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Del Mar Racetrack’s long lost airport

You could take a plane

If the recent plan to have a train stop at the Del Mar Fairgrounds falls through, resurrecting the adjacent former airport is certainly a nonstarter.

Located on the San Dieguito River wetlands between the Del Mar Racetrack and (now) the western side of Interstate 5 was once the Del Mar Airport. Over 80 acres of property was used when the U.S. Navy established the San Dieguito Air Field in the 1920s.

In 1938, the property was developed as the Del Mar Municipal Airport to serve racing patrons at the new Del Mar Fairgrounds.The airfield included a 2500-foot-long runway and several support buildings to accommodate daily flights.

U.S. Naval Air Facility Del Mar in the '40s

With the advent of World War II, racing and fairs were suspended at the fairgrounds. By 1943, the Navy used the fairgrounds as barracks, galleys, mess halls, offices, and classrooms.

The airfield (then dubbed the U.S. Naval Air Facility Del Mar) was used as a base for blimps, which flew anti-submarine patrols along the West Coast. The base consisted of a 1000' by 500' asphalt blimp landing mat with two mooring circles, five military ordnance magazines, maintenance buildings, and barracks for over 130 personnel. The facility was decommissioned and returned to the State of California in 1945.

Once again as a civil airfield, the Del Mar Airport featured a popular restaurant, patio, and lounge, used by visitors to the racetrack and the Del Mar Hotel. By 1955, the airport’s 3500 feet of hard-surface runway was used for Pacific Southwest Airlines’ DC-3 service from Burbank to Del Mar.

In September 1959, the Del Mar Airport was closed and the property was transferred to the state as a right-of-way for the construction of Interstate 5.

There are still a few traces of the former Del Mar Airport, such as pavement and building foundations. The site located at the end of Grand Avenue, off of San Dieguito Drive, is now part of the San Dieguito River Regional Park and a historical landmark with a plaque, photos, and maps, commemorating the history of Del Mar Airport.

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If the recent plan to have a train stop at the Del Mar Fairgrounds falls through, resurrecting the adjacent former airport is certainly a nonstarter.

Located on the San Dieguito River wetlands between the Del Mar Racetrack and (now) the western side of Interstate 5 was once the Del Mar Airport. Over 80 acres of property was used when the U.S. Navy established the San Dieguito Air Field in the 1920s.

In 1938, the property was developed as the Del Mar Municipal Airport to serve racing patrons at the new Del Mar Fairgrounds.The airfield included a 2500-foot-long runway and several support buildings to accommodate daily flights.

U.S. Naval Air Facility Del Mar in the '40s

With the advent of World War II, racing and fairs were suspended at the fairgrounds. By 1943, the Navy used the fairgrounds as barracks, galleys, mess halls, offices, and classrooms.

The airfield (then dubbed the U.S. Naval Air Facility Del Mar) was used as a base for blimps, which flew anti-submarine patrols along the West Coast. The base consisted of a 1000' by 500' asphalt blimp landing mat with two mooring circles, five military ordnance magazines, maintenance buildings, and barracks for over 130 personnel. The facility was decommissioned and returned to the State of California in 1945.

Once again as a civil airfield, the Del Mar Airport featured a popular restaurant, patio, and lounge, used by visitors to the racetrack and the Del Mar Hotel. By 1955, the airport’s 3500 feet of hard-surface runway was used for Pacific Southwest Airlines’ DC-3 service from Burbank to Del Mar.

In September 1959, the Del Mar Airport was closed and the property was transferred to the state as a right-of-way for the construction of Interstate 5.

There are still a few traces of the former Del Mar Airport, such as pavement and building foundations. The site located at the end of Grand Avenue, off of San Dieguito Drive, is now part of the San Dieguito River Regional Park and a historical landmark with a plaque, photos, and maps, commemorating the history of Del Mar Airport.

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Comments
3

As a coastal North County historian, this is the coolest article I've read in years. Good research of stuff I never knew. How did anyone find the old PSA art? Classic. If only Heull Howser was still with us to do a TV story on it. Great research!

Jan. 24, 2013

Hi Calif-comedy, thank you for your reply about my article on the long gone Del Mar Airport. As a Calif. born native and retired CHP Officer, I know much about our local history. Being also a US Army MP Veteran, I've had access to lot's of Claif. records, which thus I acquired the info and photos. In addition, there's many other lost SD County airports most folks don't remember, but I do from years pass. Good stuff and there's much more then just airports. Best always, John Griffith

Jan. 25, 2013

As a Calif. born native and retired CHP Officer, I know much about our local history

This article was so awesome it is unbelievable, an airport in Del Mar for the track. Thank you sir!

PS, loved seeing the OLD PSA logo in the pic. I remember when they went on strike (attendants) in 1986, picketing at Lindbergh Field, when they had the trees out front when you drove up to the terminals, and PSA wouldn't budge and that was the beginning of the end of PSA.

Jan. 25, 2013

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