Airport History
Compton/Woodley Airport

It was overcast in the Los Angeles Basin on a June afternoon in 1924. Running short of fuel and daylight, Colonel C. S. Smith chose to attempt a landing on a large field in Compton, California. The site was perfect and Col. Smith found himself wondering if it wasn't possible to have an airport on this open field. After a thorough investigation, he discovered that the land was owned by the local school district. After negotiations, the airport at Compton was founded.

During that same year, the proprietorship changed hands. Mr. James "Jimmy" Crawford Angel, after whom Angel Falls in Venezuela is named, took over the operations from Col. Smith. Between 1924 and 1936, Compton Airport was also under the leadership of Sewell Griggers, who was also a Captain in the L.A. County Sheriff’s Dept. and attached to the Sheriffs Aero Detail. Another change of hands occurred during this period with C. S. Smith returning to take over from Sewell Griggers.

In 1936, Earl Woodley took over the lease and between 1940-1945, he succeeded in purchasing all of the area included in the present facility in addition to 30 more acres on the north side of the airport which allowed for a cross-wind runway. A 2,000-foot main runway with the shorter cross-wind runway comprised the facility when it was acquired completely and consolidated as one parcel in 1956.

During the war years of 1941-1946, private flying was restricted and the airport was used exclusively by the military as a truck depot. After the hostilities ceased, private flying re-emerged at Compton under Mr. Woodley. He hired instructors and bought airplanes, and with the profits from his flying school enterprise, purchased the additional land parcels that are included in the airport today.

In 1962, Mr. Woodley died. Although his widow was desirous to have the property remain as an airport, this desire was threatened when the property was acquired by an investment company. The County, upon the recommendation of the Aviation Commission, proceeded to lease the airport from the investment company who operated it in the interim. After much solicitation and support by pilot groups, the citizens of the Los Angeles area, the Mayor and entire Compton City Council, who appeared at the Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board of Supervisors voted to condemn the facility as a regional airport. In June of 1966, the County purchased the nearly 77-acre site outright. Through the financial cooperation of the Federal Aviation Administration and the State Division of Aeronautics, the entire 76+-acre property was acquired for $2,948,883, including 53.64% Federal aid. The land acquisition in 1966 was the beginning of much-needed redevelopment for the airport.