Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Hancock Field
(Allan Hancock College of Aeronautics Contract Flying School)
(including Santa Maria, La Brea, McKinnon, Souza and Waller-Franklin Auxiliary Fields)
Hancock Field, circa 1943
Hancock Field
by Justin Ruhge
In southeastern Santa Maria just off Main Street, at the present location of G. Allan Hancock City College, was located the Hancock College of Aeronautics. The College started to train pilots for the Army Air Force in 1939 as one of the original nine. Primary training began July 1,1939. The College was originally formed in 1928 by the Los Angeles businessman, Captain G. Allan Hancock, to offer a formal training to pilots and mechanics in order to support the developing air transport business in the United States and to help bring some order to the then reckless barnstorming image of the aviation profession.
Captain Hancock was born in 1875 to Major Henry Hancock and Ida Haraszthy. From the beginning, Captain Hancock's potential was formidable. In 1860, his father had acquired a large parcel of land in Los Angeles in what was to become the La Brea Oil Fields. On his mother's side, Captain Hancock was the grandson of Count Agoston Haraszthy of Hungary, the founder of the California wine industry and one of early California's most mysterious and industrious pioneers.
Captain Hancock was an avid seaman and commercial shipping businessman. In this field he became licensed as a ship's master to captain any seagoing vessel. In this way he acquired the title "Captain," and not from his association with the Army Air Corps.
In 1909 Captain Hancock formed the Hiberian Bank and in 1910 the Rancho La Brea Oil Company. He was instrumental in the development of the exclusive residential area in Los Angeles know as Hancock Park and for providing the funding for the housing development of Sherman Oaks in the San Fernando Valley.
In the 1920s Captain Hancock turned his interests to the Santa Maria Valley, where he developed the local Santa Maria Railroad, ranching and food processing industries and the College of Aeronautics.
The College of Aeronautics consisted of administration buildings, hangars, classrooms and barracks clustered along the edge of a paved taxi strip. There were no paved runways. About 400 acres of flat, grassy fields next to the taxi strip provided ample room for training and practicing takeoffs and landings by the rookie pilots. All trainees wore uniforms and learned to march and drill. Most basic training at the Hancock College used the Stearman PT-13s and the Ryan PT-22s.
In May 1939 with war on the horizon, General Henry "Hap" H. Arnold, Chief of Army Air Forces, gathered together eight operators of training schools like Hancock College and requested that they begin to train pilots for the Air Corps. This was the first time such a scheme had been conceived by the Army. The schools were asked to proceed without funding until an appropriation bill could be passed by Congress. All schools agreed to proceed. Eventually 63 such schools became involved in the program, training some 200,000 pilots.
A 1942 Photograph of the Taxi Strip in Front of Hancock College of Aeronautics. Aircraft are Stearman PT-13s. Note Ambulances in Right Foreground.
Photograph Provided by Mrs. Marian Hancock, Santa Maria, 1988.
A 1945 Photograph of Hangars and Administration Buildings at Hancock College of Aeronautics. Aircraft in the Foreground are Ryan PT-22s.
Arrows Indicate Buildings Remaining in 1988.
Photograph Provided by Mrs. Marian Hancock, Santa Maria, 1988.
Hancock College of Aeronautics at Hancock Field, Santa Maria, 1940. Note Unpaved Landing Fields.
Courtesy of the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society.
On July 1, forty cadets arrived at Hancock College. In the ensuing five years some 8,500 pilots and 1,500 mechanics were trained by Hancock College. A number of pilots flew B-25s on the Colonel Dolittle raid against Japan in April 1942. During the Korean conflict, 1,000 mechanics were trained for the Air Force at the College.
In 1945 operations of Hancock College of Aeronautics were turned over to the University of Southern California (USC). In 1954 the College was closed and training moved to the Los Angeles campus of USC.
In 1954 the G. Allan Hancock Community College District was formed. This body first leased the land for $1.00 and then purchased the property from Captain Hancock. Today the original Aeronautical facilities are lost in the development of college buildings, parking lots, shops and the surrounding City of Santa Maria.
Captain Hancock died in 1965.
While thousands of pilots were trained at Hancock and went on to fly the latest fighters and bombers, they were trained by dozens of the old cloth-wing barnstorming pilots called out of business or retirement by Hancock. These people taught for years at Hancock and many were then inducted into the Army Air Corps and flew transports, bombers or fighters in both theaters of World War II.
Corps of Engineers History
On 1 May 1929, the privately owned and operated Allan Hancock College of Aeronautics began operations at Hancock Field (originally dedicated as Santa Maria Airport). This 50-acre site grew to 210 acres by 1944. The War Department is not known to have acquired nor to have had any controlling interest in Hancock Field or the aviation school.

The Army is not known to have directly used the site nor to have constructed any facilities on the site. Allan Hancock College of Aeronautics and Hancock Field were used originally as a private aviation school for training of commercial pilots. On 14 September 1940 the aviation school entered a contractual agreement with the Army Air Force to train aviation cadets during World War II.

Hancock Field was used as a contract aviation school to the Army Air Forces until June 27, 1944 and thereafter continued as a private aviation school. No War Department disposal actions were necessary. The site is now occupied by Hancock College, residential developments, and industrial buildings.
Auxiliary Fields
Little or no information existes on Hancock Field's auxiliary fields. It is possible that all these fields were just open pastureland or farm fields that were authorized to use for emergency landings.
Other Histories
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hancock_Field_(California)
Abandoned and Little Known Airfields: http://www.airfields-freeman.com/CA/Airfields_CA_SantaBarbara.htm#hancock
Army Units Assigned to Hancock Field

 Data Source


 Army of the United States Station List  1 June 1943
Air Depot Detachment (AAF)
Contract Flying School (Primary) (AAF)
1st Army Air Forces Flying Training Detachment (AAF)
AAF - Army Air Forces units | AGF - Army Ground Forces | ASF - Army Service Forces units | WDC - Western Defense Command
Extract: US Army Air Forces Directory of Air Fields, January 1945

Search our Site!
Search the Web Search California Military History Online
Questions and comments concerning this site should be directed to the Webmaster
Updated 8 February 2016