Photos from the Vault

A look back at the beginnings of SLO County’s airport terminal

The 1969 San Luis Obispo airport terminal is now the Spirit of San Luis restaurant. Swift-Aire’s executive plane is on the flight line for San Luis Obispo duty. This nine-passenger plane will make two round trips to Sacramento daily from here.
The 1969 San Luis Obispo airport terminal is now the Spirit of San Luis restaurant. Swift-Aire’s executive plane is on the flight line for San Luis Obispo duty. This nine-passenger plane will make two round trips to Sacramento daily from here. The Telegram-Tribune

The first time I flew into the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport was during summer vacation to visit my grandparents.

The Swift-Aire twin-engine plane taxied out to takeoff from LAX, and the pilot pulled what looked like a heavy shower curtain to close off his cabin from ours.

Window seats were not comfortable, unless your body had the same curvature as the bulkhead.

The propellers revved, and the plane bounded down the runway. As we took to the sky, the little airplane hit a bit of turbulence while climbing to cruising altitude.

A young passenger seated in front of me said what everyone was thinking, “Mommie, this plane better not crash.”

The pilot probably heard the comment as well.

The plane didn’t crash, and, after landing, we checked into the peewee terminal that today houses the Spirit of San Luis restaurant.

It was replaced in December 1983 by the current terminal, which, in turn, is scheduled to be replaced by fall 2017.

The regional airport is constructing a modern $35.4 million terminal built to serve jets and offer upgraded security.

The following is a composite of Telegram-Tribune articles that appeared without bylines on July 7, 1983, and Dec. 8, 1983, about the construction and opening of the terminal:

New airport terminal opens

Passengers using San Luis Obispo County Airport will have it a lot nicer when the new $1.2 million terminal is completed, airport police Sgt. Bill Malmen said.

“There will be a whole glass front,” he said. “There will be a nice view deck.”

Baggage at the new facility will be delivered to passengers on a carousel system like the ones used at major airports.

County supervisors awarded the construction contract for the 9,500-square-foot project last fall to Wally LaFrenier Construction Co.

Duane Leib, county general services director, said, “He had a lot of delays last winter because, when he was doing most of the outside work, we had that nasty winter.”

The project involves remodeling the old Agricultural Commissioner’s and Farm Adviser’s offices and linking them with a new 2,300-square-foot structure that will house the entrance and ticket purchase area.

“All of a sudden, we have an airport, rather than something that could disappear in the middle of the night,” said Natalie Alexander, Imperial Airlines’ San Luis Obispo station manager.

“The comments we’ve gotten are exceptional,” she said.

“We look like we’re professional air carriers.”

Instead of air conditioning, the building has a ventilation system that takes advantage of the airport’s winds for summer cooling, County Facilities Manager Gary Hover said.

David Middlecamp is a photographer for The Tribune. 805-781-7942, dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com, @DavidMiddlecamp

Visit www.sanluisobispo.com/photos-from-the-vault to see old photos and read selected archives.

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