Virtual Tour

Corning Municipal Airport (FAA ID: 0O4) is a mile northeast of Corning, in Tehama County, California.

The airport covers 77 acres (31 ha) at an elevation of 293 feet (89 m). Its one runway, 17/35, is 2,702 by 50 feet (824 x 15 m) asphalt.

In 2011 the airport had 8,718 aircraft operations, average 23 per day: 99% general aviation and 1% air taxi. 23 aircraft were then based at this airport: 74% single-engine and 26% ultralight.

Young Eagles Day at the Corning Airport 9-2-2017

The History of the Corning Airport

“Gravel Day at Corning”, Dec. 3rd, 1929.
“Gravel Day at Corning”, Dec. 3rd, 1929.

Corning Airport History, by Barbara Boot

When Bill & I began taking flying lessons in the early 70s, I thought that flying at Corning Airport was “the golden Age of Aviation.” Never mind that they called the 30s “the Golden Age.” Chief White was the FBO, and with a fairly good economy there was a lot going on. There were lots of us taking lessons at that time. Chief would tell us to watch out for the kid in the Taylorcraft, as he had no radio, and he would often take off from the taxiway. One of Chief’s students learning to fly was Dave Martin, who became a corporate pilot flying for Disney. It was the heyday of the “Chico Freakos”, a club that used the cow pasture to the west of the airport for the parachutes to set down. Our daughter, Carol could see the jumpers landing from school. She came home and asked us if she could jump out of an airplane. We told her no, but if she wanted to take flying lessons and learn to fly, she could.

In those days before Lorans and GPS’s, when a pilot would wander into the terminal building and ask what town he was in, Chief’s wife, Martha would make it a game: “Where do you think you are?”

Martha wrote for the Corning Observer: in 1974 she wrote that there were 30,000 female pilots in the United States, and that Barbara Boot was well on her way to becoming the 30,001 pilot.

Martha answered the Unicom radio, giving wind direction and the preferred runway. She welcomed pilots to Corning.

Research about Corning Airport in the early 30’s shows an “Air Circus” theme with pilot relay races in their BVD’s, a turkey derby, hog calling contest and Aviators ball, just to name a few:    But, back to the beginning: the old timers tell me that the first Corning Airport was somewhere west of the airport; on North Houghton Road, north of a row of eucalyptus trees. This historic information is confirmed on the back page of the 1938 Air Circus program.   The program also shows a photo taken in 1921, when the Army’s 9th Aero Squadron was stationed here on fire patrol duty with20 DeHavillands until 1929.While located at Houghton Avenue, the Pacific Aviation Company of San Francisco to promote their services, offered citizen’s rides at $1.00 a mile, or a 1.00 a minute.

In 1921, Warren Woodson purchased the property here and donated the land to the city for an airfield. It is known as the 3rd oldest airfield in the state of California, Crissy Field at the Presidio was dedicated Nov. 3, 1919 and since it is no longer an airport, Corning is now the 2nd oldest.  The oldest airport is Mather field in Sacramento.  On June 11th, 1918 the first aircraft to take off at Mather was a Curtiss JN-4 piloted by Lt. John F. Buffington. It was at Mather field that Ben Torrey received his Transport License in June, 1930.

In the summer of 1924, Woodson built a hangar for the airport which made Corning have the first hanger north of  Los Angeles.

In 1927, Pacific Air Transport Company announced plans to establish service at Woodson Field for both north and southbound passengers. The next year, West Coast Airlines announced that local round trip service between Corning and Sacramento or San Francisco would be available every day.  The price was approximately $20.00 to San Francisco and approximately $65.00 to Los Angeles.

One day in 1928 about 10,000 Tehama County citizens turned out to watch the Fokker’s and Ford three-motorized monsters, Baby Ruth’s and Waco’s, land and take off.  The second plane to land in this National Air Tour was the twin of Col. Charles Lindberg’s Spirit of St. Louis.

One of Corning’s most historic events was “Gravel Day at Corning”, Dec. 3rd, 1929. Corning businesses closed while 186 men including preachers, doctors, lawyers and bankers loaded and hauled 900 yards of gravel in their own pickups to gravel the runway. They  contributed $ 1350.00, and a rare demonstration of community spirit.

Ben Torrey was the earliest FBO from 1927 to 1937, when he moved to Red Bluff. He was a colorful person, attesting to the scrapbook of 67 pages of newspaper clippings saved by his brother, Ned and compiled by Dorothy Harper. He was killed in an airplane accident in Red Bluff in July, 1938.

In 1933 the airport runway was lighted; and they had a ½ million candle power beacon. The paper boasts that Corning has the largest lighted airport north of San Francisco.  On March 21, 1933, Ben Torrey flew 4 business men to Sacramento for a “beer” run when prohibition ended. Corning was a stopping off point for many famous personalities, Edgar Bergen, & Wallace Berry used to fly into Corning as well as Tex Rankin, who in the book “Black Cats & Outside Loops” mentions the FBO Ben Torrey as owning 3 ducks & wearing tan khaki pants.

