The Fallbrook Airpark

Efforts to create a Fallbrook airport began in 1959. It was proposed that 294 acres of land from Camp Pendleton be turned over to Fallbrook for use as an airport, with some of the land to be leased for other purposes to provide revenue for improvements to the airport without asking for government grants. Because Fallbrook was unincorporated and therefore couldn't hold title to the land, the land was surplussed to San Diego County.

The land had to be annexed to FPUD, the San Diego County Water Authority and the MWD for water. The fees for that annexation were a major expense the first few years.

San Diego County engineers estimated that it would cost $100,000 in 1964 dollars for the first stage of construction. Fallbrook volunteers did all that work and more for less than $25,000. Among the initial work done in 1964 was: 5,000' of chain-link fence topped with barbed wire for the new border with the Weapons Station, the runway, an access road, a taxiway, pads for airplane tiedowns, an airport office, and a spot for the windsock and winged T. Many volunteers pitched in, with U.E. Calvert doing most of the heavy-equipment work at his cost.

The $25,000 was borrowed from the new Bank of Fallbrook, which later became the Southwest Bank, with a number of Fallbrook residents cosigning the loan and assuming liabilities of $1,000 - $2,500 each. Many of the cosigners were not pilots. Leo McGuire of L&M Fertilizer stated that he considered the airport a real benefit to the community when he cosigned.

The Fallbrook Airpark was opened on 28 October 1964 with a 2,200' graded dirt landing strip on 152 of those acres. When the runway was completed, Jim Wayman commented: "It's an illegal airport, you know - it hasn't a powerline at either end."

Two pilots, "Corky" Town and "Bud" Orcutt, soon bought a used gasoline truck for a fuel supply.

The airport couldn't officially open for almost four years, pending FAA master lease approval. In September, 1966, the U.S. Government tried to invoke a "reversion clause" in the lease and have 152 of the 294 acres revert to them. San Diego County filed suit, and on 1 December 1966 Judge Carter told the parties to work it out amongst themselves. On 14 December 1967 the property was finally deeded correctly and real development began.

In September 1967, Robert Ingold began construction on 10 metal T-hangers and leased them to local pilots. In March 1968, Harry, Yvonne and Tom Aberle negotiated a sublease to provide a flying office with pilot instruction, plane rental, aviation fueling and other aircraft services.

The leased property includes the Ingold fields (recreational fields), a Scout camp, avocado orchards, flower and strawberry fields.

Antique aircraft are displayed on the last Sunday of each month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the transient ramp.

The airpark was taken over by the county in November 1997 after charges that the Fallbrook Community Air Park Association violated its lease with the county by entering into secret side deals. The legal appeal of that takeover is still pending as of 9/26/98.

In 1998, a self-described "Orange County misfit" (his words in his letter to the editor in VN 12/3/98), attorney Melvin D. Thomas, moved to Fallbrook and made the discovery that we had an airport that was actually used, and that planes actually made a bit of noise when they pass over your house. He proceeded to write numerous letters to the NCT and VN, as well as to County officials, to try to get the Airpark closed. Showing a definite lack of understanding of what would happen to the airpark if it were not used for aviation, he tried to get people on his side by claiming that the land "should be put to better use", as well as making a number of claims unsupported by evidence. Some of his unsupported claims concerned the supposed "selfishness" of the pilots, the supposed "poor safety record" of the Airpark, the supposed "continued violation of FAA rules at the Airpark", etc. It seemed he tried to include any possible argument a lawyer could think of against the Airpark without doing the next step of checking to see if any of the claims could be substantiated. This reminds me of Daniel Kripke.

Betty Johnston wrote a good column summarizing the situation. Fortunately, Melvin's sensationalist letters are obtaining the null results that they so richly deserve.

Some of the many false claims made by Thomas were that pilots were obnoxious people who cared only about themselves, and that the Airpark was good only for the pilots. It is amusing that not too long after Thomas made those wild claims, the VN reports the following story on 12/31/98, p. 3:

On 11 December 1998, two men went to the Airpark asking for any pilots who could help them search for their stolen pickup truck containing $20,000 worth of equipment. A pilot sans plane agreed to help, and another "self-centered" (my words, following Thomas' claims) Fallbrook pilot agreed to let the first pilot use his plane.

The pilot took the two men over Vista and then Rice Canyon, where the truck was found in the process of being stripped. The Sheriff's Department arrested Beojenez Ordonez, Jr. at the site and recovered the truck and all the tools.

The VN began the story with this wonderful paragraph:

"Add Beojenez Ordonez, Jr. to the list of people who have had problems with Fallbrook's Airpark"

The truck may have been long gone if those two men had been forced by Thomas to go to an airport that was much farther away...

Melvin should take note that I am not a pilot, yet I am another Fallbrook resident who enjoys the existence of the airpark. My 5 year old learned to ride his bike on the visitor's tie-down area, and my 15 year old learned to drive a stickshift in that same area. My family has occasionally gone there just to observe the planes take off and land, and to enjoy the view from there. I enjoy watching planes take off and land from my house.

One of my pet peeves, however, is the incredible gall of some people who move into an area next to a pre-existing use, and then try to close down that pre-existing use, even though it may have been around for a hundred years. Notable examples are:

Please note that I strongly support residents who are subjected to some new land-use - that is a different situation altogether.

The noise abatement procedure for the Airpark specifies:



County Airports is contracting for an updated noise contour map, to be done by ~9/00.

Sources: NCT 5/25/97, B1, B5; 9/26/98, B8; VN 9/17/98, 6; 9/24/98, 6; 12/31/98, 3; 3/23/00, A8.

See also Joe Kennedy's Fallbrook Community Airpark.

Go to Fallbrook Information Overview

Copyright © 1997-2000 by Tom Chester.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to me at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Last update: 24 March 2000.