San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport

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San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport
McChesney Field
San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport - California.jpg
Airport type Public
Operator San Luis Obispo County
Location San Luis Obispo, California
Elevation AMSL 212 ft / 64.5 m
Coordinates 35°14′13″N 120°38′31″W / 35.23694°N 120.64194°W / 35.23694; -120.64194
KSBP is located in California
Direction Length Surface
ft m
11/29 6,100 1,859 Asphalt
7/25 2,500 762 Asphalt
Statistics (2014)
Airline Passengers 407,646
Total aircraft operations 74,729
Freight (in U.S. tons) 1,425
Source: San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport Statistics Reports[1]

San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport (IATA: SBP, ICAO: KSBP, FAA LID: SBP), McChesney Field is a civil airport near San Luis Obispo, California. Three passenger airlines currently serve the airport operating flights to five airline hubs in the western United States: Denver (DEN), Los Angeles (LAX), Phoenix (PHX), San Francisco (SFO) and Seattle (SEA). The airport was established in 1939 and used by the U.S. military between 1939 and 1945.


In 1933 Pacific Seaboard Air Lines single engine Bellanca CH-300s flew twice daily each way Los Angeles - Santa Barbara - Santa Maria - San Luis Obispo - Paso Robles - Monterey - Salinas - San Jose - San Francisco.[2] Pacific Seaboard later moved its operation to the eastern U.S., was renamed Chicago and Southern Air Lines, and became a large domestic and international airline that in 1953 was acquired by and merged into Delta Air Lines.[3][full citation needed]

Earl Thomson, along with his brothers-in-law, William "Chris" and David Hoover, talked county officials into leasing them the land for an airport. By April 1939 it opened with an 88-by-100-foot (27 by 30 m) hangar and dirt runways.[citation needed]

During World War II the federal government took over the airport: From 1938 until 1941, the U.S. Army Air Corps and the California National Guard used 218 acres as an aerial observation training center; In 1940 the War Department added hard surface runways and lights, barracks, hangars, and mechanic shops.[4] In 1940 and 1941, 183 private pilots and 20 advanced students were trained here though a federally sponsored Civilian Pilot Training Program for armed services fliers.[citation needed] In 1943, the Navy began using the airport as a training center for the Pacific Fleet.[4]

The federal government turned the airport back to the county in 1946.[citation needed] Southwest Airways started passenger flights with Douglas DC-3s that year.[citation needed]

Southwest's flights to San Luis Obispo ended in 1956 when the airline moved to Paso Robles Municipal Airport in northern San Luis Obispo County due to the 4000-ft runway at San Luis Obispo being too short for larger aircraft such as the Martin 4-0-4 and Fairchild F-27. Pacific Air Lines, Air West and Hughes Airwest, successors to Southwest Airways, listed San Luis Obispo in their timetables but actually served Paso Robles with F-27s until 1974.[5][6]

In 1947 county supervisors contracted for another hangar, ramp, and eventually an administration building. The supervisors named Chris Hoover full-time airport manager in 1953.[citation needed]

San Luis Obispo Airport had no scheduled airline service from 1956 until 1969 when Swift Aire Lines began scheduled flights with Piper Navajos. Swift Aire's headquarters were at San Luis Obispo; it eventually operated Fokker F27s bought new from Fokker as well as Nord 262s and de Havilland Herons.[citation needed]

In 1975, after ending service to Paso Robles the year before, Hughes Airwest was operating McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30 jetliners into nearby Santa Maria Public Airport in order to serve the San Luis Obispo area; however, these nonstop jet flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco soon ended.[7]

After the 1981 demise of Swift Aire after a merger with Golden Gate Airlines, Wings West Airlines established its headquarters in San Luis Obispo and flew several turboprop types, as an independent commuter carrier and then as American Eagle on behalf of American Airlines via a code sharing agreement. Propjets flown by Wings West to San Luis Obispo included the British Aerospace BAe Jetstream 31 and Jetstream 32, the Beechcraft C99, the Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner (Metro III models) and the Saab 340.[citation needed]

In 1987 the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport was dedicated as McChesney Field, in honor of Leroy E. McChesney for his leadership and dedication to aviation. McChesney lived in the county since 1920 and had been a pilot since 1949. He was a longtime member of the California Aviation Council, a member of the California Aeronautics Board, and the Grand Marshal of the first Airport Day in 1984.

In 1988 a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) control tower opened and SkyWest Airlines, WestAir operating as United Express and Wings West (later merged into American Eagle) were flying commuter turboprops, WestAir operating the Embraer EMB-110 Bandeirante and later the British Aerospace BAe Jetstream 31.

