Earle Ovington (first air mail pilot) & his wife at the Santa Barbara Airport 

The Santa Barbara Municipal Airport is a gateway to the enchantment of Santa Barbara. It is a landmark of aviation and architectural history with its red tile roof, dark wood beams and an old mission garden full of jasmine and bougainvillea.

Santa Barbara's aviation history began in 1914 when Lincoln Beachey flew an airplane across Goleta Valley. Two years later the Loughead Brothers, who later changed their name to Lockheed, established a seaplane factory on State Street seaplane and constructed a wooden ramp on West Beach to launch their planes. In 1928, Gordon Sackett and Royce Stetson landed a Hisso-powered airplane in a cow pasture near the corner of Hollister and Fairview Avenues and set up a flight school on the spot. That first airstrip marked the beginning of what was to become the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport.

As airplane manufacturing grew in the late 1930's that simple airstrip developed into an airfield. Western General set up shop and began producing Meteor airplanes, while Santa Barbara Airways' founder Frederick Stearns II built two additional runways and two large hangars. Stearns also installed the first radio equipment at the airfield.

Commercial service began in 1932 with Pacific Seaboard Airlines, and United Airlines inaugurated service from Santa Barbara/Goleta in 1936.

As the prospect of war escalated the United States Government established a defense program to construct 250 airports across the country on a cost-sharing basis with local governments. T.M. Storke secured Santa Barbara's enrollment in the program, and in 1941 groundbreaking ceremonies were held for the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport. The Spanish-style terminal building, commissioned by United Airlines in 1942 was designed by William Edwards and Joseph Plunkett, an architectural team whose work, including the Arlington Theatre and the National Armory, helped shape the Mediterranean style of the city.

Airline Terminal Project

Phase Three, the final phase of the Airline Terminal Project, is under way and is scheduled to be completed by the middle of November.

The new Airline Terminal opened on August 18th, 2011!  The $63 million project  includes a new aircraft parking ramp, a new airline terminal building including site preparation and soil stabilization, relocation and rehabilitation of the 1942 portion of the existing terminal, a new short term parking lot and roadway.  The 72,000 square foot terminal was designed in the tradition of the Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style which defines the City of Santa Barbara’s local culture and sense of place.

The new terminal was designed as a sustainable structure and may be eligible for a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Gold rating once all of the improvement projects are complete.  (Please see attached diagram for phase three construction). PHASE 3 PLANS

Grand Opening Gala on June 17th, 2011

Watch the photographic slideshow

Public Open House & Ribbon Cutting Ceremony June 19th, 2011

Watch the entire video!

2012 Construction

  • New Loop Road
  • New Short Term Parking Lot

  • Relocation & Refurbishment of Historic Terminal Complete

2011 Construction

  • Install baggage handling & TSA fixtures & equipment
  • Install security systems and building finishes
  • Tenant improvements - concessions and airlines
  • Site work pavement and landscape finishes
  • Punch list and LEED flushing

2010  Terminal Building

  • Install water, sewer, power, and communication lines
  • Install pad footings and grade beams
  • Pour slab on grade March
  • Erect structural steel April
  • Erect/install metal decking, pour concrete on metal deck
  • Set electrical transformer/permanent power to the site
  • Install interior/exterior metal stud framing
  • Rough in plumbing and electrical
  • Install PVC and clay tile roofing
  • Install exterior doors
  • Install drywall

2009 Terminal Building    

  • Short Term Parking relocated
  • Baggage Claim relocated
  • Terminal Loop Road relocated
  • Soil Preparation
  • Site Utilities installation

2008 Construction Begins

  • Ramp Reconstruction Taxiway B Construction

2007 Terminal Design

Construction Videos

Update - January

Public Art - December

Officials Tour - October

"Postcards of Travel"
creation & installation
 - July

Construction Tour w/ Project Engineer
Leif Reynolds
 - June

Steel Structure  - April

Lantern Restoration  - April

Batter Boards & Footings - January

Soil Stabilization  - December
What to Expect - November


Groundbreaking Event - Video

The new Airline Terminal is a 60,000 square feet building plus a 7,000 square foot historic Terminal. The Airport's Aviation Facilities Plan evaluated the size needed for the Airline Terminal based on forecasted passenger use through 2015.

Early in the planning stages, Santa Barbara City Council set goals to guide the Project through design. The new Terminal also includes a reconfigured short term parking lot; a new Terminal loop road that has  a dedicated lane for public transit, shuttles, and taxis; a longer front curb for private vehicle loading and unloading; and relocation and rehabilitation of the historic Terminal.

Included are features that make the Project both interesting and complex. Since the Airport is in a flood plain, Federal Emergency Management Administration regulations require that the building be above the 100-year flood elevation to protect it from flooding. This means building the new Terminal and the loop road about two feet higher than today and raising the historic Terminal. Originally the 1942 United Airlines' Terminal was hidden by building additions but they have now been removed.

Accommodation for four passenger-loading bridges has improved aircraft accessibility for the disabled, seniors, and families with small children. There is also ground boarding of aircraft and we are looking for technologies to improve passenger access for boarding these aircraft.

Sustainable design is one of the top priorities for the Airline Terminal Project. The Project is registered with the U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the nationally recognized benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.

The Airline Terminal is presently served by a variety of aircraft, from turbo-prop aircraft that seat approximately 30 passengers to regional jets, which accommodate 50-86 passengers. The new AirlineTerminal jet parking area can accommodate aircraft up to the size of a Boeing 737, which seats about 120 passengers or an Airbus 318 which seats 128.

Budget Plays a Critical Role in Implementation

The budget for this Project is $63 Million based on the Airport's financial abilities. Just as with all Airport expenditures no local tax dollars will be used for the Project. The Airport is self-supporting from its tenant rents and user fees. The architects and Airport staff are constantly aligning the proposed project and budget.

  • The Airport's financial team is assembled.
  • The Airport's financial capacity is established.
  • The project budget is based on the Airport's funding capacity as shown in the pie chart below.
  • Cost escalation assumptions have been included in cost estimates.
  • $63M budget: Debt financing, FAA Airport Improvement Project (AIP) Grants, Passenger Facility Charges (PFCs), & Airport funding sources.