1966 when the agencies integrated and Ramona became a jointly operated base.

Ramona responds to an average of 450 calls per year. On average, the base pumps 850,000 gallons of retardant a year. Ramona has a possible peak output of 250,000 gallons of retardant each day. The base’s direct protection area encompasses over 1.4 million acres for CAL FIRE, 300,000 for the US Forest Service, and covers all of San Diego County.

Uncomplicated airspace, available services, ideal climate and proximity to North County business and recreation centers make Ramona Airport an ideal destination for work or pleasure.

If you are familiar with the sport of drag racing, it will interest you to know that the very first, official 1/4-mile drag strip was opened at the Ramona Airport nearly 60 years ago.  Now just an airport service road, remnants of the old strip still remain.

Serving every type aircraft from home-built experimentals to corporate jets, the Ramona Airport is home to a fully staffed air traffic control tower, three full-service FBOs, an avionics center, an aircraft service center, nine aviation businesses, a full-time airport manager and the world's only helicopter museum with operational helicopters. 

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