The attack on Pearl Harbor sparked construction of an airfield in Napa. The Napa Auxiliary Air Defense Field was built in 1942, along with hundreds of other new facilities up and down the coast. Not long after the Napa Air Defense Field became operational, the threat of attack ended. At war's end in 1945, the federal government turned over control of the airport to Napa County.
First Airport Buildings
Two years later, the airport featured a hangar, shop and administration building, and five fixed base operators (FBOs) vied for business. Only one of the five survived beyond 1947 - Bridgeford Flying Services, which remains in operation today.
General Aviation Grows
In 1952, Southwest Airlines commuter service from Napa to San Francisco began. The operation was short-lived, ending the same year after a fire destroyed the administration building. Federal funds fueled construction of a new terminal, but commuter service was never restored.
The growth of general aviation in the post-war years led to a new taxiway and apron in 1963, and construction of a control tower in 1964.
In 1971, Japan Air Lines (JAL) began work on a facility for pilot training. JAL brought increased growth to the airport, with new hangars and training facilities. More than 2500 JAL Captains and First Officers have been trained at Napa County Airport. In 2010, the last class of Japan Airlines students went through the Napa Training facility.
Napa Valley Corporate Park, just north of the airport, and the Gateway Project to the east side of the airport, are home to a growing number of businesses. Commercial growth and future development of a destination hotel nearby, promises to stimulate greater corporate use for Napa County Airport facilities.
From the 1970s to the present, Napa Valley has grown into a highly desirable tourist destination. Events like the Napa Valley Wine Auction, and major events at the nearby Infineon Raceway, create a peak of arrivals and departures at the Napa County Airport. A number of corporate jets are now based at Napa County Airport and there is a lengthy waiting list for hangar space.
From its origins as an air defense outpost, the Napa County Airport has become an irreplaceable resource for general aviation, and an economic engine for the community.