Culver City Airport

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airport Culver CityThe Culver City Airport was located between Sepulveda Boulevard and Mesmer, edged by Jefferson Boulevard. It appears that it had its beginnings in 1927, originally as the Baker Airport. The first owners were Frank Baker and Bob Blair. According to a 1973 publication of Los Angeles Aeronautics on 1920-1929, written by Northrop Institute professor, D.D. Hatfield, it was L-shaped, with runways in two directions. Their first planes were listed as a Waco10, an OX-5 Jenny and a Hispano Suiza powered Ryan M-1. Later, when they had a dealership for the Buhl Aircraft Company's planes, it was Buhl Pacific Aircraft company, managed by Bob Blair. Mrs. Margaret Blair was a flyer and she was reportedly active in the flight operations which included flight instruction, passenger and charter flights. 

On the back of Hatfield's book, Don Wiggins wrote that "In the Roaring Twenties, Los Angeles meant Hollywood, that crazy movie town where more stunt pilots were employed than on the nation's fledgling airlines- where studio bosses like Syd Chaplin and Cecil B. De Mille flew their own crates." According to Hatfield, the Blair school taught many notables, including Clark Gable, James Stewart, Ruth Chatterton and Henry Fonda. 

The Buhl company and the airport were sold in October, 1928, to Flying Incorporated, owned by William G. McAdoo, Jr., ( a former naval aviator), A.E. McManus, Jr., (formerly with the Royal Flying Corps), and a San Francisco aviator by the name of Lansing Pedis. Their chief pilot was Harry Ashe.

culver_plane Mr. and Mrs. Culver and patricia
Mr. Culver, second from the right with Mrs. Culver and Patricia 

Eventually this airport was named the Culver City Airport, and city founder, Harry Culver, who purchased a plane in 1928, flew out of it (photo above with wife and daughter with him). The airport was not in Culver City until much later- in its early years--it was in Los Angeles County. 

By 1931, the Culver City Airport was still going strong, and a fellow by the name of Joe Petrelli established his new restaurant across Jefferson, on what is now known as "the Triangle site." It was not in the exact location Geo. Petrelli's is today, but close by. That will hopefully dispel any misconception that "Joe Petrelli's Airport Café" was named for its proximity to another nearby airport. 

The Culver City Airport was a progressive little airport, with numerous women pilots, and a Goodyear Blimp! Jean Kleopfer Barker took flying lessons at the age of 16 for $8 a lesson. "Pete" Leaman was the operator/manager of the airport. When this well-known instructor taught her to fly, he asked her if she "ever dropped her cookies," as he prepared her to land through the utility wires, a quick and difficult maneuver. 

After the war, a number of locals got their licenses at the Culver City Airport. Former police officer Jack Scholz was licensed on May 4, 1947. Many, like Fred Machado, used the G.I. Bill to get their commercial licenses. 

The airport was history in 1951, and a Mayfair Market opened on the site, and behind it Sunkist Park housing. The hangar area became an Earl Scheib (now American Tire). 

Joe Petrelli's Airport Café was moved to the property known as the Kite site - where Sprouts Farmers Market is today. According to George Petrelli, his uncle Joe slid the old restaurant across Sepulveda in the middle of the night. Joe Petrelli died in 1958, two years after George Petrelli came from Italy to work for his uncle in the meat department. The "new" Geo Petrelli's location on Sepulveda Blvd. was a successful redevelopment project in 1995. When you walk in their door, you will find at least one of the three smiling Petrelli's and walls of memorabilia of its "Culver City Airport" location.