The genesis of the Camarillo Airport can be traced to 1942 when the California State Highway Department constructed an auxiliary landing field with a 5,000 foot runway. In the 1951 response to the emerging Cold War, and to potential need for bolstered coastal air defense, the Army Corps of Engineers extended the runway to 8,000 feet. Additional construction on the then-named Oxnard Air Force Base neared completion in 1957 and the base was equipped with the Northrop F-89 “Scorpion” aircraft as part of the Los Angeles area Air Defense Command. By 1958 the new Air Force base boasted four alert hangars, concrete ramps, and a 9,000 foot runway. The runway was complete with an ILS, VOR, and safety overruns. It was an entire community with administration buildings, enlisted housing, recreational facilities, a theater, and even a gas station. In 1960, the supersonic McDonnell Douglas F-101B “Voodoo” interceptor aircraft, equipped with “Genie” tactical nuclear missiles, arrived on the Oxnard Plain and served there for almost a decade.
For nearly eighteen years dedicated Air Force personnel provided air defense protection for the Southern California area. In December 1969 the Department of Defense deactivated Oxnard Air Force Base and transferred its aircraft and personnel to other facilities. The land became surplus property.
The County of Ventura pursued acquisition of the airfield portion of the facility for air carrier service and general aviation while other governmental and educational organizations were attracted to the 60 buildings. For seven years the battle for the surplus property continued, with opposition the heaviest from the neighboring city of Camarillo. City representatives strongly objected to any kind of airport replacing the now abandoned Air Force base. Finally, an agreement was reached which provided for an airport limited to general aviation and a 6,000 foot runway.
In October 1976 the General Services Agency approved the county’s application for 650 acres of land, including some buildings. Other agencies expressed an interest in the remaining 100 acres. The property was conveyed to the county by quitclaim deed which outlined specific use restrictions. With the ownership defined, the County of Ventura assigned management of the airport to the County Property Administration Agency. In 1985 airport management was successful in separating the two county-owned airports from the Property Administration Agency, thus creating the County of Ventura Department of Airports.
Camarillo Airport has progressed from a sleepy, tower-less facility to a bustling reliever airport with an FAA air traffic control tower and annual operations numbering nearly 190,000. Today the airport boasts a diverse collection of over 560 production, home built, and WWII aircraft with active chapters of the Experimental Aircraft Association and the Commemorative Air Force. With increasing congestion in the Los Angeles basin, pilots and aircraft owners find Camarillo’s location, size, and weather to be significant factors in using the airport.
The draw of recreational and corporate aircraft paints an encouraging picture for the future of Camarillo Airport. At this writing, the Department of Airports is conducting a master plan study to determine upcoming operational and/or design requirements. As the region grows, Camarillo Airport will be ready to play its role in serving the needs of general aviation in Ventura County.