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The Story of Chandler Municipal Airport
Every day at the airport, someone learns to fly, an engine is repaired, a retired pilot tinkers with his home-built plane, and grandparents take their grandchildren to eat pancakes and watch planes fly. The Chandler Airport story begins with Governor George W.P. Hunt’s dedication of the airport in March of 1928. It was located at a site south of the 202 Freeway, between Arizona Avenue and Alma School. A year later, town officials relocated the airport to the area of today’s Tumbleweed Park. Guests to the San Marcos Hotel could fly into Chandler with Standard Airlines for a brief period. While businessmen planned for flight schools and airplane manufacturing ventures, the financial crisis of the Great Depression and the restrictions on civilian air activity during World War II stalled development of the airport.
In 1947, the town of Chandler decided to revive their little airport. They bought land from the Roosevelt Water Conservation District in an area where some aviation business already flourished, such as Lazy Eight Flying Services. This land developed into today’s airport, located south of Germann Road, between McQueen and Gilbert Roads. The town officially opened the airport in 1948. Over the next two decades, Chandler existed as a farm town, filled with fields of cotton, alfalfa, cows and sheep. The airport functioned as the center of crop dusting operations and flight training for local residents. The community used the airport grounds for other purposes as well. Crowds flocked to the rodeo grounds to watch bull riding and steer roping. Police officers and gun enthusiasts showed off their skills at the shooting range. Rod and Gun Club members roasted any big animal they could get their hands on—buffalo, bear, you name it. Young people raced their horses near the rodeo grounds.
In the 1970s, the airport grew a little, making its way to the airport we know today. The City extended and updated its newly paved runway with lights, and bought the old Rod and Gun club house for its first terminal. By the eighties, fifteen businesses provided services on the airport, fixing and building planes, teaching new pilots, and more. The City implemented a master plan, extending the runway, building new hangars, and creating a second terminal. Crop dusting businesses faded out as cotton fields diminished and subdivisions and shopping centers multiplied. San Tan Dusters closed its doors in 1989, the last “aerial applicator” to go.
In the 1990s, the City invested in developing its airport further. It built a heliport, a second runway, a more modern and spacious terminal building, and installed a temporary air traffic control tower. By 1998, the airport finally featured a permanent air traffic control tower. Controversy also dogged the airport, with conflicts over runway length and a series of ordinances that limited that length unless voters approved bonds to extend it.
In the first decade of 2000, the City completed a new heliport to broaden Chandler’s flight training opportunities—training that draws students from around the world. Developers constructed more hangars to meet the growing demand for aircraft storage. By 2010, Chandler Municipal Airport ranked in the top one percent of all general aviation airports for air traffic. Seventeen businesses called the airport home. Humanitarian groups like the Flying Samaritans take off from Chandler to deliver medical aid. Today many people use the airport, from the student pilot who will someday take you on your next vacation, to the local dentist who loves to fly for fun, and the corporate executives looking to establish their next big company in Chandler.