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URBAN HIKE

The Santa Barbara Airport and Environs
updated: Jun 25, 2011, 9:45 AM

By Peter Hartmann & Stacey Wright

This week as we continued to walk all 256 miles of public streets within the City Limits of Santa Barbara, we made a trip "out west" to explore the airport, make a few new friends, check out the new terminal, gather some wonderful local history, experience a little wildlife, and generally go crazy with all the great things we found.

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We began at the new $37 million terminal, the night of the gala event. By now, you've probably seen quite a few great photos of the new terminal because we've posted some, and so have a few others from the Edhat community. So we'll show you only a few new photos; hopefully from perspectives you've not already seen. But we've gotta tell you, the place is pretty impressive. For one thing, the project came in under budget and for another; our airport is one of two in the U.S. using ultra cool glass enclosed jet ways.

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Inside the new terminal most everything is spiffy, shiny, new, and reflective of Santa Barbara. Every traveler is familiar with the classic "All Gates" sign...

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But not every airport can boast several Channing Peake murals, or even a hand-created mosaic reflective of the many natural elements of their city.

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And wow, take a peek into the new and improved men's bathroom.

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We like the new ticket counters and the new in-terminal rental car counter...we just hope enough enterprises are attracted to Santa Barbara that we are able to fill them up and create a vital, happening airport to serve our citizens and the traveling public.

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And now, for a couple of view shots out the windows of the new terminal.

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We're certain the new terminal will be comfortable and efficient, but we can't help but nostalgically look back 80 years to the humble beginnings of commercial aviation in Santa Barbara. In 1928, two guys, Gordon Sackett and Royce Stinson, got the idea of opening a flight school in a cow pasture near the corner of Hollister and Fairview. Three years later in 1931, Western General built two hangers nearby so they could fabricate wood and fabric airplanes on site. We found a few vintage photographs of the Western General Hangars showing quite a lot of activity around the hangars in those days. If you look closely at the modern photos you can make out the signage still visible from Western General. Today these same hangars sit largely empty; however one of them offers airplane storage to local pilots.

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In 1932, commercial airline service began in Santa Barbara with Pacific Seaboard Airlines serving local travelers. In 1936, United Airlines arrived and took up residence in the two Western General hangers which had been vacated following the demise of the manufacturing company. If you look at the 1936 photograph shown above, you can see Santa Barbara's very first commercial airline terminal - it's located right between the two Western General hangars. As we dug around more, we were able to locate two additional historical photos showing the terminal. We especially like the "modern" color photo. Look very closely at today's photo of the same hangars and you will see even more signage from that bygone era of aviation. We think that just seeing these hangars alone justifies a hike to the outskirts of the city.

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These days the airport infrastructure is more sophisticated than ever. Not only do we have the well known TSA regulations, but unbeknownst to many, much of what goes on at the airport concerns passenger and pilot safety. Next week, we will tell and show you about our visit into the control tower, with some beautiful shots from the catwalk; plus we'll give you a little history about the place...but for now we'll describe some of the other flight safety technologies in place at our airport.

On one of our Sunday hikes, we happened by the Airport Fire Station, and gave a little knock on the door. We were warmly welcomed in by Kathy and Olga, the Fire Captain and one of the fire fighters. We were amazed by the size of the fire trucks, impressed with the organization of the station and comforted by the obvious level of preparedness that exists at the station. We have taken many flights into and out of Santa Barbara over the years, and have never thought twice about the potential consequences of a fire on the tarmac. After seeing the efficiency of this operation we can assure you that we have a well prepared, top-notch fire department standing by, ready to spring into action if called upon to do so.

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Across the street from the Fire Station, we happened upon the most humble little building ... Not only were we fascinated by the building, but the signage attached to it made us wonder about its purpose. A little bit of research revealed that the little building is an important part of the airport sewage system...not glamorous like many of the other aspects of the airport, but darn cute never-the-less and certainly very necessary.

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When we experience foggy or inclement weather, arriving pilots rely on the ILS (Instrument Landing System) to land their aircraft safely. Like other airports around the county, our airport has a system based on radio beacons that assists pilots in guiding their aircraft to within 200 feet of the runway. Once the aircraft is within 200 feet of the runway, the pilot uses visual cues to land safely. But we all know that with our typical weather patterns here, especially during the often foggy months of summer, there would be many cancelled or delayed flights without this basic safety feature.

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Another standard weather-related feature at our airport is the AWOS - which is an automated weather reporting system used by pilots to access up-to-the -minute weather information. On the day we had our "behind the scenes" tour of the airport, we spotted two majestic red-tailed hawks atop the AWOS equipment. They must use them for spotting field mice and other tasty treats.

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The last stop our "airport safety tour" brings us to the new ASR-2, a modern Airport Surveillance Radar. This little gem assists the air traffic controllers in keeping aircraft safely separated from one another. It is big, orange & white, and goes round and round. We know there's a joke out there somewhere about this useful piece of equipment, but we have yet to hear it.

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Out near the ASR-2 we looked back to see the new terminal with it's shiny little dome glistening like the proverbial pot of gold. We couldn't help but admire what we saw.

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And in addition to boasting a whole lotta safety systems, our airport can now also boast about its new self-service fuel station. Life is grand in Santa Barbara.

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It might seem to many that the airport caters only to pilots, aircraft-related business and air travel concerns, but that is not the case. The airport and surrounding properties owned by the City of Santa Barbara generate hefty annual revenue by way of collection of rents and taxes from a variety of businesses; including The Elephant Bar, Deckers, Fed-Ex, Maripro, and many others.

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A bit further out we saw two businesses that seem to go hand in hand...we aren't sure if Asylum refers clients to In Touch, or if In Touch relies on Asylum for business...or if possibly we need the services of both of these ventures...

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Right at the "edge of town", which happens to be at the intersection of Los Carneros and Hollister Avenue, we took a photo of Peter's feet. You can see that the City paves their roads one way and the County paves their roads a little differently. We like it because it helps us urban hikers know where to begin and where to stop. And we thought you might enjoy a bird's eye view of this area taken from the catwalk at the airport tower. It puts things into perspective nicely...

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As we wandered around the airport in our series of hikes and discovery missions, we just kept snapping pictures. You might have thought that we would have taken a lot of shots of airplanes, jets and helicopters… but actually, we didn't. Instead we took photos of roads leading nowhere, the old ammo bunkers, the slough, an amazing array of flora and fauna, the tower, more historic hangars, a gas storage facility, and more. So stay tuned next week to hear and see more of our Amazing Airport Adventure. We'll sign off today with the roads to nowhere and one lone departing plane that sums up what so many people love most about our little airport by the sea.

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Thanks to Kathy and Olga, our gracious hosts at the Airport Fire Station, as well as to Terry Gibson and Lynn Houston, our contact and guide at Airport Administration for their incredible hospitality and knowledge. Without the support of these new friends we could never have discovered all that we did about this wonderful corner of our city.

As always, we encourage you to go on an urban hike of your own to meet your neighbors and explore the diverse neighborhoods of our town.

 

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