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Ontario Air National Guard Station
(Ontario Observation Aerodrome, Ontario Army Air Field, Ontario Air National Guard Base)
 

The 1995 the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Comission closed Ontario Air National Guard Station (ANGS) and relocate the 148th Combat Communications Squadron (CCS) and the 210th Weather Flight to March ARB, California.

The former Ontario Army Airfield (OAAF) is now known as the Ontario International Airport (airport) and is located in San Bernardino County, California. Centrally located in the City of Ontario, the airport is approximately one mile south of Interstate 10, at the south end of Vineyard Avenue. The Airport is the commercial air hub for the eastern Los Angeles Basin. It is the most common arrival point for air passengers traveling to San Bernardino and Riverside, CA.

The Airport is bounded by Cucamonga Avenue on the west, the Union Pacific Railroad on the south, the Southern Pacific Railroad on the north and Haven and Archibald Avenues on the east. The California Air National Guard (CA ANG) has operated from a location in the southeast corner of the site. There are a number of commercial aviation related businesses located on Airport property, including Federal Express, United Parcel Service, General Electric Corporation, Lockheed, Harriott, Fluor, Otto's Instruments, Wells Aviation, and Beechcraft West.

In 1921, local flyers organized the Ontario Aircraft Corporation to begin flying the "Jennie" Bi-plane aircraft. In 1929, the corporation graded a small dirt landing strip near the corner of Mission Boulevard and Grove Avenue, the southwest corner of the present site. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) began construction on two concrete runways in 1941. The airport continued general aviation usage until the start of WW II.

Along with the rest of the nation, Ontario International Airport was consumed by World War II, and the need for military security probably accounts for the scarcity of photographs of the airport during the war years. But it was to accommodate the war effort that ONT was changed from the dirt field of the 30s to a modern airfield with concrete runways, an air traffic control tower and an instrument landing system.

During its tenure as an army airfield, OAAF encompassed about 845 acres. To initiate operations as the OAAF, the Army obtained control of the Ontario Municipal Airport by lease (466.2 acres), and then expanded by developing agricultural land adjacent to the airport (357.11 acres fee, 21.3 acres lease, and .26 acres easement).

In 1942, two concrete runways were constructed at ONT with funds from the Works Progress Administration. The 6,200' east/west runway and the 4,700' northeast/southwest runway formed the basic configuration that was to serve the airport for the next 39 years. The cost of the two runways in 1942 was $350,000.

In 1942, after the Army's acquisition of the property, the 311th Air Base Squadron was activated. The airfield fell under the jurisdiction of the 4th Air Force, headquartered at Hamilton Army Airfield, CA. The 69th Observation Group arrived on 1 June 1942, and the airfield became known as the Ontario Observation Aerodrome. The 69th flew the O-47 and L2A8 "Maytag Messerschmitt" observation aircraft. The two-fold mission of the 69th was to patrol the coastal areas around Los Angeles on an anti-submarine patrol, and to photograph the local harbor defenses and War Industries.

The P-38 "Lightning" was the first military aircraft to be seen with any regularity at ONT. Built by Lockheed in Burbank, the P-38s were flown at ONT by pilot trainees in the US Army Air Corps. In October 1943, when the 384th Fighter Squadron arrived to begin training. Equipped with the P-38 "Lightning" aircraft, the 384th Fighter Squadron trained in air-to-air gunnery. Tail gunners fired at long sleeves pulled by modified "Ventura" bombers of the 11th Tow Target Squadron. With the arrival of these squadrons, the airfield became a full-fledged air facility known as the OAAF. During this period, the 4th Air Force stationed the 35th, 389th, 786th, and 797th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalions at the airfield. This was due to the airfield's similarity to terrain found in southern Europe.

Training ceased at the end of hostilities of WW II. The Army declared the airfield surplus on 15 November 1945, when it went to an inactive status. On 29 October 1946, the airfield was transferred to the War Assets Administration (WAA). The City of Ontario was interested in resuming commercial airport operations and received the deed for the property on 25 March 1949. The first commercial plane, operated by Western Airlines, landed on 27 October 1949.

Military usage would continue, when in 1949 an Air National Guard Training Station was established at the airport. In April 1949, the City of Ontario granted a lease for certain airport property to the U.S. Air Force. The site was then used by the CA ANG. An Armory for the 149th Control and Warning Squadron was constructed; and later CA ANG activities had a major impact on the airport. In 1952, in response to the desire of the Air National Guard to base fighter aircraft at the airport, the city initiated the first of the three runway extensions. After two additional runway extensions, the airport had a 10,000 foot runway to service both commercial and military traffic.

The 1950's saw dynamic growth at Ontario International Airport (the airfield was designated "International" in 1946). Three major aircraft plans including Lockheed, Douglas and Northrop had facilities at ONT. The airport was enjoying the postwar prosperity spreading across the country. The second runway extension of 1,200 feet was completed in 1956 and permitted the ANG's speedy F 86 Sabrejets to land and take off at Ontario. The first extension (800') came in 1952, and the third (1,800') in 1962, each time to accommodate the faster aircraft being flown by the California Air National Guard. All three extensions were funded by the Air Guard. In 1981, a 10,200' wide-body runway was added to ONT's aviation configuration, and a Continental DC-10 was the first wide-body aircraft to touch down on the new runway. When the airport lengthened the runways in 1981 to its current lengths, the cost was $20 million.

The first modern control tower was constructed in 1953 and commercial air traffic continued to increase. The 196th Tactical Air Support Group and the 163rd Tactical Support Group were stationed here from July 1952 until 1983. In 1983, the 196th Tactical Air Support Group was transferred to March Air Force Base, Riverside, CA. Since 1984, the 148th Combat Communications Squadron was stationed here. The 148th conducted radar operations, maintenance, and training on the property. From 1967 until 1985, the Los Angeles County Department of Airports (LADA) operated and maintained the commercial operations for the City of Ontario until in 1985, the airport was formally deeded to the LADA.


Known Units at Ontario AAF

443d Army Air Forces Base Unit (Combat Crew Training Station-Fighter)
11th Tow Target Squadron
69th Reconnaissance Group: 1 June-November 1942
329th Fighter Group: Arrived 27 February 1944. Disbanded on 31 Mar 1944.
364th Fighter Group: 11 October-7 December 1943
35th, 389th, 786th, and 797th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalions

Updated 18 Apr 08


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