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Airport History Timeline

Chandler Municipal Airport


1890s Dr. A.J. Chandler amasses 18,000-acres to create his Chandler Ranch, which will eventually become the city of Chandler.

1903 First flight by Wright Brothers in Kitty Hawk, N.C.

1908 Dutheil-Chalmers Motor advertises first civil airplane for personal use in the U.S.

First dirigible in Arizona takes off from the Territorial Fairgrounds.

1909 The state's first airplane, a Canard-Pusher design, is built in Douglas, Arizona.

U.S. Army leases its first airfield at College Park, Maryland.

1910 Glen Curtiss is first to earn a pilot's license in the United States.

Orville Wright opens first commercial flight school in Montgomery, Alabama.

First air shows in Phoenix, Tucson and Douglas, Arizona.

1911 William Randolph Hearst’s American offers $50,000 to the first man to fly across the American continent within thirty days by October 11. This resulted in the first aircraft to fly into the state of Arizona.

1912 May 17. Dr. Chandler establishes the town of Chandler.

1913 Charles Ford of Douglas, Arizona flies the first aggressive bombing mission in the western hemisphere by flying into Mexico and dropping bombs on a railway trestle near Agua Prieta.

1914 Anthony Jannus flies first scheduled airline flight from St. Petersburg, Florida to Tampa, Florida. Airfare was $5.

1915 American planes bomb Nogales, Arizona in an effort to enforce Prohibition.

1916 First air-to-air radio transmission.

1917 A Clifton, Arizona resident by the name of Fowler makes an unsuccessful attempt building and subsequently flying a rudimentary helicopter powered by two Model T engines.

1918 Military surplus after WWI brings over 11,000 planes to civilians, ending the days of box planes.

1919 Tucson Flying Field is country’s first municipally-owned airport.

1921 First instance of crop dusting recorded: 5,000 catalpa trees dusted with pesticides in Troy, Ohio.

1923 First recorded use of an airplane for a search and rescue, at the Grand Canyon, Arizona.

1925 The City of Phoenix purchases a dairy on the outskirts of town and begins construction of a municipal airport. The farmhouse at Christy Road and 59th Avenue was the first terminal.

1926 The Air Commerce Act legislates the Secretary of Commerce to designate air routes, develop navigation systems, license pilots and aircraft, and investigate air accidents.

Cottonwood, Arizona residents Jennie Willard and Ersel Garrison tie the knot in the first aerial wedding in Phoenix.

1927 Charles Lindbergh completes the first transatlantic solo flight from New York City to Paris in 33½ hours.

1928 Governor W.P. Hunt dedicates Chandler’s first airport, opened near today’s Alma School and the 202 Freeway.

Standard Airlines begins commercial air service in Arizona.

1929 The City moves the airport location near today’s Tumbleweed Park, and it is rededicated by Governor John Phillips.

Chandler Aircraft Corporation forms to build a “Sparrow Hawk,” a three-seater plane. The company doesn’t last long.

Arizona Flying School builds an open air dancing pavilion, boxing, and athletic area at the airport.

1933 Ruth Reinhold becomes first female in Arizona to take pilot lessons at Sky Harbor Airport.

Boeing unveils the first modern passenger plane, the Boeing 247; it could hold passengers and cruised at 155 mph. United Airlines promptly bought 60.

1935 Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix opens

First air traffic control tower opens at what is now Newark International Airport in New Jersey.

1941 The U.S. enters World War II.

Higley Air Field established nine miles east of Chandler. Name changed to Williams Field, and later to Williams Air Force Base.

Luke Air Force Base opens in west Valley for advanced training in fighter aircraft.

Mesa’s Falcon Field trained British pilots for WWII. (City of Mesa now owns Falcon Field)

Scottsdale Airport opens as a USAAF Training Command. (deactivated in 1944). Now in public use & owned by City of Scottsdale.

1943 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt designates the airport in Douglas, Arizona as the nation's first International Airport

1946 Lazy Eight Flying Services opens at the site where the current Airport will be established.

1947 City purchases current Airport site from Roosevelt Water Conservation District.

The Airport site includes the Lazy 8 Flight School, a machine shop, and a horse racing track.

Williams AFB became foremost pilot training facility.

1948 The City installs water and sanitation facilities at the Airport.

New York Police Department purchases a Bell 47 Helicopter and begins training a police helicopter pilot.

