In 1927 Captain G. Allan Hancock founded the Allan
Hancock Air Field. For years it was a peaceful
setting, but with a few events of aviation historical
interest. One of these was the sponsorship by
Captain Hancock of the first trans-Pacific flight
by Charles Kingsford-Smith and three other men
in a Fokker Tri-motor, the “Southern Cross,”
shown here on display in Santa Maria. This trip
started on May 31, 1928, just one year and eleven
days after Charles Lindbergh’s history making
33.5 hour non-stop flight across the Atlantic.
Southern Cross left Oakland, California on its
way to Brisbane Australia. They stopped in Oahu
and refueled in Kauai with the next stop in Fiji.
This was a trip of 34.5 hours with only 41 hours
of fuel on board. They arrived in Brisbane on
June 9 to the roar of admiring crowds.
in 1928 Captain Hancock established a flying
school that would grow into a major primary
pilot training activity during World War
II. The Hancock Foundation College of Aeronautics
was established on October 21, 1928. Ten-week
classes were offered prospective pilot candidates,
with successful individuals becoming licensed
pilots. Graduation of 34 of the first 49
students occurred on May 21, 1929.
to the outbreak of World War II General
Hap Arnold determined that the Army Air
Corps needed assistance in producing enough
pilots for the war he was sure the United
States would soon be engaged in. The Hancock
school was selected as one of eight civilian
institutions to provide primary training.
This training began on September 17, 1939;
just 40 days after Captain Hancock and the
others had met with General Arnold.
Training continued until June of 1944. On
the 26th of that month, the last of the
PT-13 Stearman “Yellow Peril”
aircraft were flown to storage by instructor
pilots. Pilot graduates from Hancock compiled
an enviable record in World War II in all
theaters of the war. For instance, four
Hancock graduates took part in the Doolittle
raid on Tokyo in 1942. One of them, Ted
Lawson, is the author of the book, “Thirty
Seconds Over Tokyo.”
After the war, the Hancock flight school
was leased to the University of Southern
California and used to support a four-year
course of instruction towards an Aeronautics
Degree. During the Korean War, the school
trained aviation mechanics for the United
States Air Force. Then in 1954 the Santa
Maria Junior College, now G. Allan Hancock
Community College, purchased 40 acres of
the airport site. Some original buildings
from the airport are still in use as part
of the college.
The current Santa Maria airport, also named
for Captain Hancock, was born from the necessity
to train bomber pilots during World War
II. In early 1942 the Army Corps of Engineers
bought the first 160 acres of land, from
an early Santa Maria family, the Toys, for
$79 an acre. The area needed grew to over
3600 acres as the field was developed.
Plans to base B-25 bombers at the base were
scrapped when it was discovered that runways
and taxi-strips were not sufficient for
the weight of loaded B-25’s. The initial
use of the field was for training service
groups to support Army Air Force activities
overseas. This included transportation,
maintenance, supply and other type activities.
The transfer to the 4th Air Force in September
1943 marked a change in mission to training
P-38 squadrons just prior to overseas transfer.
Several P-38 units trained at Santa Maria
and its sub-bases, Estrella (Paso Robles)
and Oxnard. Ultimately the decision was
made to perform advanced pilot replacement
training on the P-38 aircraft at Santa Maria,
and that continued until June, 1945. In
the time span from late 1943 until June
1945 633 new P-38 pilots graduated from
training at Santa Maria Army Air Field.
In 1945 the Santa Maria Army Air Field was
chosen to be the base for the first jet
fighter squadron in the Army Air Force,
flying the Bell P-59 aircraft. As the war
wound down, this unit transferred to March
Field in Riverside, California, and the
Santa Maria base was phased out and closed.
The old air base became the present commercial
airport, on which the museum is located.