Early History: According to early airport owner William Emmett ("Bill") Barnes, son of the famous Pancho Barnes, the original Rosamond Airport already existed at its current location in 1947. At that time there were numerous primitive airstrips in the vicinity, including a possibly slightly more formal one just northwest that was called "Rosamond-White Oak". Our airport apparently had more than one owner during these earliest years, but at some point in the early 1950's it was purchased by Bill Barnes and after a few years he filed for & on December 26, 1956 received an official State Permit for the airport. It received the designation Ker-26 to distinguish it from the nearby Rosamond-White Oak airport.
In June of 1967 Bill Barnes notified CalTrans that the airport's new owner was Carel Abresch, whose company, BVS Development, was to eventually develop the Skypark, although there is no indication any such concept was in mind at the time of purchase.
Presumably, there were multiple financial partners in this purchase, as according to Bill Aronson it was he, with "Doc" Patton and Sam Ramsey as partners, who purchased the airport. Bill was the actual operator of the airport.
At that time, Runway 07-25 was a 2,600 foot long dirt strip. The airport also had a 1,800 foot diagonal dirt strip (04-22), a house, and two old wood-frame military buildings that were used as utility buildings & movie props. During 1967 Aronson paved the runway and 1,500 feet of taxiway with desert mix at a cost of $7,200. He also added runway lights and built a hangar on what is now Lot 11 for $2.40 per square foot including cement, electrical, and lounge. The picture above shows how our airport appeared in this time period.
According to CalTrans records, the airport ownership formally changed again on May 29, 1969, with the new owner of record being Ted Aronson, father of Bill Aronson.
Long-time CalTrans Aviation Division employee Duane Ferguson made the first recorded official inspection of the airport on September 28, 1978. Reportedly, some photographs he took were sent to someone at the Skypark, but their disposition is unknown. However, it has been noted that his aerial photos show that the trailer park and the adjoining group of homes on its west side were then the only developed housing for miles around.
The Aronson Aviation Period: Bill ran the Fixed Base Operation, Aronson Aviation (click for brochure), from 1967 to 1994. He provided fuel, maintenance and repair, airplane and glider flight instruction, and glider towing, with an avionics repair shop operation being run by his partner Sam Ramsey. At its peak, Aronson Aviation operated 14 gliders, 9 rental airplanes, and 3 towplanes. In 20 years he gave over 10,000 glider rides. From 1970 to 1986, Aronson Aviation offered an annual two-week glider course for Explorer Scouts that took them up to the point of solo flight. Over the years Bill received numerous letters of gratitude from participating Scouts who had gone on to successful careers with airlines and the military. (For more on Bill, click here)
Some noteworthy names that trained or learned to fly at Rosamond are: Governor Pat Brown, Barron Hilton, Billy Jack, Christopher Reeves, Linda Ronstadt, and Burt Rutan. Werner von Braun flew here often.
Paul Bikle, famous sailplane pilot, member of the Soaring Hall of Fame and an early Director of NASA, did a lot of soaring here, and according to tow pilot Dale Street was the "weatherman" for the sailplane group. Often eight or ten gliders would line up for launch "waiting for Paul to go". When Paul launched, others would follow...but frequently only to return as the uber-expert Paul found lift and flew on his way.
Numerous celebrities & celebrity pilots were in and out of Rosamond over the years both for flying and for movie shoots, including Jimmy Doolittle, Chuck Yeager, (Gov.) Jerry Brown, Chuck Connors, Paul Williams and many more. Dale Street recalls sitting on the "observation bench" which fronted the runway and at various times chatting with Bernie Lay (author of "Twelve o'clock High"), rocket expert Werner von Braun, and theoretical physicist Edward Teller, often referred to as "father of the hydrogen bomb".
Bill and his family lived in an old house on the airport, in the back of which was a large area of green cool grass with a few picnic tables. On weekends the days ended with beer and BBQs, tales of glider flights, good thermals, laughter and jokes. Pilots would camp out in trailers, campers, tents or sleep in their portable hangar under the stars, ready to resume flying the next day.
As an interesting aside, old-timers report that until the 1930s a creek used to flow much of the year down the route of 40th Street West, which before the Skypark was developed was a dirt track that continued northward across the east end of the old runway. An abrupt 3 or 4 foot drop from the runway end to the level of 40th Street made 'landing short' a very bad idea. On the other hand, the area east of the airport, now virtually all developed with housing, was at that time nothing but vacant land and alfalfa fields.
In the late 1970s during the golden heyday of General Aviation, Rosamond almost became the manufacturing site for designer John Thorp's two-place low-wing "Sky Skooter" and its twin-engine derivative the "Wing Derringer," . It is reported that a couple of other aviation businesses seriously discussed moving onto the airport around this time period, but in the end nothing ever came of any of these.