1950 Airport runway graded and realigned. Crowley Aviation begins crop dusting service.

1957 San Tan Dusters opens.

1959 Deer Valley Airport opens, public airport owned by Phoenix Sky Harbor.

1960-68 1st paved runway on airport. Runway lighting installed. Airport grounds include rodeo arena, Police shooting range, and Rod & Gun Club building.

City of Phoenix purchases Goodyear Airport as an alternative airport to Phoenix Sky Harbor.

1969 The Varga family purchases land at airport to start their manufacturing and aircraft parts business.

Stellar Airpark, a private airstrip, opens in west Chandler.

1970-71 Airport runway & parking apron is extended. City installs updated runway lighting and perimeter fencing.

1974 First Airport Manager hired. City converts old Rod & Gun Club into first terminal building. Chandler Airport authority manages the airport.

First Kachina airplane built by Varga Manufacturing Corporation.

1975-77 Runway is extended to 3,810 feet. Medium Intensity Runway Lights (MIRL) and Visual Approach Slope Indicator (VASI) systems are installed.

1979 Chandler Airport Commission is established. Button Aviation is in service.

1980 The Airport consists of five businesses, one t-shade and no hangars. The police shooting range is located at the airport, and there is no paved road into the airport. Chandler Air Service opens.

1982-83 Airport’s first Master Plan is implemented. Runway is extended to 4,400’, allowing multi-engine aircraft and smaller business jets to land. The City builds a new apron and 52 tie-downs.

1984-85 City purchases 55 acres for future expansion. Adds new roads into and throughout the airport site. City relocates terminal to a new modular building.

City creates 27 new tie-downs, 116 T-Hangars, and a parking lot. More than 160 planes are now housed at the airport.

1985-87 Airport acquires 175 acres for new runway to be built in future. Business owners sponsor air shows at the airport.

1988 250 aircraft housed at the airport. Fifteen businesses at the airport, including maintenance hangars, flight schools, restaurant, paint shop, crop dusters, avionics, and parts businesses. City develops new Master Plan for the Airport which includes a second runway at 6,800 feet.

1989 Proposition 200, banning jet aircraft at the airport, passes. Council discards the vote due to conflict with grant assurances. The last crop dusting business at the airport, San Tan Dusters, closes.

1990-92 City purchases 137 more acres of land. Arizona Wing & Rotor relocates from Scottsdale to Chandler Airport, but soon closes. City passes ordinance 2122 to limit runway length to 4,850 feet.

Williams AFB closed. Renamed Williams-Gateway Airport, an aerospace center; educational & research training facility which will relieve Phoenix Sky Harbor Int’l Airport.

1993-94 Quantum Helicopters opens. City constructs a 2nd runway. New heliport opened on west end of airport. Chandler Aviation opens under Frank Setzler (previously known as Button Aviation).

1995-97 Temporary control tower is installed, a military mobile control tower of the VietNam War era (TSW-7). City builds new terminal building.

Air Evac Aerial
Ambulance Service starts. Sunbird Flight Services begins operation.

1998-99 City constructs permanent control tower. FAA oversees the operation, administration, training & quality of the tower by Barton ATC, then Serco. The Chandler Tower is one of eight control towers within the Phoenix Terminal Radar Control area (TRACON). The other control towers are: Phoenix Sky Harbor Tower, Scottsdale Tower, Deer Valley Tower, Glendale Tower, Goodyear Tower, Falcon Tower (Mesa), and Gateway Tower (Williams-Gateway). Air Evac closes business at airport. City adopts Ordinance 2978, allowing runway to be extended to 6,800 feet with voter approved bonds.

2000-05 Runway extension bond election fails. 81 privately developed t-hangars constructed. City purchases 28 more acres. New east side heliport completed.

17 privately developed box hangars completed. Tailwind Flight Center assumes operation of Sunbird. The FAA installs a radar display system in the control tower.

2006 Chandler Airport is the 43rd busiest airport in the U.S., 6th busiest general aviation airport.

2007-10 Tailwind Flight Center ends service at the airport. Updated Airport Master Plan completed & approved. New apron developments and perimeter access road built. The recession impacts operations and Chandler Airport drops to 69th busiest airport in the U.S. and 35th busiest general aviation airport

A second bond question for $65,000 regarding the runway extension fails.