Several other commuter airlines served San Luis Obispo with turboprop flights to Los Angeles (LAX) including Delta Connection service by SkyWest with Fairchild Swearingen Metroliners (Metro II and Metro III models) and Embraer EMB-120 Brasilias, Imperial Airlines with Embraer EMB-110 Bandeirantes, Mesa Airlines flying as United Express with Beechcraft 1900Cs and USAir Express operated by Trans States Airlines with British Aerospace BAe Jetstream 32s.[8] As of 1996, however, only American Eagle and United Express remained, Delta Connection and US Air Express having terminated their services the year prior.

America West Express (Operated by Mesa Airlines) began services from San Luis Obispo to Phoenix in April 1999 using DeHaviland Dash 8 turboprops. Within a few years, they had expanded services to Las Vegas, and became the first airline to operate commercial jets to the airport with the CRJ-200. The Las Vegas route was dropped shortly after the US Airways/America West merger.

In 2007, Delta Connection (Operated by Skywest) returned to San Luis Obispo, flying a CRJ-200 to Salt Lake City. The route terminated in 2008, as the recession hit the airport hard and caused flyer numbers to turn down drastically. American Eagle also left the airport in November 2008 as they retired their Saab 340 aircraft as part of a 12% reduction in services, and closed its maintenance and operational base at the airport.

On August 27, 2008 US Airways Express flown by Mesa Airlines announced an expansion of service to San Luis Obispo. Beginning October 2, 2008 the Bombardier Canadair Regional Jet 900 (CRJ-900) replaced the smaller CRJ-200 on the Phoenix flights offering 36 more seats on these twice-daily flights, and continues today as American Eagle service.[9] SkyWest currently operates Canadair CRJ-200 regional jets as United Express on most nonstop flights to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Denver, but will be transitioning to the larger ERJ-175 for one daily flight each to Los Angeles and San Francisco, and all flights to Denver. Allegiant Air considered the airport for a daily nonstop flights to Las Vegas with McDonnell Douglas MD-80s, but the short runway at SBP caused them to instead pick the Santa Maria Airport[10]

In January 2009 an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-400 arrived at SBP from Chico, California as a charter flight and was then the largest aircraft ever to land at San Luis. The flight carried 125 members of the San Francisco Symphony arriving to perform at Cal Poly's Performing Arts Center.[11] From April 1 to the 4th, 2009 Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-700, Frontier Airlines Airbus A319, and Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 jets operated as charter flights arrived at San Luis Obispo County transporting Oregon National Guard military troops. The A319 was the largest aircraft to have ever landed at San Luis Obispo.[12] Currently, there are no military charter operations at San Luis Obispo, however C-130 Hercules aircraft do occasionally stop at the airport.

In October 2015, ground was broken on a new passenger terminal. It is expected that the large increases in the regional population and tourism in the coming years will attract more services to the airport, and as such a more modern facility is needed.

On April 13th 2017, Alaska Airlines operated by Horizon Air began the first of a once daily service to Seattle utilizing the ERJ-175.

Environmental contamination

In 2015, the airport was suspected as a possible source of trichloroethylene or TCE, which was found in nearby water wells. However, an investigation ordered by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board[13] and conducted by a third-party engineering firm found that the airport was not the source of contamination. Water Board staff oversaw the county's field investigation activities. An estimated 48 residents had already filed claims against the county for negligence, even though the investigation concluded that the San Luis Obispo Regional Airport is not the source.


The airport covers 340 acres (138 ha) and has two runways:

  • 11/29: 6,100 x 150 ft (1,859 x 46 m) Asphalt
  • 7/25: 2,500 x 100 ft (762 x 30 m) Asphalt

A new passenger terminal was constructed to replace the older, smaller facility towards the north end of the airfield. A ground-breaking ceremony was held on October 8, 2015, and opened on November 1, 2017.[14] The new terminal features modern check-in counters and security screening, a pet relief area in a central courtyard, a post-security food stand, multiple gates with waiting areas, and two all-glass jet bridges in addition to the ground level gates. Artwork in the lobby includes tail sections and an engine nacelle from a Boeing 747. The airport is designed to accommodate up to 1.2 million passengers per year, well above the 450,000 seen by the airport currently.[15]

The airport property also houses the Spirit of San Luis Restaurant, located in the original terminal from the 1950s on the site. It features outdoor seating for patrons to watch planes take off and land, and is popular with private pilots to "Fly In" for lunch.