Although the Skypark's current developed state has made it less suitable for film-making, over the years a lot of scenes for movies and commercials have been filmed at Rosamond. Titles include Sky Trap, Iron Eagle, Thrill Seekers, Celebrity Daredevils, The Flyer for the Smithsonian, and movies for Make-a-Wish Foundation. The last significant filming event involved an effects scene for the 2001 Paramount feature "Rat Race", with only minor projects like sound effects recording being hosted in recent years.
NASA conducted a test here for the FAA to determine if pilots could fly safely with one eye. The pilots were first taught to fly a glider. After about five hours, they made precision takeoffs and landings with one eye covered. Test result: pilots performed as well with one eye as with two eyes.
The Skypark Era: According to Bill Aronson, the idea of a Skypark was his. He formed AMT Development (Aronson, Martin, Tennant) on September 16, 1980 to move his idea along.
When the Skypark development was initiated, Runway 07-25 was still only 2,600 feet long, with its east end stopping at the dirt road that was 40th Street. Further east of 40th Street, the area that is now the eastern 1,000 feet of our runway and encompassing Skypark Lots 1 through 9 & the "East Annex" was all part of one parcel of land owned by Ruel G. Williams. An agreement was reached transferring what is now our runway's eastern end and Lots 1 through 9 to the Skypark developers, in return for which Williams acquired an easement for airport access that allowed him to create the East Annex. He sub-divided the "East Annex" into 16 lots. The easement agreement, filed on April 28, 1981, established a 75-foot wide taxiway through the annex, becoming an extension of the Skypark main taxiway. This arrangement (commonly referred to as "through the fence" access in skypark lingo) offers airport access but confers no participation in airport management and decisions. To maintain airport access, their easement agreement states that each lot owner in the annex is "obligated to pay the Association a monthly fee not to exceed fifty percent of the monthly airport tie down fee from time to time in effect."
In July of 1981 a tentative tract map for "Tract 4558" incorporating the consolidated property described above was prepared and filed. On November 13, 1984 a "Precise Development Plan" (PDP) based on this tentative tract submittal was approved by Kern County. The detailed final Tract 4558 map was approved by Kern County in March of 1985, and in August of 1985 an additional PDP was approved for a restaurant and "lodge" on Lot 10. This was followed in October by a PDP for development of Lot 11 (the FBO area).
At about this point, Bill Aronson and his partners sold the ready-to-go development project to Bear Valley Springs (BVS) Development Corp., headed by Carel F. Abresch, for further development. The arrangement was that the FBO would continue to be operated by Bill, and Bill would actively promote & participate in the project. Much of the proceeds of the sale were in the form of trust deeds on the property. Ominously for Aronson & company, it proved necessary to subordinate these trust deeds so that BVS could secure a $2.6 million construction loan to get the project underway.
A governing homeowner's association, named "The Rosamond Skypark Association", was incorporated on March 8, 1985 by Carel Abresch. The original Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions were made on March 8, 1985 by BVS Development, Inc. and refiled on September 16, 1985. The CC&Rs among other things mandated that all construction was to be approved by an Architectural Committee, and established a scale for Association dues ($45.42 initially, now $54 per month for residential lots.)
At about this time, BVS Development (Abresch) brought in Los Angeles-based Woodland American Homes, headed by Victor Lundin, as a joint venture partner in the development.
Sales were initiated with mailings to Southern California pilots. CLICK HERE to view a copy of the original sales brochure featuring seven floor plans of various sizes.
On July 31, 1986, Lot 10 was split into two parcels per parcel Map 7985 with corresponding modification of the Skypark PDP. Parcel 1 was designated as a site for a motel or "lodge". A French restaurant, initially named The Cloudchaser, was built on Parcel 2. During its period of operation the Cloudchaser was by far and away the most "upscale" eatery in the Rosamond area, with Continental cuisine, a grand piano and on some evenings a harpist in evening gown.
There were a number of early "kickoff" sales of homes and by the end of 1986 nearly a dozen homes were occupied with a few more under construction. For a short home video of the Skypark in mid-1987, CLICK HERE (YouTube video).
The final years of the 1980s were cruel ones for real estate throughout California, and the Skypark project was hit particularly hard. Slow sales led to a critical cash crunch for the developers and only increasingly frantic rounds of refinancing kept things afloat. Significant planned & promised improvements were deferred, much to the displeasure of the early purchaser/residents, who filed a lawsuit against the developers and eventually secured a $200,000 judgment that did result in completion of several important improvements, including pavement work and the "undergrounding" of power lines that obstructed the final approach path..
Finally, though, the plug was pulled. All sales activity ceased and the Cloudchaser closed its doors. The developer's remaining assets passed to the underwriting bank just in time for the bank itself to go under, and the government's Resolution Trust Corporation became owner of all unsold lots, representing more than half the properties in the project. This effectively placed the unsold lots in legal deep-freeze for over four years and put an end to any possibility of collecting Homeowners Association dues owed on the vacant lots.
