Mather Field is 12 miles east of Sacramento. It was built during Word War I as a pilot training base and was used by the Army Air Corps for various purposes in the years between the wars. In 1941 the field was expanded and became a training base for single-engine pilots and navigators. Mather had three auxiliary airfields, Lincoln, Elk Grove, and Franklin.
In 1943 the training of B-25 bomber crews
began and in 1944-45 it became an aerial port of embarkation to
the Pacific in preparation for the expected transfer of large
numbers of men and aircraft from Europe to the Pacific. After
the war the base was made a permanent base by the US Air Force
and in 1948 renamed Mather Air Force Base. The training of navigators
became its special. In the 1990s, Mather was closed.
Mather AFB, which closed September 30, 1993, is located in the unincorporated portion of Sacramento County, 12 miles southeast of downtown Sacramento. The base is composed of 5,716 acres and 970,000 square feet of buildings and auxiliary facilities. It includes a 11,300 foot runway and a parallel 6,100 foot runway; four aircraft hangars; office and industrial structures; 18 dormitory buildings; and 1,271 units of single family housing.
As the home of the 323rd Flying Wing, Mather Air Force Base was a center for pilot, navigation, and bombardier training. In addition to the 11,300 foot runway, this 5,716 acre complex in the heart of the Highway 50 corridor possessed diverse aviation and industrial facilities, open space, and housing. The closure of Mather resulted in the displacement of 7,600 military and civilian workers and the diversion of over $150 million of income from the Sacramento economy.
The California Army National Guard [CAARNG] aviation units are based at the Mather Army Aviation Support Facility (AASF) located at the former Mather Air Force Base (AFB) in Sacramento, the AASF in Stockton, the California Aviation Classification Repair Depot (AVCRAD) in Fresno, and the Armed Forces Reserve Center (AFRC) in Los Alamitos. All sites include hangar facilities, aircraft parking aprons, and armories.
Mather Army Aviation Support Facility (AASF) is located southeast of U.S. Highway 50 on the former Mather Air Force Base (AFB), about 12 miles east of the state capitol proper in Sacramento. Interstate 5 provides north and south access and Interstate 80 provides east and west access. The Mather AASF is located in Sacramento County and Congressional District #5. The AASF is part of the former flightline operations area. The AASF facilities (armory and hangars) are sited on a 30-acre parcel located within the Mather Regional Park (business airport and light industrial development area). The airport is a joint-use facility, with military operations located on the north side of the runways. The local demographics provide a good recruiting population. The installation makes a positive contribution to the local economy in terms of salaried jobs and personnel purchases.
The installation mission is to provide facilities for aircraft storage and maintenance, air operations planning and coordination, and unit training. The following are units that are stationed at the installation: Company A, 1-140th Aviation Battalion (32 people), 126th Medical Company (-) (Air Ambulance) (130 people), Company D, 1-140th Aviation Battalion (32 people), Detachment 1, Headquarters and Headquarters Company 1-140th Aviation Battalion (123 people), Detachment 32, Operational Support Airlift Command (eight people). The 126 MED CO has fifteen UH-60s. Company A, 1-140th AVN BN is transitioning from eight UH-1s to eight UH-60s. Detachment 32, OSAA has one C-12 aircraft maintained by two contractors.
The AASF consists of a hangar, armory, operations building, and an associated administrative facility. The existing buildings and pavement (rotary and fixed wing and vehicle parking) are inadequate in size and condition to support the assigned units. The armory and administrative building are situated along MacReady Drive and Superfortress Avenue, just north of the AASF hangar and aircraft parking. Additional aircraft parking is located to the east of the armory. The taxiways and runways lie to the south of the facility.
Mather Airport (officially called Sacramento Mather Airport) has been open as a public use air cargo and general aviation airport since May 5, 1995. Managed by the Sacramento County Department of Airports, the airport facilities include two parallel runways, one 11,300 ft. and the other 6,100 ft long along with 40 acres of exclusive air cargo ramp space. A new airport terminal opened in March 1998. More than 40% of the unfinished terminal space was leased to Trajen Flight Support, the airport's fixed-base operator. Mather Airport is also attracting some civilian cargo carriers operating under military contract. These carriers are using Mather as a substitute for Travis Air Force Base, whose airfield is already operating at full capacity.
The airport lease for 2,875 acres was signed in March 1995. The County Board of Supervisors originally voted to accept the long-term airport lease with the Air Force subject to a modification of the lease to assure the County and future tenants of Mather Field Airport uninterrupted electrical, telecommunication, and natural gas service and continued maintenance of the base water, storm drain, and sanitary sewer systems. The Air Force agreed to operate the electric, gas and telephone systems for 18 months, with the County paying its fair share for using and maintaining these systems until a private entity takes over.
