Grand Central Airport, Glendale, Ca

CLICK on the image for enlargement.

Effort to have Grand Central Airport Terminal named a National Landmark

Grand Central Airport was developed from the Glendale Airport which was built in 1923. Grand Central was the first official terminal for the Los Angeles area. Many written accounts and aviation records state "Los Angeles" when they should actually should say Grand Central (Glendale) or United Airport (Burbank) The first business on the field was the Kinner Airplane & Motor Corporation. Burt Kinner sold one of his airplanes (Airster) to a young Amelia Earhart. The first commercial west to east transcontinental flight was flown by Charles Lindbergh from Grand Central's runway.

Just across the Los Angeles River (seasonal, mostly dry) was the Los Angeles Airport in Griffith Park. Early builders and flyers who moved to Grand Central included Jack Northrop and Howard Hughes. Hughes built his H-1 Racer in a small building at 911 Air Way, on the edge of Grand Central Airport. This building burned in the late 1990's. Northrop started his 'Avion Aviation' company in Glendale. Al Menasco showed William Boeing Northrops 'multi cellular' metal structures and Boeing bought his business and moved it to United Airport in Burbank. Early maps of the United Airport in Burbank state "Northrop Factory" at the south west side of the airport near Empire Ave. The Northrop-Burbank buildings were torn out in the late 1960's.

Major Moseley established a Curtiss-Wright overhaul facility at Grand Central. Several dozen brand new Curtis-Wright engines were shipped in crates to the school where they were completely overhauled before being used in Doolittles' raid on Tokyo. Mosely's contract school trained young men to fly at Grand Central airport (also at Chino, Fox Field and 2 others). As WWII came to a boil those students were well received in Europe as the all volunteer Eagle Squadron who flew against Hitler after the Battle of Britain had decimated the ranks of RAF pilots.

When Pearl Harbor was attacked, Grand Central Airport (and all other west coast airports) was immediately closed to civilian aviation and it became an important defense base for Los Angeles, Ca. Soon a P-38 fighter base was built on the west side near the former home of the California Aero Club. The 319th Fighter Wing was trained and stationed here; it was eventually sent to the ETO. During the war, the one runway at Grand Central which originally ended at Sonora Ave., was lengthened to Western Ave. to accomodate the new P-38 fighters coming over from Burbank.

After the war, hundreds of P-51's, C-47's, B-25's and others transitioned through Grand Central Airport in Glendale for refurbishment and reconditioning. Larger aircraft, like the B-29, were sent to the Grand Central Service Center in Tucson, Arizona. In the 1950's Major Mosely did some early rocket development and testing amonst the old concrete revetments left over from WW II.

Grand Centrals' runway was shortened after WWII, which denied newer and larger aircraft from landing there. The largest aircraft ever to land at Grand Central was a Lockheed Constellation. After the Korean war the entire airport area went into decline and in 1959 the airport was closed. The property was purchased by the Prudential Insurance Company. The runways were torn out and many new 'tilt up' manufacturing buildings were built. Walt Disney Imagineering, the division responsible for designing Disneyland and other attractions, leased several buildings in the area for many years. The Disney Corporation eventually purchased the entire airport area in 1999 and has a 15 year plan to turn it into a corporate "campus". The terminal building is now stripped of its ornamental lighting and detailing; some was stolen and some has possibly been put into storage. The building was damaged in the 1994 earthquake and is unsafe for habitation as far as I know. Most believe that the grand Grand Central Terminal is proteced by being on the National Register of Historic Places but I have found no evidence of that designation. In fact, there are only 4 places listed by the Historic Preservation Office of California in Sacramento. They are the Hamilton Hangar, Burbank; Hangar One at LAX; Dominguez 1910 Airmeet in Dominguez Hills, Ca and the 'Portal of the Folded Wings' in Burbank, Calif.) The eventual fate of the terminal building is unclear. There are also two original hangars left; one very modified into a cold storage facility and another very original, now used by Disney Imagineering for special effects mockups.

The terminal is located at 1310 Air Way, between Sonora and Grandview Ave. It's exterior is accessible and it's well worth a visit. It is now the last intact original building associated with the Golden Age of aviation in the San Fernando Valley....except for one old wooden hangar at Van Nuys airport.

July 2003 - The photo below was submitted by Don Ayres of Red Bluff, Ca. He worked at Cal Aero Grand Central in 1949-52 as a Hydraulic Specialist. (Don Ayres story)

Click on image to see a larger image

Cover of the 'Grand Central Aircraft Company' magazine from March 1953.


Runway of the Stars - Article about Grand Central, of unknown publication

Photos taken by Herb Torberg. Grand Central 1939-40.

The following images supplied by Warren Smith, from his friend Herb Torburg at the New England Aviation Museum ( Herb got them from the 1933-34 Airport Directory and the 1933 National Air Races program


Return to Aviation History of the San Fernando Valley Home Page