The Tustin Blimp Base

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Pacific Historian
Jun 4, 2005
Orange County, CA
Here in sunny Southern California, (Orange County to be exact) is a unique part of our countries aviation heritage.

Way back in the 1930's, blimps were still used by the USN for coastal and ASW patrols. Some time in that decade, congress allocated funds to build a west coast blimp base.

The location chosen is in todays city of Tustin, just a couple miles north of John Wayne Airport. Back in the 30's, the busy OC/John Wayne airport was a simple rural dirt runway airfield. It is also located a mile or so away from the El Toro Marine Corps Airbase.

In the 1950's, this base was converted to a helicopter airfield. In the 1990's, it was decommisioned in the first phase of base realignments and closures. The El Toro airbase closed several years later.

Whats striking about this airbase is the blimp hangers. "Leviathan", "Gigantic" and "Massive" are words to describe them. The hangers, built in 1942, at a cost of $2.5 million each, are 1,088 feet long, 178 feet high and 297 feet wide. Even the excellent Tustin Brewery down the road has named one of the their beers after them, "Blimp Hanger Porter".

Heres a couple of web sites for more info:

The first set of pix I took this weekend, are from the east side of the closed base. To give you some sort of scale, the first pix was taken under normal zoom, and I'm almost 1/2 mile away


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After the first set of pix were taken, I went to the west side of the base for a better view.

The south side is inaccessible for pictures due to a highway. The north side has most of the bases buildings (and tree's), so the hangers are mostly blocked from view.

Notice in the 4th and 5th picture, a crane is being used, and compare its size to the hanger doors. I am .7 miles away from that hanger, and it still dwarfs everything.

These hangers are on the US register of Historic Places. I keep hearing about one of the hangers is to be kept and preserved, but the jury is still out on whether that will happen. Time has taken its toll on them and it could cost millions to restore it and bring it to current seismic codes.

The very final picture I included, mostly as a way of showing the past of Orange County. This is a rail line that crosses along the east side of the former base. Up untill the early 1950's, Orange County was agricultural, and the area near this base, is what gave our county, its name. Lots and lots of orange groves. These rail spurs in the pix once went to a couple of the numerous citrus packing houses around here. Long disused, probably not seeing any rail traffic for 35-40 years. None the less, just imagine if you will, going back 60 years, on your left is the blimp base with its airsips coming and going. In front, imagine the tracks being jam packed with railcars loading up the fruit to be sent to the country and to the service men overseas.


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Great post Syscom! I remember when the Marines were there and would fly helicopters in and out of those hangars!
I heard that under some circumstances, clouds could form in the hangers and drop some rain.

I could just imagine back when blimps occupied the hangers, and a "santa ana" wind would be blowing. No flying for them that day.

I bet it was also a bitch for the helo's to fly in those winds. It would also be so dry, I can imagine the crew chiefs would fret when it was refueling time..... stray elctrostatic discharge cause a spark!
Crane...? It looks more likea cherry picker to me though. Really nice pics though, ive always had a blimp fascination...hopefully they wont level all of them.
They must be very fat contractors CC its got at least eight wheels
and a box girder gib.


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