By Bob Alvis, special to Aerotech News
The year was 1946 and two brothers-in-law found themselves at a crossroads.
Both war time instructors from War Eagle Field/Polaris Flight Academy here in Lancaster, it was going to be hard for them to walk away from the Valley where they had flown over hundreds of times, as they instructed young men to fly for the United States Army Air Corps.
Lloyd Pike and F.A. Hoak made numerous flights over the Valley, and, in a location known as Earls Station, they spotted the area that would become a landmark for many years in the Antelope Valley.
With a southwest wind and a hill to the south, a field covered with weeds most of the year and poppies in the spring time, became the focus of their attention. They wanted to open an airport and this was the spot they wanted to make it happen.
After being approved by the Regional Planning Commission of Los Angeles County, the airport opened to the public. On March 10, 1946, people came from all over the Valley to take opening day scenic passenger flights and join in the celebration of the newly opened airport.
One thing before it opened that was required by the FAA was that the airport needed a name, and a representative stopped by asking for an official name. Earls Station or P&H Flying Service just didn’t work for various reasons and the FAA representative asked them if the big hill that bordered their property had a name. Why that’s called Quartz Hill, so named for its high content of Quartz mineral rocks that spread across it. Within weeks the name Quartz Hill Airport was on aeronautical maps nationally and worldwide!
Today the area and town known as Quartz Hill owes its identity to the airport, for it wasn’t long before the community officials from Earls Station asked if they could use the name Quartz Hill for the whole neighborhood and, as the airport comprised 80 acres, it also helped established the community!
Pike and Hoak never expected the airport to be public or grow so big but once it was opened their friends kept asking for flying lessons. Lloyd said that the reason the airport flourished was because professionals in the field of construction wanted to work in exchange for flight time. The first building to be built was the flight office, the second was the restrooms and last, the hanger and the gas island.
Laura Pike, Lloyds wife ran the flight office as she stated she preferred the ground even though she did learn to fly! It’s amazing to think that over the years that Pike and Hoak ran the airport, they turned out in the neighborhood of 400 to 500 pilots — both men and women.
One of those students would become responsible for the documentation of a growing Antelope Valley and when the late Frank Stubbings of Stubbings Studio took his first flying lesson from Lloyd in 1951 it was the start of his collection of more than 20,000 aerial photos of the Antelope Valley. Once Frank got his license and his own plane he would go up alone with a camera on a stick between his legs and photograph everything in sight. He figured that sometimes he would make 25 or 30 landings a day!
Pike and his wife, along with Hoak, owned and operated the airport from 1946 until 1964 when they leased the airport to Elsworth Ritter. Later, Will Banks operated the airport, and, in 1968, Norm Sonberg and Mike Hinn took over operations.
In 1968, a friend of mine named Doc Burch bought the airport. Also a country and western performer, he owned and operated it for 20 years. Those years and that history I will share in the next issue, for his time at Quartz Hill Airport is a story all in its self!
To be continued, but for now, Bob out …