Historic California Posts, Camps,
Stations and Airfields
(Allan Hancock College of Aeronautics
Contract Flying School)
(including Santa Maria, La Brea,
McKinnon, Souza and Waller-Franklin Auxiliary Fields)
Hancock Field, circa
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
Santa Maria Auxiliary Field 34°48'24"N
120°26'03"W. No remains
La Brea Auxiliary Field 34°52'52"N
120°17'36"W No remains
Mckinnon Auxiliary Field (Undetermined).
Possibly another name for Santa Maria Auxiliary Field
Souza Auxiliary Field 34°59'39"N
120°28'50"W No remains
Waller-Franklin Auxiliary Field 34°55'57"N
120°31'46"W No remains