The 1980s built terminal covers 16,000 square feet, and currently sits vacant with no current plans for redevelopment.

There are also numerous parking spots for general aviation aircraft, and multiple FBO's, including Air San Luis and ACI Jet Center, as well as aircraft rentals and flight schools.[16]

Airlines and destinations


Airlines Destinations
Alaska Airlines Seattle/Tacoma
American Eagle Phoenix–Sky Harbor
United Express Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco

On July 17, 2013, US Airways Express operated by Mesa Airlines resumed Bombardier Canadair Regional Jet 900 (CRJ-900) service to San Luis Obispo Airport from Phoenix.[17] These flights are now operated as American Eagle by Mesa Airlines with all flights to Phoenix featuring Canadair CRJ-900 and CRJ-700 regional jets. American Eagle offers four daily flights to between San Luis Obispo Airport and Phoenix.[18]

On April 7, 2015, SkyWest Airlines operating as United Express began flying Canadair CRJ-200 regional jets on all flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco as replacement aircraft for the Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia turboprops as they moved the type into retirement, so all scheduled passenger airline flights serving San Luis Obispo are now operated with regional jets for the first time in the history of the airport.[19][full citation needed] The daily flights to Denver, as well as two of the flights to Los Angeles and one flight to San Francisco, will be operated with Embraer 175 regional jets beginning April 9, 2018, promising more passenger comfort and higher capacity.[20]

Alaska Airlines announced new nonstop service between Seattle (SEA) and San Luis Obispo which began on April 13, 2017 and was originally flown by SkyWest Airlines with Embraer 175 regional jets.[21] Alaska Airlines subsidiary Horizon Air took over this code share service on June 9, 2017.

Delta briefly operated a CRJ-200 between San Luis Obispo and Salt Lake City International Airport between 2007 and 2008, until shelving the flights due to the recession.[22]

Airport officials have expressed desire to secure flights to Portland, Oregon and Dallas, Texas, however these routes have not yet been announced.

With the terminal upgrades, it is now theoretically possible to operate small mainline aircraft into the airport such as the Airbus A319 or Boeing 717 which would allow for higher capacity flights to current destinations like Denver, Phoenix, or Seattle, or longer flights to destinations such as Houston or Chicago, however the runway does not currently have sufficient length to accommodate these aircraft at MTOW with margin for error.

Top destinations

Busiest domestic routes from SBP
(July 2017 - June 2018)
Rank City Passengers Carriers
1 Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Arizona 73,190 American
2 San Francisco, California 54,690 United
3 Los Angeles, California 43,480 United
4 Seattle/Tacoma, Washington 23,420 Alaska
5 Denver, Colorado 22,420 United

Annual traffic

Annual passenger traffic at SBP
(enplaned + deplaned)
1998 through 2017[24]
Year Passengers Change
1998 298,279 -
1999 310,571 Increase 4.12%
2000 311,041 Increase 0.15%
2001 310,076 Decrease 0.31%
2002 307,132 Decrease 0.95%
2003 295,076 Decrease 3.93%
2004 321,278 Increase 8.88%
2005 358,428 Increase 11.6%
2006 354,998 Decrease 0.96%
2007 368,423 Increase 3.78%
2008 312,172 Decrease 15.3%
2009 241,061 Decrease 22.8%
2010 264,732 Increase 9.82%
2011 272,420 Increase 2.90%
2012 259,505 Decrease 4.74%
2013 272,268 Increase 4.92%
2014 302,652 Increase 11.2%
2015 292,462 Decrease 3.37%
2016 330,231 Increase 12.9%
2017 407,646 Increase 23.4%


Airline Destination
Ameriflight Oakland
FedEx Feeder

operated by West Air


Fixed-base operators

  • ACI Jet[25] - ACI Jet offers a complete aircraft management program, which eliminates the frustrations and hassles involved with owning your own aircraft.
  • Air San Luis[26] - Air San Luis is a local Cessna parts dealer and maintenance shop.
  • SunWest Aviation[27] - SunWest was founded in 1987 as a family operation providing flight management services and has grown to become an executive air charter specialist, aircraft rental service, flight school, and maintenance shop.
  • Aerocademy[28] - Aerocademy was founded in 2007 to give future and current SLO area pilots a place to further their aviation education.


