In early 2009 pilots in the Central Coast of California became aware of a threat to Oceano Airport [L52]. A developer from a neighboring community set his sights on bulldozing our historic airport and building condominiums. While some folks scoffed at the threat, I took it seriously and began to mobilize local and regional pilots, gained the support of the California Pilots Association, type-clubs, Ninety-Nines and AOPA. I founded the Friends of Oceano Airport and we pretty quickly quashed the developer’s plan.
Brief History of Oceano Airport:
In the 1920s and ’30s airplanes routinely took off and landed on the California beaches near Pismo, Oceano and Grover City. Barnstormers became more popular in the mid 1940s hopping rides, and spotting schools of fish. Yet due to increased tourism, vehicular traffic, and the harsh environment at the beach, a more inland landing strip became a necessity. Oceano Airport was built in the 1950s to serve the communities of Pismo Beach, Oceano and Grover City. This unique airport is within a short walk of the beautiful Pacific Ocean and sandy beaches.
A few months ago another threat to our slice of Paradise came from the Oceano Community Beach Association. This small group has a worthy focus, to revitalize the town of Oceano. However they commissioned local graduate students from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to generate proposals to meet their goals. We were quite shocked to learn that one of the proposals was to close our airport and re-develop it for hiking trails, and housing. We have mobilized once again, to keep our airport in the pubic eye, in a positive way.
Oceano Airport is part of a two-airport system that includes larger San Luis Obispo (KSBP), and has received FAA grant assurances. While Federal obligations mean it would take a lot to close Oceano, it doesn’t mean it is impossible [think Santa Monica (KSMO). After speaking with our County supervisor and Airport Manager, it was clear there is no intention to close the airport. Yet, we are keenly aware that complacency is the enemy of airport preservation. Protection of our GA airports needs to be an intentional and active process.
More about our Jewel:
Oceano, in addition to perhaps being the closest public airport to the Pacific Ocean, is a vital link in emergency services in San Luis Obispo County. Life-flight, California Highway Patrol, Sheriff Aero Squadron, Civil Air Patrol, Diablo Canyon evacuation, Beach rescues, Arroyo Grande Community Hospital, and Angel Flights all make use of Oceano airport. It is a great field for training, particularly short field, and is used by regional CFIs. Many type clubs have their annual events at L52-Oceano such as Mooney Ambassadors EAA Chapter 1 Sons of Beaches
California Highway Patrol pilot Joe Kingman shows visitors the helicopter
Opportunities for recreation at Oceano are bountiful; we offer on field camping, Fly ‘n Ride bicycle loan [donation basis] and are walking distance to the dunes, hotels and restaurants. Additionally several businesses are located on the field including SkyDive Pismo Beach and Banner Airways 1942 Boeing Stearman.
The Friends of Oceano Airport (FOA), a 501C3 non-profit organization, is committed to the preservation of this beautiful slice of paradise, Oceano Airport. We are proud to be a chapter of the California Pilots Association, whose goal is to help promote general aviation, and to promote and protect general aviation airports.
FOA hosts three standing events per year. All events are family friendly and free-admission. Coming up, the second Saturday of May is Oceano Airport Celebration: Salute to Veterans. Our 11th annual event is May 10th and 11th. Fly-In Movie Night will be held August 24th, and Toys for Tots is the first Saturday in December, this year Saturday December 7th.
Community events bring visitors to the airport both tourists and locals. The airport is an economic engine for the area. Oceano Airport is a perfect example of how airports can be good neighbors.
US Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots, with assistance from Lambda Chi Alpha
Michael Madrid brings joy at Toys for Tots
Fly-In Movie Night
Another way to promote your airport is to get testimonials from local businesses, and publish these on your airport association websites.
“As an aviation company encompassing flight school, charter, and maintenance operations, SunWest Aviation, Inc. at San Luis Obispo [KSBP] has a vested interest in preserving Oceano Airport for our customers and employees. Oceano Airport [L52] is and always has been an extremely valuable resource for pilots and students flying out of San Luis Obispo Airport.
As an airfield with a short runway, Oceano Airport provides important real-life training on short field operations, and also provides a close-by non-towered airport for training. It’s also a close, safe place to land if students have a mid-flight emergency near our regular practice area.
Our involvement in Oceano Airport Celebration allows us to connect with the community and get valuable exposure to potential customers. Events like the fly-in movie nights are a fun way for our students and instructors to network with other aviators. The loss of Oceano Airport would not only negatively impact our company financially, but also deprive our students of valuable training. In a community sense, it would also remove an opportunity for our students to connect with and give back to the veterans in our area, who are regular attendees at the Oceano events. As small airports become more and more rare (especially in California), Oceano Airport provides a place where the aviators of the past, present, and future can celebrate flight.”
–Erin Hawkes, CFII
Our GA airports are in need of both protection and promotion. Complacency is the enemy. As flying season approaches for much of the country, we focus on large events such as Sun n Fun, the AOPA Regional Fly-Ins, or Oshkosh, but I would like to gently remind you that if we don’t protect and promote our local airports, they are at risk. Why not use a website like Social Flight or Fun Places to Fly to check out local and regional airport events. Or better yet Angel Flights , Pilots n Paws , or Flying Samaritans Get in the air, support a worthy cause, and use our General Aviation airports.
Spring is in the air, you should be too!
I look forward to seeing many of you at an upcoming event. Here are some events in my flight planner:
- Oceano Airport Celebration: Salute to Veterans, Oceano, CA [L52] May 11-12. $10 Beach Burger Fry and Dance 5/11, Free admission, Vets/LE/Active Duty/First Responders eat for FREE all day Saturday 5/12. We are collecting items for military care packages.
Collecting military care package items at Oceano Airport Celebration: Salute to Veterans
- MooneyMAX Convention, Longview TX [KGGG] June 6-8. I will be teaching Right Seat Ready! © with co-founder Jan Maxwell. This one-day seminar is open to any non-pilot who would like to attend [not Mooney specific].
- Father’s Day Fly-In, Columbia CA [O22] June 14-16. This year marks the 53rd annual event. Camping on field. This beautiful airport nestled in the Gold Country of California is an important part of the community. CalFire has an air attack base located at O22. The famous Moo Pool will be ready for business.
The ever-popular Moo Pool at the Mooney Ambassadors Display
- AOPA Livermore, CA [KLVK] June 21-22. Friday I will be teaching a 3-hour condensed all-airplane Right Seat Ready! © On Saturday I will present Exit the Holding Pattern: Achieve your Aviation Goals.
AOPA Fly-In Photo by David Tulis.