Thirty years after its beginning, Corning Airport fell on hard times.  On April 20, 1949 a large white “X” was painted on the runway indicating its closure.  Later that year it was deeded to the City. It’s been claimed that Corning Airport is one of the best places to fly because of its good flying weather. There is little fog, rain or wind.  Therefore it was reopened in February, 1950.

While Floyd Whitnack was in the Army- Air Corp during WWII he buzzed Solano St. in a B25 bomber. Floyd went on to become the Mayor of Corning, and also served on the Corning Airport Commission in the 1990’s.

Another newsworthy event in the 60’s involved a C119; known as a Flying Boxcar, that huge airplane landed at the airport & slid into the mud. A local contractor, Ted Taylor, recalled that day when he was on the roof of a house he was building, within a ½ mile of the flight pattern. He said,” My God, is he going to land that thing here?” He recalls the cargo plane had twin tail booms as well as twin engines. It stayed at Corning several months before it was dry enough to safely taxi to the runway.

  1. H. McCurley was the FBO after Ben Torrey, then Lyle Perrine.

The 70’s brought new life and energy to the airport when Chief Julian White & his wife Martha became the FBO for 17 years until he retired. During his tenure, the terminal building was moved to the airport from the Red Bluff radar station.  He was active in the community, belonging to the Rotary and was a member of the airport commission. Chief had fly-ins and we flew ”penny- a -pound” rides to build time. We even had balloon races. There were 2 day Parachute Jubilees where dozens of sky divers made hundreds of jumps, filling the sky with their multi-colored chutes.

Chief died in an airplane accident on March 26th, 1991. The city dedicated the memorial flag pole to Chief. Darrel Sichel donated the bricks for the base.  The next four years Major Teglund was the FBO. He also died in an airplane related accident in Aug. 2000.

Brian Carpenter came to Corning as FBO about 1991, and the rest is history. Rainbow Aviation has put Corning on the aviation map again: pilots come from all over the United States, even Egypt and Australia to take the light sport repairman course offered by Carol & Brian.

In the early 90s Bill & I along with Darrel Sichel decided to bring back air shows to Corning. Darrel knew a lot of WW11 pilots with antique airplanes from Santa Rosa & Schellville, and with the help of my good friend & air show mentor, Diane Schneeweis, we found the best air show performers. Our own EAA #1148 was started during our air show period, and took an active part in the 1997 air show. The RC club, Tehama Co. Condors, under the direction of Jim Hand also worked hard parking planes, etc.

Our theme the first year was “The biggest little air show in the west.” We sold buttons promoting our event for $2.00 to raise money. Before long, we had an active committee, with volunteers doing the art work for our air show program. We sold sponsorships, and soon had a few corporate sponsorships to pay for performers like Wayne Handley and Joan Osterrud. One of my favorites was a paraplegic, Dan Buchanan who opened the show in his hang glider with smoke, streamers and precision flying. At our first show he livened up the proceedings by setting fire to the grass west of the runway.

One of the display aircraft at that 1992 show was a Ryan owned by Ted Babbini from Schellville. His all-aluminum plane won “best of show”, and once was owned by Tex Rankin who came to Corning air shows in the early 30’s.

In 1996 the theme was “Lipstick, ponytails & Outside Loops,” and featured all women pilots.  We had show’s for 5 years, from 1992 to 1997, but I can only tell you that after a while, it just gets to be more work than fun…

However, we were proud of our success and I found that pilots will come to Corning for the free olive packs. Our biggest year we had 295 planes here. When I flew into other airports I invariably met a pilot who had been to Corning for the free olives.

Sometime in 1985-1990 era, the compass rose was painted by the Mt. Shasta 99s on the Corning airport.

In 2000, our EAA chapter started the park project and remodeled the bathroom. Jerry Rindahl was active in paving taxiways and helping to improve the airport.  So we continue in the tradition of pilots in a small town taking pride improving our local airport. Now in the year 2010, the city has just finishing moving the runway 600 feet to the north and installing a large new parking ramp.  This $2,300,000 FAA funded project will ensure that our airport will continue to stay open.

In the 1938 Air Circus program, which shows the dedication of the new $15,000 hanger on the cover, W. H. Woodson speaks eloquently about our airport:    “Aeronautical Corning” He says: “when Corning was interviewed as to her attitude toward reasonable cooperation in fixing up a field as a roosting place for 20 of the DeHavilands, with pilots and officers, she jumped at the opportunity—hook, line and sinker—leveled the open field just north of Corning; made a clearing in the west end of the eucalyptus grove and erected barracks for the personnel of the flying contingent; provided water, light and sanitation, and dedicated the headquarters by a grand ball.”

“Early in the game the fly bug worked its way into my circulation and that bug has cost me no less than $20,000.

Some 14 years gone by I bought and leveled land, and built the pioneer hanger in the Sacramento Valley. Best of all, the Airport brought to Corning many national notables, such as Government officials of various classes; two National race tournaments checked in and out of here. Marriage elopement has flown from here and criminals were picked up. And here it was that the commercial shooting of coyotes and eagles from a plane was probably inaugurated.” Mr. Woodson goes on to say: “Aviation is on the wing and cannot be stopped.”