From 1910-1919, the city's seven miles of beach served as Long Beach's "airport." Landings and takeoffs were best made at low tides, and it was common to see fabric-covered biplanes flying off the sand amidst ocean spray.
In 1919, local aviator Earl Daugherty opened a 20 acre flying field for his flight training school at "Chateau Thierry." Located at Bixby Road and Long Beach Boulevard, it opened on June 6, 1919. Interest in aviation grew and on July 16, 1920, the City of Long Beach contacted Daugherty about developing a 60 acre municipal flying field on land situated west of Long Beach Boulevard and south of Willow Street. It was here, when the field was dedicated on December 25, 26 and 27, 1920, that Amelia Earhart caught the flying bug and decided to become a pilot.
Oil was discovered on nearby Signal Hill in 1921 and the area surrounding the municipal airport experienced tremendous growth. In 1923, the Long Beach City Council purchased 150 acres near the intersection of Spring and Cherry Streets to enable the airport to expand and gain greater access to the nation's infant air transportation system. Ground was broken on the new airport, the one we know today, on November 26, 1923, and the new Long Beach Airport was dedicated on December 20, 1924; the old airfield closed, replaced by housing.
By January 1925, private plane owners had begun to lease space at the new municipal airport. Significant development continued when the city built hangars and administrative facilities for the Army and Navy between 1928-30. In 1938, with the help of funds from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), new runways were constructed and funds authorized for a new administrative building and control tower.
An additional 255 acres was purchased in 1939 for a $150,000 administrative building. This new structure brought the total acreage of Daugherty Field, as the municipal airport had been christened, to 500 acres. One June 8, 1941, the new administrative building was dedicated, and on April 25, 1942, it opened for business. Architects W. Horace Austin and Kenneth S. Wing. Sr. designed the Streamline Moderne structure. One the ground floor, there was a waiting room, ticket office, express baggage room, post office and general office. The entire second floor was used for airline offices, while the third floor held general airport offices, a weather bureau and teletype office. There was also a tower used for traffic control purposes. Three federally funded mosaic masterworks created by Grace Clements under the WPA Federal Art Project served as the finishing touches on the building.
As smaller capacity aircraft such as the DC-3 and Constellation were phased out of service in favor of large jets such as the Boeing 737 and Douglas DC-9, the Long Beach terminal needed to grow. In 1984, a new concourse area and pre-boarding lounge were constructed immediately south of the existing terminal building. This improvement project, while retaining the 1940s character of the terminal, provided better accessibility for patrons with disabilities, improved mobility in the passenger screening process, and improved ticketing and check-in processing of airport users. Since the distinguishing architectural characteristics of the terminal were not altered, the building was named a City of Long Beach Cultural Heritage Landmark in 1990.
Over the years, the Long Beach Airport (LGB), a facility steeped in aviation history, has played a major role in the development of the City. It was the airport, along with an abundant amount of vacant adjacent land, which first attracted the attention of Donald Wills Douglas in 1940. Today, the Boeing Company manufactures the C-17, the world's most versatile airlifter.
The airport is well situated halfway between the major business and tourism areas of both Orange and Los Angeles Counties. Currently, there are over 200 businesses located on airport property, including nearly 100 acres of mid-rise business park and hotel uses, several top-rate fixed base operators, and specialty aviation service companies, as well as Gulfstream Aerospace aircraft service centers.
Presently, Long Beach Airport covers 1,166 acres and has five runways, the longest being 10,000 feet. It is a hub of corporate activity as well as being one of the world's busiest airports in terms of general aviation activity. Scheduled airlines also provide passenger and cargo service.
Owned and operated by the City of Long Beach, the Airport is an important part of the Long Beach community. The Airport is proud to be the partner of two Long Beach Unified Schools, Burcham Elementary and Burroughs Elementary. The Airport's volunteer tour program offers an invaluable learning experience. Each year, these tours give thousands of children and adults the opportunity to explore a major aviation transportation, manufacturing, and business center, which contributes significantly to the local economy.