San Diego International Airport (IATA: SAN, ICAO: KSAN, FAA LID: SAN), also known as Lindbergh Field, is a public airport 3 mi (4.8 km) northwest of downtown San Diego, California, 15 mi (24 km) from the Mexico – United States border at Tijuana, Mexico. The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority operates it.
San Diego International is the busiest single-runway commercial airport in the United States, and the second-busiest single use-runway in the world after London Gatwick with about 550 departures and arrivals carrying 50,000 passengers each day, and a total of 17,250,269 passengers in 2012. San Diego is the largest metropolitan area that is not an airline hub or secondary hub; however, San Diego is a focus city for Southwest Airlines.
The top five airlines by market share in 2011 are Southwest Airlines (38.45%), United Airlines (15.3%), Delta Air Lines (10.9%), American Airlines (7.9%), and Alaska Airlines (6.5%).
The airport has domestic flights, as well as international flights to Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Japan.
Convair had aircraft manufacturing plants near the field and used it for test and delivery flights from 1935 to 1995.
The airport is near the site of the Ryan Airlines factory, but it is not the same as Dutch Flats, the Ryan airstrip where Charles Lindbergh flight tested the Spirit of St. Louis before his historic 1927 transatlantic flight. The site of Dutch Flats is on the other side of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, in the Midway area, near the current intersection of Midway and Barnett avenues.
Inspired by Lindbergh's flight and excited to have made his plane, the city of San Diego passed a bond issue in 1928 for the construction of a two-runway municipal airport. Lindbergh encouraged the building of the airport and agreed to lend his name to it. The new airport, dedicated on August 16, 1928, was San Diego Municipal Airport – Lindbergh Field.
The airport was the first federally certified airfield to serve all aircraft types, including seaplanes. The original terminal was on the northeast side of the field, on Pacific Highway. The airport was also a testing facility for several early U.S. sailplane designs, notably those by William Hawley Bowlus (superintendent of construction on the Spirit of St. Louis) who also operated the Bowlus Glider School at Lindbergh Field from 1929–1930. On June 1, 1930, a regular San Diego – Los Angeles airmail route started. The airport gained 'international airport' status in 1934, and a United States Coast Guard Air Base next to the field was commissioned in April 1937. The Coast Guard's fixed-wing aircraft used Lindbergh Field until the mid-1990s when the fixed-wing aircraft were retired.
The Army Air Corps took over the field in 1942, improving it to handle the heavy bombers being manufactured in the region. This transformation, including an 8,750 ft (2,670 m) runway, made the airport "jet-ready' long before jet airliners came into service. The May 1952 C&GS chart shows 8700-ft runway 9 and 4500-ft runway 13.
Pacific Southwest Airlines established its headquarters in San Diego and started service at Lindbergh Field in 1949. The April 1957 Official Airline Guide shows 42 departures per day: 14 American, 13 United, 6 Western, 6 Bonanza, and 3 PSA (5 PSA on Friday and Sunday). American had a nonstop flight to Dallas and one to El Paso; aside from that, nonstop flights did not reach beyond California and Arizona. Nonstop flights to Chicago started in 1962 and to New York in 1967.
The first scheduled jet flights at Lindbergh Field were in 1960, American Airlines Boeing 720s to Phoenix and United Airlines 720s to San Francisco.
The original terminal was on the north side of the airport and was used until the 1960s; the current Terminal 1 opened on the south side of the airport on March 5, 1967. It was not until July 11, 1979 that Terminal 2 opened. Paderewski Dean & Associates designed these terminals. A third terminal, dubbed the Commuter Terminal, opened July 23, 1996. Terminal 2 was expanded by 300,000 square feet (27,871 m2) in 1998, opening on January 7, 1998. The expanded Terminal 2 and the Commuter Terminal were designed by Gensler and SGPA Architecture and Planning. In the 1990s the official name became San Diego International Airport, but it is still often referred to as Lindbergh Field. As downtown San Diego developed, the airport's 3600-ft second runway was closed.
Built and operated by the City of San Diego through the sale of municipal bonds to be repaid by airport users, then the San Diego Unified Port District, the airport is now operated by the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.
The Green Build
San Diego International Airport's expansion program, dubbed "The Green Build", is expected to help the airport meet current and future travel demands. Opened on August 13, 2013, the project focuses on expansion and enhancements at Terminal 2. Additions include 10 gates on the west side of Terminal 2 West, a two-level roadway separating arriving and departing passengers, additional security lanes, and an expanded concession area.
