Mills Field San Francisco

Mills Field, San Francisco Airport


San Francisco Airport 1967

While at Long Beach W/C Craig flew to San Francisco with S/L Pearson in the Avro York on Tuesday 30th July.   A Special Visit was arranged to show off the capacious Avro York as a precursor to the Avro Tudor Passenger Plane at San Francisco Airport (Mills Field) with Archive Films recording such are held by the Imperial War Museum.

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Mills Field 1928

San Francisco International traces its roots to Darius Ogden Mills, a distinguished Banker and once the wealthiest man in California. D O Mills’ Family leased 150 acres of their Estate, located 13 miles south of Downtown San Francisco, to the City & County of San Francisco for $1,500 per year. On 6th June 1927, operations officially began at Mills Field Municipal Airport of San Francisco. With a 4,590ft Runway, a total of 19 Aircraft landed, carrying 19 Passengers, in the 1st month. As part of his touring of the United States, Charles Lindbergh visited Mills Field with The Spirit of St. Louis in September of the same year.  Shortly after, Mills Field gained its 1st Hangar, followed by 3 more in 1928Boeing Air Transport, a precursor to United Airlines, landed a Boeing Model 40, the 1st Airliner to use Mills Field. In 1930, City leaders decided to purchase 1,112 acres from the Mills Estate for $1,050,000 and renamed Mills Field to San Francisco Airport the following year.  During this time, Western Air Express & Maddox Air Lines utilised Mills Field but then relocated to Oakland, while Century Pacific began Service with their sole Fokker trimotor.  Pacific Air Transport joined in December 1932, followed by United Air Lines in May 1934. United would become a major player at San Francisco Airport, a title that remains today. By 1936, San Francisco Airport had 3 Runways, forming a triangle, and a Seaplane Harbour under construction.


Mills Field San Francisco

IWM Reel 1 DetailSan Francisco – Mills Field Military Base during an Open Day – various US Aircraft on Display – Overflight by 12 Lancasters in Formation.  Constellation, B-17 C-47, C-54 on the Apron. US Army Recruiting Service bus, CBS info desk, shot of Lancaster (TW657) and Avro York (TW892). Shot of Staff Cars & Senior Foreign Officers being greeted by US officers. RAF Air Chief Marshal in the Shot (Guy Garrod).  Foreign Officers viewing white painted Lancasters. Street views of Chinatown, Officers ‘window shopping’.  View of Golden Gate Bridge & Local Bay Area.  Driving over Golden Gate Bridge. Air Chief Marshal Norman Bottomley of RAF arrives by Aircraft, walkabout RAF Station then departs in Dakota (KG782). B-17 overflying Lake, servicemen swimming, shot of Log Cabin & Crews sitting around a Camp Fire.  Officers throwing rocks into the Lake (Merrit?).  A scene of Outdoor Swimming Pool, couples posing for a Photographer, general messing about.  B-29 (521785) taxiing, Lancasters lining up for Take-off. Air to air shots of Lancasters in Formation Flying over City.  Shot of Lancasters on the Apron (ramp) & Aircrews on Parade and taking part in March Pasts. Marshalling taxiing Lancaster & VIP speeches.


At the outbreak of WW2 in the Pacific, San Francisco Airport became a US Army Air Corps Training & Staging Facility.  Fortified revetments were installed on the Airfield to protect Aircraft from Attack. While Commercial Airlines were permitted to operate under Wartime Conditions, all Civilian Flying was suspended.  After WW2, Pan American World Airways resumed regular International Service.  The Flying Boats were replaced with Long-range Landplanes, such as the Douglas DC-4 and the Lockheed Constellation, and San Francisco Airport became the Aerial Gateway to the Pacific.  As Airline Business increased, Ground Transportation Companies were enfranchised at the Airport. New Foreign Carriers, such as British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines & Philippine Airlines, prompted the addition of “International” to the Airport’s name.


San Francisco Airport


Grp Captain Collard (centre) Advance Party Avro 685 York Captained by  S/L Anthony B J Pearson with a Crew of 5 and some 21 Ground Crew in support of the Main Squadron