In early February 1997, Trajen Flight Support began to modify a 420,000-gallon steel fuel storage tank located at the former Mather Air Force Base tank farm. By summer, aircraft fuel storage was available from the 40-year-old tank, which is fed directly from an underground Santa Fe Pacific gas pipeline. Since the civilian airport opened nearly two years ago, the number of large transport category aircraft reusing the airfield was constrained by the limited fuel storage capacity of fuel trucks. Trucks can only hold and transport 8,000 to 10,000 gallons of fuel, while a large cargo plane can require 10,000 to 15,000 gallons.
Mather Airport is rapidly developing as a cargo depot. By its second year of operation in the fall 1997, the airport was operating at a level of activity initially expected by its 7th year. In May 1998, airfreight shipment at Mather topped 11 million pounds an increase of 46% in one year. In April 1996, Airborne Express and Emery Worldwide moved their operations from Sacramento International Airport to Mather. Two years later, on April 1998, United Parcel Service relocated its operations and 125 employees from Sacramento International Airport to Mather, effectively doubling the air cargo weight coming through Mather. Airborne, with nearly 80 Sacramento employees initially used half of an unoccupied hangar at Mather until its new 32,000 square foot permanent air cargo facility was completed in June 1998. Initially, Airborne operations consisted of a DC 8, which landed in the morning and departed in the evening. Packages were unloaded on the airport apron, sorted in the hangar and then transferred to small aircraft and vans for delivery. Emery Worldwide originally used half of a large warehouse building for it's sorting operation but is now building a 28,000 square foot facility due to be completed in the Spring 1999. BAX Global joined other cargo carriers in the summer 1997. In March 1998 United Parcel joined Airborne, Emery and BAX Global in operating at Mather Airport.
Two operational upgradesinitiated on 01 July 2000are facilitating the expansion of Mather Airport, the air cargo facility of the Sacramento County Airport System. The first is an air traffic control tower staffed on a 24-hour basis under the Federal Aviation Administrations contract tower program. Air traffic controllers at contract towers are certified by the FAA and comply with the same standards the agency has for its own controllers. The FAA and the County Airport System are funding the daily operational cost of the tower under a cost-sharing agreement, with the FAA paying for 16 hours of daily service and the System paying for the remaining eight. The second upgrade is the opening of an airport fire station at Mather, staffed with the Airport Systems personnel and equipment on a 24-hour basis. A resulting benefit is that the fire and rescue response time has been reduced from seven minutes to between two and three minutes.
Immediately following the closure announcement for Mather in 1988, Sacramento County formed a commission to plan for the reuse of the base. The Sacramento Area Commission on Mather Conversion (SACOM-C) and its subcommittees grew to over 150 members. Simultaneously with the SACOM-C preparation of a reuse plan, the Rancho Cordova Chamber of Commerce began preparation of a reuse plan. The ultimate plan approved by the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors in the fall of 1991 represented a consolidation of the SACOM-C and Rancho Cordova Chamber of Commerce reuse plans.
In addition to the air cargo and general aviation airport, Sacramento County operates a 1,600 acre regional park containing among other things an 18-hole championship golf course, recreational lake, hiking trails, and an abundance of property for future development of recreational facilities that will benefit the entire community. A 770-acre Economic Development Conveyance (EDC) of the developed main base area and two large undeveloped areas on the east side of the base has been completed.
Although the former Air Force base was identified for closure by the 1988 BRAC, sale negotiations between the Air Force and Sacramento County did not begin until 1992. At that time, the County and two large area home builders, Lewis Homes Enterprises and Elliott Homes, proposed to renovate the 1,271 Wherry and Capehart housing units for use as affordable and senior citizen housing. Five years later, a revised plan was necessary due to property deterioration, increased costs, and concerns of the community. Only Lewis Homes Enterprises remained involved with the project. On October 31, 1996 the Air Force conveyed 757 acres at the former Mather Air Force Base to Sacramento County.
In November 1995 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it would build an air traffic control facility on 32 acres at the former Mather Air Force Base. Construction began in September 1997 and the facility opened in late 2000. It consolidated operations that are now in older, smaller facilities in Oakland, Monterey, Stockton and at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento which control flight scheduling at all major airports in Northern California. About 300 people are employed.
The Air Force approved the request by the Veteran's Administration for the hospital and 28 acres. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) reviewed the request after analyzing a Price-Waterhouse study on VA needs in northern California. The study supports the use of the Mather hospital as a VA facility. By September 1997, the VA had moved much of the caseload from its downtown Sacramento outpatient clinic to Mather. The Mather hospital complex contains a three-story hospital built in 1971, two administration buildings built in 1986, and a 15,000 square foot warehouse built in 1995.
