The County of Los Angeles Department of Public Works, through its Aviation Division, oversees the operation, maintenance, and development of a system of five general aviation airports owned by the County of Los Angeles: Brackett Field Airport in La Verne, Compton/Woodley Airport in Compton, San Gabriel Valley Airport in El Monte, General William J. Fox Airfield in Lancaster, and Whiteman Airport in Pacoima.
Altogether the County-owned airports encompass 1,750 acres and 30,460 linear feet (5.8 miles) of runway, are home to over 1,500 general aviation aircraft and over 60 privately-owned aviation businesses, and accommodate just over 400,000 aircraft takeoffs and landings each year.
As noted, the County-owned airports serve General Aviation and are part of the Federal government’s National Plan of Integrated Airports System. General Aviation includes all civilian flying exclusive of scheduled passenger airlines and military activity. All of the County-owned airports, with the exception of General William J. Fox Airfield in Lancaster, are classified as "reliever" airports as they relive nearby commercial service airports of general aviation aircraft activity, allowing them to better facilitate commercial airline traffic. For more information about general aviation and its numerous benefits to the local and national economy, please click here for the Aircraft Owner and Pilots Association’s What Is General Aviation brochure, or here for the Federal Aviation Administration’s 2012 report on General Aviation Airports: A National Asset.
The County-owned airports are inspected annually and permitted by the California Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics (Caltrans) and largely regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Located at the Department of Public Works headquarters in the City of Alhambra, the Aviation Division is primarily responsible for (1) the planning and development of the County-owned airports, (2) funding capital improvement and other improvement and maintenance projects at the County-owned airports which includes obtaining federal and state grants, (3) administering a contract for the management, operation, and maintenance of the County-owned airports, and (4) ensuring that the County-owned airports are in full compliance with applicable Federal, state and local rules, regulations, policies and procedures.
On January 22, 1991, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors awarded a contract to a private operator for the operation and maintenance of the County’s five airports. Since 2002, American Airports Corporation (AAC) has held the contract which continues through 2015. The five basic functions provided by the contract are (1) aircraft fueling - provide Jet A and 100LL aviation gasoline, (2) safety and security, (3) facilities and equipment maintenance, (4) property management (leases, permits and other airport use agreements), and (5) public relations. Two of the primary benefits of privatizing the airports are the efficiencies afforded the private sector and increased revenue which is fully reinvested in the airports.
The Aviation Division is responsible for two funds: the Aviation Capital Projects Fund and the Aviation Enterprise Fund. All expenses incurred by the Aviation Division, including matching funds for eligible capital improvement projects, are paid from these funds. The Aviation Division does not draw any funds from the County’s General Fund and, therefore, relies heavily on Federal and State airport improvement program grant money to maintain and expand facilities at the County-owned airports. Projects related to maintaining and expanding facilities and infrastructure at the County-owned airports that are not eligible for Federal or State funding are paid for entirely out of the Aviation Enterprise Fund.
The Aviation Division reports to a ten-member Aviation Commission (appointed by the County Board of Supervisors) which serves to advise the Board of Supervisors regarding the operation and development of the County-owned airports.
The County-owned airports represent an essential link in the County's emergency preparedness program as strategically located home bases for County Sheriff and Fire Department aircraft and personnel, air ambulances, news and traffic reporting aircraft, aerial fire-fighting crews and equipment, and search and rescue operations.
Also, while serving the much broader general aviation community, the County-owned airports are valuable resources to the local residential and business communities. In addition to the money spent on the airports and in the surrounding communities by airport tenants and visitors, the airports are sources of jobs for local residents and offer the general public various public facilities such as restaurants and aircraft viewing and picnic areas. For a list of numerous other benefits, see how the County-owned airports are Serving the Local Community.