On February 8, 2008, SANDAG and the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority discussed long-term future measures with three goals: (1) optimize the airport, (2) improve transit to the airport region-wide, and (3) reduce traffic congestion near the airport. They created the Ad Hoc Airport Regional Policy Committee, chaired by then-San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders. Destination Lindbergh was a year-long, comprehensive analysis that considered ground transportation, an intermodal transit center (ITC), passenger terminals, a consolidated rental car facility (CONRAC), airfield/airspace, environment, financial feasibility and regional development issues to ultimately produce a Draft Concept for the long-term development of Lindbergh Field. On March 23, 2009 the Airport Authority Board accepted the Destination Lindbergh Draft Concept for public distribution and directed that an invitation be sent to all stakeholders for future planning, and that the Concept establish benchmarks for operations, social and economic benefits, and transit ridership.
The plan outlines three basic models of future development: north-centric (bordering the Pacific Highway and Interstate 5), south-centric (where it is currently) and a hybrid version, with terminals on the south side, passenger processing, rental cars and parking on the north side, and an automated people mover connecting the two underneath the runway. The north-centric concept is hampered by the fact that the taxiway on the north side of the Runway does not extend for the full runway length. For this plan to be developed, land would need to be acquired from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot to build the taxiway. Without this taxiway, all aircraft would have to land, exit the runway to the south, then cross the runway to get to the gates on the north side. This is the same reason that the Terminal (now Terminal 1) was constructed on the South side of the airfield in 1967.
Plans also outline dedicated I-5 on and off-ramps, and an 'intermodal transit hub' including a Coaster/Amtrak station, a stop for the San Diego Trolley system, and eventually a center for the southern terminus of the California High Speed Rail line. The approximate target date for completion of the project is 2035. As of January 2013, new San Diego mayor Bob Filner stated that he plans to fast track efforts to make the plans a reality for San Diego. However, the airport is an independent agency and its planning is not controlled by the City.
Most takeoffs and landings at SAN are from east to west.
Landing at the airport from the east offers closeup views of skyscrapers, Petco Park (home of the San Diego Padres), and the Coronado Bridge from the left side of the aircraft. On the right, Balboa Park, site of the 1915–1916 Panama-California Exposition, can be seen, along with the San Diego Zoo.
The approach from the east is steeper than most due to terrain which drops from 266 ft (81 m) to sea level in less than one nautical mile. San Diego's only runway is west of a hill with several obstructions, including Interstate 5 and trees in Balboa Park. Contrary to local lore, the parking structure off the end of the runway was built in the 1980s long after previous obstructions built up east of I-5.
Aircraft do not land at the end of the runway as at most airports, but at a displaced threshold. Runway 27 has a displaced threshold of 1,810' and Runway 9 has a displaced threshold of 700'.
Runway 27 (landing east to west), is a Localizer only approach and is unusable for landing when visibility drops below about 2 miles. This forces arriving aircraft to use Runway 9 (landing west to east). Due to the terrain east of the airport, weight limits are imposed on many departing aircraft depending on their required takeoff weights. As a result, some aircraft must take off to the west. While safe, these "head to head" operations slows the flow of aircraft due to sequencing which creates delays in the air and on the ground.
Terrain east and west of the airport greatly impacts the available runway length. Runway 27 (heading west) has a climb gradient of 353 ft/nmi (58.1 m/km) feet per nautical mile. Taking off to the east requires a 610 ft/nmi (100 m/km) climb rate.
Lindbergh Field does not have standard 1,000 ft (300 m) runway safety areas at the end of each runway. An engineered materials arrestor system (EMAS) has been installed at the west end of the runway to halt any aircraft overruns. The east end of the runway does not have such a system as its use would reduce the runway length by at least 400 ft (120 m), further impacting the runway's capability for departures to the west. Instead, the use of declared distances reduces the mathematical length of Runway 9 (west to east operations) by declaring that the easternmost end of Runway 9 is 1,121 feet shorter than it actually is (a net length of 8,280-feet).
McDonnell Douglas DC-10 coming into San Diego International
SAN is in a populated area. To appease the concerns of the airport's neighbors regarding noise and possible ensuing lawsuits, a curfew was put in place in 1979. Departures are allowed between 6:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. Departures outside those hours are subject to a large fine. Arrivals are permitted 24 hours per day. While several flights have scheduled departure times before 6:15 a.m., these times are pushback times; the first takeoff roll is at 6:30 a.m.
As of December 2012, San Diego International Airport is served by 22 passenger airlines and five cargo airlines which fly nonstop to 54 destinations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, and Japan.
British Airways resumed nonstop service to London Heathrow Airport on June 1, 2011 with Boeing 777-200ERs. The airline had dropped the route in October 2003, after the worldwide downturn in aviation after 9/11. The airline had been flying nonstop to London Heathrow (previously London Gatwick on their 777-200's); however, previously the route had been flown from Gatwick via Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on a Boeing 747-400. After 9/11, the route was dropped to six days a week, then five, and then cancelled altogether. In June 2010 the European Union approved the new joint venture between British Airways, American Airlines, and Iberia Airlines, which dropped many of the provisions of the Bermuda II treaty and its restrictions on airlines flying to Heathrow. Oneworld members now can earn mileage on any American, British, or Japan Airlines flight.