  • August 24, 1984 - Wings West Airlines / Flight 628 Midair collision. Shortly after departing the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport on a commuter flight to San Francisco International Airport, a Wings West Airlines twin-engine Beechcraft C99 (N6399U) collided head-on with a private Rockwell Commander 112TC aircraft (N112SM) that was descending for a landing at the same airport.[29]
  • August 1, 2005 - A Piper Cherokee flew into the side of Islay Hill shortly after takeoff in dense fog. The newly licensed pilot was not instrument rated and was killed in the crash. A fire on top of the hill burned 1/8th of an acre before being contained. The 700 foot tall Islay Hill lies 1 mile east of the airport boundary, however a red warning beacon was removed many years before the accident and has never been replaced.[30]
  • January 8, 2009 - A Beechcraft Bonanza (BE36-A36) landed with its gear up causing runway 29/11 to be closed for about an hour. The pilot was the only person aboard and was not injured. The runway closure caused a SkyWest flight from San Francisco to divert to Southern California.[31]
  • March 17, 2009 - At 3:00pm a Piper Comanche (PA-24) missed the runway on landing, apparently catching a wind gust. The wind caused the aircraft to veer off the runway, down a grass side embankment and through a fence. The incident caused the runway to be closed for 10 to 15 minutes but no aircraft were delayed. The one occupant of the aircraft, the pilot, was not injured.[32]
  • June 24, 2013 - A Cessna Skymaster crashed into a Federal Express truck and a building about 1.5 miles northwest of the airport after takeoff, killing the pilot. The pilot had reportedly made a mayday call shortly before the crash.[33]
  • December 15, 2015 - A Cessna 210 landed with its gear up and caused the closure of runway 29/11. There were no injuries to any of the three passengers, and the runway was reopened the same day. It is unknown why the landing gear failed to extend.[34]
  • February 6, 2018 - An Ameriflight Fairchild Metroliner experienced a runway excursion without injury. There were minor delays for commercial flights.[35]

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

  1. ^ San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport, 2014 Statistics Reports
  2. ^ Summer 1933 Pacific Seaboard Air Lines timetable
  3. ^ Chicago and Southern (C&S) Air Lines
  4. ^ a b CHRIS MCGUINNESS (27 April 2016). "Military's use of SLO Airport may have played a role in groundwater contamination". NewsgroupTimes New Times Check |newsgroup= value (help). Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  5. ^ April 2, 1968 Pacific Air Lines timetable & July 1, 1968 Air West timetable
  6. ^ July 1, 1972 Hughes Airwest timetable
  7. ^ Oct. 26, 1975 Hughes Airwest timetable
  8. ^ July 1, 1983 & April 2, 1995 Official Airline Guide
  9. ^ Seiler, Colin (2008-08-27). "U.S. Airways to expand service to San Luis Obispo's airport". KSBY 6 Action News. Retrieved 2008-09-01. [permanent dead link]
  10. ^ Stark, Lisa (2008-09-12). "Struggles of a Small California Airport". Retrieved 2013-07-15.
  11. ^ Lee, Amber (2009-01-23). "A first for San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport as a Boeing 737 arrives". KSBY 6 Action News. Retrieved 2009-04-01. [permanent dead link]
  13. ^ California, State of. "Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board". Retrieved 2016-10-12.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^, Press Releases
  20. ^
  21. ^, Newsroom
  22. ^
  23. ^ "San Luis Obispo, CA: San Luis County Regional (SBP)". Bureau of Transportation Statistics. November 2017.
  24. ^ "California Air Traffic Statistical Reports". Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Beechcraft C99 N6399U San Luis Obispo, CA". Aviation Safety Network. 1985-08-29. Retrieved 2009-04-01.
  30. ^
  31. ^ Myers, Justin (2009-01-08). "Crash-landing at San Luis Obispo airport closes runway". KSBY 6 Action News. Retrieved 2009-04-01. [permanent dead link]
  32. ^ James, Jill (2009-03-17). "Plane misses the runway at San Luis Obispo's airport". KSBY 6 Action News. Retrieved 2009-04-01. [permanent dead link]
  33. ^ Hickey, Julia (2013-06-26). "San Luis Obispo plane crash investigation continues". Retrieved 2013-07-16.
  34. ^ Fountain, Matt (15 December 2015). "Plane lands at SLO airport without landing gear". The Tribune. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  35. ^
  • San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport (official site)
  • FAA Airport Master Record for SBP (Form 5010 PDF)

External links

  • FAA Airport Diagram (PDF), effective October 11, 2018
  • Resources for this airport:
    • AirNav airport information for KSBP
    • ASN accident history for SBP
    • FlightAware airport information and live flight tracker
    • NOAA/NWS latest weather observations
    • SkyVector aeronautical chart for KSBP
    • FAA current SBP delay information
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