In early 2001 the FAA selected three military
airports for conversion to civil-only or joint-use status as part
of a program designed to increase system capacity and reduce air
traffic control delays. The airports are Gray Army Airfield in
Killeen, TX; March Inland Port, Riverside, CA; and Mather Airport
near Sacramento, CA. All will receive an unspecified level of
federal funding under the FAA's Military Airport Program (MAP).
The selections stemmed from the AIR-21 legislation signed into
law in early 2000, which increased the total number of airports
eligible for federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding
from 12 to 15. Mather Airport, formerly the site of the Air Force's
navigator training program, has two runways (11,300 feet and 6,000
feet) that make it appealing to freight operators.
Located twelve miles SE of Sacramento on 786 acres. Mather was one of the oldest fields in California. It was established February 21, 1918. The field was named in honor of 2nd Lieutenant Carl Spencer Mather. Mather learned to fly in 1915. He was killed on January 30, 1918 while on a training flight near Ellington Field, TX when his JN-4D collided with another aircraft.
Construction of some 50 buildings began March 15, 1918. The Field was occupied April 30, 1918. Its first commander was 1st Lieutenant Sam P. Burman, March 15, 1918. The first unit stationed there was the 283rd Aero Squadron. There were no concrete runways or aprons. These were added in the late 1930s. In the meantime aircraft flew from grass-covered fields. Training activities ceased on January 8, 1919. The Field was used by the aerial forestry patrol.
The Field was closed on May 12. 1923. Again on active status on April 1, 1930 but as a sub post of the Presidio U.S. Army Post, San Francisco; Hamilton Field and Stockton Field in that order during the 1930s. The Field was reestablished as a separate post and activated on May 13, 1941. The Field area was increased from 872 to 4,418 acres in June 1941.
Advanced training began June 7,1941. Navigation school began August 2,1941. Major new construction was completed March 16, 1942. B-25s were assigned to the Field in 1943. Mather Field became a Port of Embarkation for the Pacific from 1944 to 1945. Lincoln Field was an auxiliary to Mather.
The USAF Bombardment and Flight Engineer Schools opened March 1946. The Field was renamed Mather Air Force Base January 13, 1948. Mather Air Force Base was again expanded in 1956 to accommodate SAC B-52 operations.
In April 1961 the Electronic Warfare Officers Training School was moved to Mather and consolidated with the navigation courses. In December 1988 the Commission of Base Realignment and Closure recommended the closure of Mather Air Force Base.
In October of 1989 the 320th Bombardment Wing was inactivated and its remaining bombers assigned to other inland wings.
In January 1991, the Navigation School was transferred from Mather to Beale AFB.
In May of 1992 the final air show was held at Mather AFB saluting the base for 75 years of continuous support.
On May 12, 1993, the final base closure
ceremonies were held by Colonel Robert J. Martinelli, Navigation
Wing Commander, with the lowering of the U.S. flag above the base
headquarters, and presentation to the Sacramento County officials
who now moved into the evacuated Base Headquarters Buildings from
which to plan the future uses of the base property.
The United States Army Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps, activated Mills Field on February 21, 1918 as a pilot training base that was surrounded by ranch land and vineyards. Mills Field was renamed Mather Field for Second Lieutenant Carl Spencer Mather, an Army Signal Corps pilot, who was killed in an air collision at Ellington Field, Texas in January 1918. He earned his pilot's license at the age of 16 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Army Signal Corps on January 20, 1918. Five days later, he was killed during one of the first training classes for World War I pilots. The remainder of his class was restationed at Mills Field and requested that the facility be renamed in Mather's honor. On May 2, 1918, the name was changed to Mather Field, the precursor to Mather Air Force Base and today's Sacramento Mather Airport.
Following World War I, the field was used intermittenly to support small military units. During World War II, Mather Field was used for pilot and navigator training as well as observer and bombardier training. When the 509th Operations Group was transferring to Tinian (in the Marianas Island chain) for the atomic mission, the commanding general of Mather Field was told at gunpoint  that he was not allowed on board The Great Artiste which had landed there.