Japan Airlines began service to Tokyo-Narita on December 2, 2012, using the Boeing 787 aircraft. This is the airport's first nonstop flight to Asia. The flights used the 787 until its grounding when service was temporarily replaced with a 777-200. The last 777 flight was May 31, 2013. On June 1, 2013, 787 service resumed, this time daily. This is a joint business service with fellow Oneworld airline member and joint business partner American Airlines.
The busiest route by flight count is to Los Angeles with 27 daily round trips on United Express, American Eagle, and Delta Connection. The busiest route by available seats per day is to San Francisco with just over 3,100 seats on 22 daily round trips on United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Virgin America.
In January 2008, San Diego International Airport entered the blogosphere with the launch of the first employee blog – the Ambassablog – for a major U.S. airport. Written by front-line employees, the blog features regular posts on airport activities, events, and initiatives; reader comments; and several multimedia and interactive features. It has been presented as a case study in employee blogging to several public agencies at the federal, state, and local levels.
In February 2008, San Diego International Airport was one of the first major airports in the U.S. to adopt a formal sustainability policy, which expresses the airport's commitment to a four-layer approach to sustainability known as EONS. As promulgated by Airports Council International – North America, EONS represents an integrated "quadruple bottom line" of (E)conomic viability, (O)perational excellence, (N)atural resource conservation and preservation and (S)ocial responsibility.
In May 2008, California Attorney General Jerry Brown announced an agreement with San Diego International Airport on reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with the airport's proposed master plan improvements. In announcing the agreement, the Attorney General's office said "San Diego airport will play a key leadership role in helping California meet its aggressive greenhouse gas reduction targets."
Public transport is on Metropolitan Transit System bus No. 992, which connects the airport to downtown San Diego, where connections can be made to other bus routes and the San Diego Trolley, COASTER, and Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner.
San Diego International Airport is testing a new system of airfield lights called Runway Status Lights (RWSL) for the FAA. It completed the rehabilitation of the north taxiway in 2010. A project that included replacing its airfield lighting and signage with energy efficient LED lights where possible (LEDs are only permissible for use on Taxiway Lights, Obstruction Lights, Signage, and Medium Intensity Runway Lights at this time – the runway at San Diego uses High Intensity Runway Lights) and is in the process of constructing 10 new gates for Terminal 2 West.
The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) air station is in the southeast corner of the airfield. The installation originally supported fixed-wing seaplane operations, with seaplane ramps into the bay, and land-based fixed-wing aircraft and rotary-wing operations.
The air station is separated from the rest of the airfield, so USCG fixed-wing aircraft must cross North Harbor Drive, a busy, 6-lane city street, to reach the runway. Streetlight activation opens the locked gates to the airfield and the air station, and also stops traffic while aircraft are crossing the street. This was a common occurrence during the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s when CGAS San Diego had both HH-3F Pelican and HH-60J Jayhawk helicopters and HU-25 Guardian jets assigned. Today, this is an extremely rare occurrence, as CGAS San Diego's HU-25As have been reassigned and there are no fixed-wing aircraft currently assigned to Coast Guard Air Station San Diego.
California State Assembly Bill AB92 created the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority in 2001. The SDCRAA projects that SAN will be constrained due to congestion between 2015–2022. In June 2006, SDCRAA board members selected Marine Corps Air Station Miramar as its preferred site for a replacement airport, despite military objections. On November 7, 2006, San Diego County residents defeated an advisory relocation which included a joint use proposal measure.
Multiple studies have been conducted on where to place an airport dating back to 1923. The first study developed the site location plan for Lindbergh field. Private groups conducted eighteen studies, most in the early days by those who were opposed to Lindbergh being built instead of on land set aside at what is now Montgomery Field. One was a revisiting of a study done in the 1980s by the City in 1994 when NAS Miramar closed as a naval air station and was then immediately transferred to the Marine Corps as a Marine Corps air station, MCAS Miramar. Another was by the City of San Diego in 1984 and another that started in 1996 and sat dormant with SANDAG until the Airport Authority was formed. This study is the first study ever done to look for a new site by an agency that actually had jurisdiction over the issue, and the first non-site specific comprehensive study of the entire region.
Lindbergh has three terminals:
Terminal 1 is composed of two parts: East and West, and has 19 gates, numbered 1–19. Terminal 2 is composed of two parts: East and West, and has 32 gates, numbered 20–51.
All international arrivals at Lindbergh are handled in Terminal 2. The Commuter Terminal has 4 gates, numbered 1–4. All San Diego Airport flights that fly to or from Los Angeles operate out of the commuter terminal.