Serving the small resort city of Santa Barbara located along the central coast of California, Santa Barbara is a quaint, but popular tourist destination located along the western California coast about 100 miles north of Los Angeles.  The city has been coined the "American Rivera" due to its beaches, climate and vistas.  The small, regional Santa Barbara Airport has hosted a variety of airlines both large and small to cater to this popular year-round destination.


June 1981
Although San Luis Obispo based Swift Aire had been flying along the central California coast since 1969, Santa Barbara was not added to the airlines route map until April 1981 when service was started between Los Angeles. During that same month, Golden Gate Airlines purchased the assets of Swift Aire yet continued to operate the airline as a separate entity. Within a year, Golden Gate had grown to become one of the largest commuter airlines in the United States, however rapid expansion and finical troubles caused the airline to shut down in August 1981. Seem preparing to taxi away from the terminal for a quick flight to Los Angeles and wearing the new Golden Gate colors is N417SA, a Nord 262A-14, originally delivered to Japan Domestic Airlines in February 1966, and purchased by Swift Aire in September 1976.



July 1981
Golden West Airlines was the original commuter operator into Santa Barbara, before the small carrier based in Van Nuys was merged with Aero Commuter, Skymark Airlines, and Cable Commuter Airlines (yet still retaining the operating name Golden West Airlines). Service was started in 1969, with an extension of flights from Oxnard.  By 1975, non-stop flights were started between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara using the de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter. When new de Havilland DHC-7 "Dash 7" turboprops were delivered in 1980, they were used extensively on flights to Santa Barbara until the airline filed for bankruptcy in April 1983. Seen parked at the terminal during a afternoon turn is N701GW, a de Havilland DHC-7 delivered to the airline on March 28, 1980.



August 1984*
Santa Barbara's own hometown airline, Connect Air was formed to provide passenger air service from Santa Barbara to points in California and Las Vegas, Nevada. Flights started in April 1984 using a pair of leased Fokker F-27 turboprop aircraft. Due to poor passenger numbers and struggling finances, the airline survived only a few months and shut down operations in August 1984. Caught over the numbers for landing on Runway 25 is N1823L, a Fokker F-27A.



March 1985
American Airlines was one of the few airlines that operated into Santa Barbara with main-line jet aircraft. American started service to Santa Barbara in October 1984, from both Burbank and Bakersfield (continuing on to Dallas) using the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft. This was during a time when American Airlines was expanding service into secondary cities while establishing its mega-hub-and-spoke operation from Dallas-Ft. Worth. The Santa Barbara market wasn't sufficient enough to warrant non-stop routing hence the intermediate stops in neighboring "secondary" market cities, Burbank and Bakersfield. During 1988, American started daily, non-stop service to Dallas-Ft. Worth from Santa Barbara which became quite popular with tourists seeking the mild climate and sandy beaches. Parked at the terminal ramp during a morning turn-around is N245AA, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9-82 (MD-82), delivered new to the airline in August 1984.



July 1985
Carlsbad (just north of San Diego) based Imperial Airlines started operations in 1964, however limited its flights in Southern California from Los Angeles south to San Diego and El Centro/Imperial. In the post deregulation environment, Imperial sought expansion and with larger turboprop aircraft added to the fleet was able to compete with both commuter and regional airlines on secondary city routes. In 1984, Imperial Airlines started service to Santa Barbara from Los Angeles using their "wide-body" Shorts 360 turboprop airplanes until the airline filed bankruptcy in January 1986. Taxiing outbound from the terminal to the runway for an afternoon departure is N701A, a Short SD-360-100, delivered new to Imperial Airlines on December 4, 1983.



June 1988
Skywest Airlines assumed operations into Santa Barbara Airport in 1984, with the purchase of regional commuter carrier Sun Aire. Skywest continued to serve Santa Barbara and sought to expanded service where by 1988, had numerous flights daily into the airport from nine cities including, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, San Jose and Sacramento. Skywest Airlines became the largest carrier from Santa Barbara and sought to fill the void of other airlines that had vacated the route. Seen being refueled during a afternoon turnaround is N3114G, a Fairchild SA-227AC, Metro III.



October 1989*
San Francisco based Westair Airlines, became an "express" carrier for United Airlines in 1986, for commuter connections through the airlines San Francisco hub. Commuter services on behalf of United Express were flown into Santa Barbara from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Fresno, and San Jose using a variety of turboprop aircraft. Taxiing out to Runway 25 for an afternoon departure is N271UE, a Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia, delivered new to Westair in January 1987.



February 1991
During the late 1970s, United Airlines extended flights into Santa Barbara to include first-time, non-stop service to Denver, followed by non-stop service to Chicago in the early 1980s. Boeing 737s replaced the 727 on services to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Denver during the 1980s. United continued to serve Santa Barbara until 1992, when service was replaced by United Express flights from both Los Angeles and San Francisco. At the threshold for Runway 25 and awaiting take-off clearance is N979UA, a Boeing 737-291.



March 1992
American Airlines continued to serve Santa Barbara with its MD-80s until May 1995 when the airline dropped the city during its corporate route re-alignment strategy. Service was replaced by more frequent operations with its American Eagle affiliate operating between Los Angeles, which allowed more convenient connections to American's numerous flights from LAX. Parked on the ramp and awaiting passengers for an afternoon flight is N7509, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9-82 (MD-82).



December 2002
During 1997, Skywest Airlines signed an agreement to become a United Express carrier from that parent company's hubs at Los Angeles airport. Skywest used the 30-passenger Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia for the flights providing no less then fifteen daily flights between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. Eventually in 2000, United Airlines replaced its 737 flights between Santa Barbara and San Francisco with Skywest turboprop service. Wearing the "new" United colors and taxiing outbound to Runway 25 for an afternoon departure is N560SW, an Embraer EMB-120ER, delivered new to Skywest in March 1998.



December 2002
During 1996, United Airlines transferred it's main-line jet service between Denver, Colorado, and Santa Barbara to United Express partner Air Wisconsin. The new United Express carrier placed the British Aerospace BAe 146 on the route with one flight daily, replacing the Boeing 737 that United Airlines had been serving Santa Barbara with. With the introduction of the smaller, more efficient regional jets in the late 1990s, Air Wisconsin was one of the first airlines to order and take delivery of the first generation of RJ's. Four Canadair Regional Jets (CRJ) were ordered in June 1998, with the first two being delivered in December of that year. In early 1999, Air Wisconsin replaced its BAe 146 flights to Santa Barbara with its new 50-passenger CRJ's. With a published range of 1229 miles, the CRJ flew the 971-mile route between Denver and Santa Barbara non-stop, making it the longest RJ sector at that time. Seen taxiing toward Runway 25 for an afternoon departure to Denver is N404AW, a Canadair CRJ-200ER.