Loss of the assessments due on the vacant lots meant a difficult period for the approximately 21 owner/residents of the Skypark. However, by avoiding unnecessary expenses and borrowing from themselves when capital expenditures were necessary they not only survived but made modest progress in improving the Skypark, in particular a $14,000 "cyclone" security fence around the perimeter of the project and across all vacant unimproved lots.. In 1989 the former Cloudchaser restaurant was purchased by Larry Barton & Janice (Majors) Barton. Reopened with a Mexican & American menu as the Golden Cantina, it quickly became a popular gathering spot for Edwards AFB and Rosamond residents and for visitors to Willow Springs Raceway.
In February 1995 Village Investments bought the remaining package of properties from the Resolution Trust Corporation, and lot sales resumed at a slow but steady pace. For the Skypark Association, this marked the return of full income at last, and capital improvements could again be considered.
In 1997 the "FBO" property was purchased by the Landsgaard family corporation, Aero Sports Skypark Corp. A self-serve fuel system was installed and for a period of time extending into the early 2000's flight instruction was offered by a tenant operating as "A V Aviation" out of a trailer on the property.
Also in 1997 most of Taxiway B ("Back Taxiway") was repaved with asphalt over the desert mix and an electric gate was installed at the end of Knox Avenue on the east side of Taxiway C ("Cross Taxiway").
During 1997-1998, an ambitious plan to update the CC&Rs was initiated and several individually popular changes were incorporated into a composite package. The unforeseen result of this all-or-nothing approach was failure to obtain the necessary supermajority. A greatly simplified rewrite limited to a purge of obsolete language was then produced and the resulting document approved by the Membership in September of 1998, which when recorded replaced the original CC&Rs. Minor amendments were made in 2003 and 2008.
June of 1999 saw a complete re-topping of the main runway, Taxiway A (main taxiway), and adjoining ramp areas. Also during 1999 major landscaping improvements were made in the "Park" lot.
During 2000 the aircraft ramp at the Cantina was expanded, along with the run-up pads at the runway ends. Four new homes were completed. A new steel gate was installed on the west cul-de-sac of Knox Avenue.
Deferred from 2001, a complete reseal of the cross and back taxiways in mid-2002 brought the Skypark's entire pavement inventory up to "grade A" condition.
In early 2006 our original and often troublesome low-intensity runway lighting system was finally replaced with an upgraded "medium intensity" system featuring standardized spacing and added taxiway lighting. In October of '06 the runway & taxiways were completely re-striped.
In 2009 all pavement surfaces were again seal-coated and re-striped at a cost of $111,780 and runway 07-25 was re-designated 08-26 to acknowledge decades of drifting magnetic declination.
Starting in 2010, actual progress commenced on a long-discussed plan to erect a utility building on the Association's essentially unused "park", Lot 26. A vote of the membership was taken in September 2010, with over 80% of those who cared to vote supporting the proposal and approving a "not to exceed" project budget that would retain "approximately $100,000" in the Reserve Account. With this approval in hand, serious discussion commenced and, after months of back & forth involving many iterations of plan, in March of 2012 engineering plans for a 40X70X12 steel building were sent to Kern County for approval. With construction managed by then-President Randy Whitson as general contractor, the building received final inspection signoff in January of 2013, just in time for the 2013 General Membership meeting to be our first held in the building. Final cost was $122,560, leaving $158,591 in the Reserve Account.
During 2014 the Bartons, owners of the Golden Cantina and the adjacent vacant commercial lot, sold the vacant "Lot 10 Parcel 1" commercial property to the Landsgaard family corporation who also own the adjacent FBO "Lot 11". While initially retaining ownership of the building and the "Lot 10 Parcel 2" property, they also sold the Golden Cantina restaurant business to the Delatorre family, who now operate it as "El Indio" with expanded operating hours to include lunch service. In 2015 the Bartons sold the Parcel 2 lot to LMD Property LLC, a Los Angeles-based property investment group, with the Delatorre family still operating the restaurant.
Continuing Residential Build-Out: By 2007, 50+ homes were either occupied or into construction the prospect of full build-out of the original Skypark project appeared to be a near-term probability rather than a far-away dream. Unfortunately, yet another real estate bubble deflated and the 2007-2009 years saw little building progress and the placing of several lots on the resale market. More recently, the gradually improving economy has been paced by a few lot resales & new starts, and as we go into 2016 only 7 of the project's 60 residential lots remain "unbuilt".
In any case, a full build-out of the project would not necessarily mean an end of the Skypark's development. Of (potentially) great future significance was the 2005 purchase of the vacant 40 acres immediately west of the Skypark by the owner of Village Investments, who has expressed strong interest in developing airport-access homes on at least a portion of his purchase. This use of this 'west end' property was envisioned as "Phase II" of the Skypark project back in 1984 by our original developers, who held an option on the property, wrote provision for its incorporation into our CC&Rs and positioned the west end terminus of the runway accordingly.
Much has changed in California aviation in recent decades with literally hundreds of local airports being bulldozed away by developers, and today the Skypark is one of only a few privately-owned, public-use airports still open in Southern California. Fortunately, the Rosamond Skypark is positioned to remain an asset for our area and to California aviation for many, many years to come.
Last revisions/updates: 01/2016