During the Cold War, Mather AFB became the sole aerial navigation school for the U.S. Air Force and its allies after Harlingen, Texas and James Connally Air Force Base, Texas were closed and Ellington was converted into a joint Air National Guard Base, Coast Guard Air Station and NASA flight facility in the 1960's. The 3535th Navigator Training Wing, Air Training Command (ATC), was responsible for Bombardment Training beginning in 1946 and later transitioned to Undergraduate Navigator Training (UNT), Advanced Navigator Bombadier Training (NBT), Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) training and Weapon Systems Officer (WSO) training after the closure of the other Navigator training bases. Renamed the 3535th Flying Training Wing (3535 FTW), the wing initially flew T-29 for Air Force Navigator training until the early 1970s when it was replaced by the T-43A (Boeing 737) aircraft. The 3535 FTW was redesignated as the 323d Flying Training Wing (323 FTW) on April 1, 1973. In 1976, following the decommissioning of Training Squadron TWENTY-NINE (VT-29) at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, the 323 FTW also commenced training of student Naval Flight Officers in the Advanced Maritime Navigation training pipeline. Students in this pipeline were destined to fly land-based naval aircraft such as the P-3 Orion, EP-3 Aries and the EC-130 and LC-130 Hercules aircraft. This resulted in UNT being redesignated as Interservice Undergraduate Navigator Training (IUNT). The Navy also activated Naval Air Training Unit (NAVAIRTU) Mather as a parent activity for U.S. Navy instructors, USN students and NATO/Allied naval aviation students assigned to the 323 FTW at Mather. The Marine Aerial Navigation School (MANS) also relocated to Mather in order to train enlisted USMC and USCG navigators for Marine Corps KC-130 and Coast Guard HC-130 aircraft. The 323 FTW continued training USAF Navigators, Naval Flight Officers, NATO/Allied students, as well as conducting advanced training for newly-winged USAF Navigators as Radar Navigator/Bombadiers, EWOs and WSOs until it was inactivated on September 30, 1993. Concurrent with the wing's inactivation, all Navigator and Naval Flight Officer Maritime Navigation pipeline training was moved to Randolph AFB, Texas and consolidated under the 12th Flying Training Wing, which up until that time had primary responsibility for training and certifying instructor pilots.
On October 1, 1993, Mather AFB was decommissioned as an active Air Force Base under the Base Realignment and Closure Act. At the time of closure, the base encompassed 5,845 acres (24 km²), including 129 acres (522,000 m²) of easements. Most of the base was ruled surplus to the needs of the federal government and has been transferred or leased to various entities, primarily the County of Sacramento.
In 1995, the airport was officially reopened as a Sacramento Mather Airport, a 2,675 acre (11 km²) cargo airport. Another 1,432 (5.8 km²) acres became the Mather Regional Park. Other areas of the former Air Force Base have been developed for housing and a business park. The former USAF Hospital was converted into the Veterans Administration Medical Center, and the Federal Aviation Administrations Northern California Terminal Radar Control TRACON facility is also located at Mather.
3535th Navigator Training Wing (ATC) 1946 to 1973: The 3535th Navigator Training Wing was composed of the following squadrons:
3535th Navigator Training Squadron (3535 NTS)
3536th Navigator Training Squadron (3536 NTS)
3537th Navigator Training Squadron (3537 NTS)
3538th Navigator Training Squadron (3538 NTS)
3539th Navigator Training Squadron (3539 NTS)
3540th Navigator Training Squadron (3540 NTS)
3541st Navigator Training Squadron (3541 NTS)
323d Flying Training Wing (ATC) 1973 to 1993: The 323d Flying Training Wing was composed of the following squadrons:
449th Flying Training Squadron (449 FTS)
450th Flying Training Squadron (450 FTS)
451st Flying Training Squadron (451 FTS)
452d Flying Training Squadron (452 FTS)
453d Flying Training Squadron (453 FTS)
454th Flying Training Squadron (454 FTS)
455th Flying Training Squadron (455 FTS)
4134th Strategic Wing (SAC) 1958 to 1963: On April 1, 1958, the Strategic Air Command's (SAC) 4134th Strategic Wing composed of the 72nd Bombardment Squadron and 904th Aerial Refueling Squadron was assigned to Mather AFB. The Strategic Wings were formed in the late 1950's as part of SAC's plan to disperse its heavy bombers over a larger number of bases, thus making it more difficult for the Soviet Union to knock out the entire fleet with a surprise first strike. All of the "Strat" Wings had one squadron of B-52s containing 15 aircraft. Half of the planes were maintained on fifteen minute alert, fully fueled, armed, and ready for combat. The remaining planes were used for training in bombardment missions and air refueling operations. Most of the "Strat Wings" also had a squadron of KC-135 tankers. The Strategic Wing designation was phased out in early 1963. In most cases, the aircraft and crews remained at the same base, but the wing (and its bomb squadron) were given new designations. The 4134th Strategic Wing was deactivated on February 1, 1963.
320th Bombardment Wing (SAC) 1963 to 1989: The 320th Bombardment Wing (320 BW) was assigned to Mather AFB on February 1, 1963. The 320th BW included the 441st Bombardment Squadron and 904th Aerial Refueling Squadron. The 441 BS flew the B-52G and the 904 ARS flew the KC-135A. The 320 BW and the 441 BS were inactivated on September 30, 1989.
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