City airports explained

With millions of visitors every year, it’s no surprise that San Diego has some busy airports. What is surprising, however, is that many of those flights don’t arrive at Lindbergh Field. Two general aviation airports owned and operated by the City of San Diego are alternative destinations for both pilots and military aircraft.

Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport

Located off State Route 163 in Kearny Mesa, this three-runway airport boasts 200,000 take-offs and landings per year, making it busier than Lindbergh Field. Montgomery-Gibbs also supports the City’s Police and Fire-Rescue air operations. A significant amount of air traffic comes from private jets bringing deal-makers and business executives in and out of the City.

“The folks who fly in [to San Diego] to make deals, they typically fly into here,” said Rodney Propst, Deputy Director of the Airports Division. “They don’t fly first class into Lindbergh, they fly in here in their corporate jets.”

The airport opened in 1937 and was originally known as Gibbs Field, named for William Gibbs who leased the airport to train Army Air Corps cadets. The City of San Diego purchased the airport from Gibbs in 1947. Several flying clubs and flight schools currently operate out of Montgomery-Gibbs. A hotel, restaurants and car rental service are also located on the property, easily accessible by pilots and passengers.

Brown Field

With the longest civil runway in the region, Brown Field provides approximately 100,000 take-offs and landings per year. The airport has been in operation since 1918 and provides support to both MCAS Miramar and North Island Naval Air Station. As a result, visitors will commonly see F-18s and C-130s training on the weekends.

In 1962, the Navy transferred ownership of Brown Field to the City of San Diego, with the condition that it remains an airport for public use. Over the decades, not much has changed at the historic air field, which was named for Navy commander Melville S. Brown.

“It looks and feels like an old World War II naval air station, so it has a unique look and history,” said Propst.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has designated Brown Field a reliever airport for Lindbergh Field, meaning it could be used by general aviation aircraft to ease air traffic congestion. With its location just 1.5 miles from the U.S./Mexico border, the airport is also a port of entry allowing pilots to clear customs.

Fueling San Diego’s economy

Both airports are self-funded, generating enough revenue to cover expenses and improvements without drawing from the City’s General Fund. Grant funding from the FAA has also provided for runway improvements and upgrades to comply with federal regulations.

“When you look at general aviation airports, they are an entry point for the City, said Propst. “We want it to be a positive experience and we want it to be a world class experience.”

For more information, visit the Airports Division webpage.