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From the Contra Costa County Historical Society… . By Margie Newton

Mar 03, 2019 05:00PM

From the Contra Costa County Historical Society…

A History Note

Contra Costa’s Early Airports By Margie Newton

Orville and Wilbur Wright made their first public flight in 1908. In the same year, Peter Allinio was designing, building and flying planes from an airport along Stockton and Fairmount Avenues in El Cerrito.  Three years later, Maupin and Bernard Lanteri developed an airplane in Pittsburg and named it the “Black Diamond,“ after the nearby mines. The pilot, Weldon Cooke, flew a series of flights at the Walnut Creek Grape Festival on October 6 & 7, 1911. Other early airports:

Mahoney Field: Taking off from a 300-acre field on Clayton Road near East Street on June 7, 1920, a six passenger Curtis Eagle left Concord’s Mahoney Field with stops in Stockton, Fresno, and Bakersfield to its destination, Los Angeles. A one-way ticket cost $100. On June 26, the trimotor Curtis Eagle crashed in Los Angeles, and the company disbanded in August.

Sherman Field: Opening in May 1941 in Pleasant Hill, Sherman Field remained open during World War II and was used by Pan American for training. An instructor and two students crashed ½ mile from the airport on June 25, 1943. It closed in 1951 to make way for the 680 Freeway.

Martinez Airport: Located on reclaimed tidelands 3 blocks from the railroad station, 5 blocks from the courthouse, the Martinez Airport extended from the Shell Wharf to the municipal wharf. On December 26, 1941, it was reported the CAA had ordered vital parts of planes to be removed to prevent flying.

Clyde Airport: Associated Oil’s Clyde Airport was dedicated on April 17, 1976. From the history center’s Norris Pope Collection, a paper by Tim Browne tells us pilots were given free fuel by Shell, Richfield and Associated in exchange for advertisements on their planes.

Antioch Airport: Operating for 43 years on 30 acres beside Lone Tree Way before giving way to home development and closing in 1998, what began as a dirt runway, an outhouse, and a shack had grown to house 80 planes at its peak.  

Buchanan Field: On August 4, 1946, the former Concord Army Air Base was turned over to Contra Costa County and renamed. During World War II, the 444th and 39th fighter squadrons had been stationed there, training in Bell P-39 Airacobra planes. The first jet to land at Buchannan was a two-person trainer, the result of an emergency on May 12, 1951. Pacific Southwest Airlines chose Concord-raised Bobby Coons to pilot their inaugural commercial jet into Buchanan. 

Byron Airport: Dedicated in 1994, Byron Airport was intended as a backup to Buchanan Field. According to the Oakland Tribune, the field was built during World War II to bring high-ranking German and Japanese prisoners of war to Byron Hot Springs. Buchanan Field and Byron Airport remain in service.

Thank you to those who responded to last month’s presidents’ article! 


“A History Note” is presented by the Contra Costa County Historical Society’s History Center, 724 Escobar St., Martinez. Open hours: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, & Thursdays, 9-4, and third Saturdays, 10-2. Check out the website: