Grand Central Airport (United States)

Grand Central Airport, Glendale, California, also known as Grand Central Air Terminal (GCAT) was an important facility for the growing L.A. suburb of Glendale in the 1920s. It was also a key element in the development of United States aviation. The terminal, located at 1310 Air Way, was built in 1928, and is still there. Owned since 1997 by the Walt Disney Company, it remains the last standing structure, and sole surviving witness, to the area's historic significance, and is in urgent need of restoration and repair. The single concrete convert|3800|ft|m|abbr=on. runway still exists, but it was dug up [ [ the runway] ] and converted into "Grand Central Avenue", serving cars, not airplanes.


Concept for this airport probably began with [ Leslie Coombs Brand] (1859-1925), a major figure in the settlement and economic growth of the Glendale area. He had purchased land on the lower slopes of Mount Verdugo overlooking the city, and in 1904 built an imposing residence that became known as Brand Castle, (today it houses Brand Library). Just across the mostly dry Los Angeles River he could see the Griffith Park Aerodrome's grass field, built in 1912. Just three years later he decided to build his own grass airstrip below his mansion. He built his first hangar in 1916 [ [ Brand mowing his landing strip in front of his hangar] ] and put together a fleet of planes, and held fly-in parties. [ [ party] ] The only requirement was that guests had to arrive in their own planes and bring passengers. [ [ Brand greets movie star Ruth Roland at his fly-in party] ] .

. Within a year, the entire enterprise was sold to a group calling itself the Curtiss-Wright Flying Service [ [ Flying Service] ] , managed by Major Corliss C. Moseley, a co-founder of the future Western Airlines. It became the city's largest employer.

Pioneering people at GCAT

Many famous pioneers of aviation made their home and their mark at GCAT, as pilots, designers, mechanics, teachers, salesmen, and airplane/power-plant builders, often serving in some combination.

The following names are especially remembered:

* Charles Lindbergh, who piloted the nation's first regularly scheduled coast to coast flight from Grand Central's runway as organizer of Transcontinental Air Transport which came to be TWA
* Amelia Earhart used the airport and bought her first plane there [ [ Earhart at GCA] ]
* Wiley Post used the airport
* Laura Ingalls became the first woman to fly solo across the country when she landed at Glendale in 1930
* Albert Forsythe and [ Charles Anderson] were the first African American pilots who made the transcontinental flight, completed at Glendale in 1933. Their achievement paved the way for the black Tuskegee Airmen who fought in the war
* Thomas Benton Slate built an all metal dirigible and hangar in 1925. [ [ brochure] ] It was convert|212|ft|m|abbr=on. long, and supposedly fireproof. He named it "City of Glendale", and it left the ground briefly in 1929, popped some rivets, and crashed [ ["City of Glendale" ready to go] ]
* Howard Hughes built his record-setting H-1 Racer in a small building at 911 Air Way in 1935. [ [ Howard Hughes and his H-1 Racer] ] (The building burned to the ground in the late 1990s). This was the beginning of the Hughes Aircraft Company
* Jack Northrop started his 'Avion Aviation' company on the field in 1927, where he built multi-cellular metal structures
* William Boeing bought the business from Northrop, and moved it to Burbank's United Airport (now Bob Hope Airport)
* W. B. (Bert) Kinner built Amelia Earhart’s first plane, the Kinner Airster. He was the inventor of the compound folding wing
* [ Major Corliss C. Moseley] established overhaul facilities there, and operated a Flight Academy whose pilot and mechanic graduates travelled to Europe as the all volunteer Eagle Squadron who flew against Hitler at the Battle of Britain before the country entered the war

In addition, airlines originating at GCA included TWA [ [ at terminal] ] , Varney, Western, and Pickwick Airlines (1928-30).

Movies and Movie Stars

[ [ arrives] ] . The airport was the setting of several films, including Howard Hughes' "Hell's Angels" (1930), Shirley Temple's "Bright Eyes" (1934), "Lady Killer" (1933) starring James Cagney, "Sky Giant" (1938) with Joan Fontaine, " [ Hats Off] " (1936) with John Payne, and the musical " [ Hollywood Hotel] " (1937) with Dick Powell. The terminal was a favorite shooting location. [ [ List of movies using this location] ]

The airport was also known for stunt flying, [ [ event] ] and supplying planes for use in the movie industry by people like Paul Mantz. Just about every airplane design flying during the 20s, 30s and 40s could be seen at GCA for use in movies, or there to be serviced. [ [ Memories of Herb Torberg] ] .


When Pearl Harbor was attacked, Grand Central Airport (and all other west coast airports) was immediately closed to civil aviation, the government moved in, heavily camouflaged the place, and converted it into an important defense base for Los Angeles. In 1942 the runway, which originally ended at Sonora Avenue, was extended North to Western Avenue, giving it a 5,000' length to accommodate large airplanes and future jet aircraft. A P-38 training base was built on the west side near the river which prepared pilots for the 319th Fighter Wing, to be ready for action in Europe. Hundreds of P-51s, C-47s, B-25s 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 1947 the runway was cut back to 3,800' due to pressure from local government. This was too short for commercial jet aircraft. The airport was returned to private use, renamed Grand Central Airport, ceased to be profitable, and was closed in 1959 [ [ last plane lands] ] to make way for the development of what is now Grand Central Business Park, although for a number of years the Southwest corner was used as a commercial helicopter base. That space is now occupied by the DreamWorks Animation SKG production company. The city of Glendale retains some interest in aviation, for it is part owner of the Bob Hope Airport (formerly "Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport").


Major Corliss C. Moseley established the Grand Central Rocket Company in the vicinity of Grand Central Air Terminal in 1955. [cite book |last=Underwood |first=John |title=Grand Central Air Terminal |date=2006 |isbn=0738546828 |url=] It was there that the third stages of early Vanguard rockets, including the first two to reach orbit, were built. [cite book |title=To Reach the High Frontier: A History of U.S. Launch Vehicles |date=2002 |publisher=University Press of Kentucky |url=]

Notes and pictures

ee also

List of airports in California

External links

* [ Aviation History of the San Fernando Valley]
* [ video]
* [ Paul Freeman's collection of photographs concerning abandoned airfields]
* [,M1 "Grand Central Air Terminal - Images of Aviation" by John Underwood]
* [ Map and more GCAT history]
* [ "Portal of the Folded Wings" Shrine to Aviation built 1924]

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