Chico Municipal Airport is a public airport located 6 km north of the central business district of Chico, a city in Butte County, California. The airport covers 1,475 acres and has two runways, the main of 6,722 feet long, a secondary one with 3,000 feet long and one helipad.

It was established in 1935 when the City of Chico acquired approximately 160 acres of land 8 km north of what was then the City limits and constructed an airport hangar and runway. Until 1941, this original facility was leased to a fixed-base operator. During 1941 the City acquired an additional 1,000 acres for the purpose of leasing the Airport to the United States Government to establish there an Army Air Forces Basic Training Air Field. Named as Chico Army Airfield the new base become a major training site for thousands of pilots, both as a primary training base flying BT-13s planes, and for advanced gunnery and multi-engine training using P-38, P-39, P-63, B-17, B-29s planes.

After the war, the local authorities negotiated an agreement by which the airport property was returned to the City, together with the bulk of improvements which had been constructed by the Army.

Balloons arrive

In September 1961, Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratory (AFCRL), an institution with headquarters in Bedford, Massachusetts which managed all the balloon projects for the Air Force, occupied a new, rented balloon-launching facility at the Chico Municipal Airport. The first balloon launched there on October 24 was quite a success, crossing the country from west to east and being terminated 51 hours later in the Atlantic Ocean, 200 miles east of Boston.

The operations took place mainly in the winter months, when the prevailing winds forced the balloons to follow eastward flight paths. Nevertheless, there are also records of some flights that stretched over the Pacific Ocean off the coast, especially when them transported experiments involving the ejection of heavy loads (testing of new types of parachutes, measurements of flight dynamics, etc.).

In October 1972, AFCRL launched from Chico a 47.8 million cubic foot, single-cell balloon. The balloon was manufactured by Winzen Research Inc. using extremely thin polyethilene film and was protected by a self-opening reefing sleeve. After a nominal ascent phase it managed to reach a height of 170.000 ft. establishing a new altitude record for an unmanned aerostat, that would endure unbeaten for 30 years until 2002.

The amount of flights started to decrease during the rest of the 70's and the first years of the next decade, until April 1st 1983, when the Air Force Geophysics Laboratory (new denomination of the former AFCRL) finished the agreement to rent the facilities and shutdown the launch station.

Table of balloons launched from Chico Municipal Airport

DateHourFlight DurationExperimentPayload landing place or cause of the failure
10/24/1961 51 h 10 mBALLOON TESTLost over the Atlantic Ocean in a point 200 miles E of Boston, US
3/??/1962 ---STARGAZER - TEST FLIGHTFailure during launch
3/4/1962 2 hSTARGAZER - TEST FLIGHTBalloon failure at 42.000 ft. Payload recovered in Sierra Nevada, California, US
3/12/19628:30 pst25 h 30 mSTARGAZER - TEST FLIGHT60 miles W of San Francisco, California, US
3/18/1962 ---STARGAZER - TEST FLIGHTBalloon failure at launch. Mission aborted
3/23/1962 2 hSTARGAZER - TEST FLIGHTBalloon failure at 65.000 ft. Payload recovered 14 miles NE of Riverton, California, US
4/26/196213:28 utc10 dSUPERPRESSURE BALLOON TESTOver southern Utah, US
4/1/1963 15 hOZONE MEASUREMENTS--- No Data ---
4/27/1963 34 hBALLOON LOAD TEST--- No Data ---
5/19/1963 667 hSUPERPRESSURE BALLOON TEST500 miles S of Kamtchatka Peninsula, URSS
7/31/1963 33 hTEMPERATURE MEASUREMENTS--- No Data ---
10/1/1963 29 hEVALUATING OF ONE-WAY VALVING DUCT--- No Data ---
10/5/1963 79 hEVALUATING OF ONE-WAY VALVING DUCT--- No Data ---
11/16/1963 25 hQUALITY EVALUATION - INCREASED PAYLOAD--- No Data ---
11/16/1963 30 hQUALITY EVALUATION--- No Data ---
2/12/1964 25 hBALLOON EVALUATION TEST--- No Data ---
2/21/1964 97 hTEST OF NEW FLIGHT INSTRUMENTATION--- No Data ---
3/4/1964 5 hBALLOON EVALUATION AND 'C' LAUNCH TEST--- No Data ---
3/10/1964 6 hBALLOON EVALUATION AND 'C' LAUNCH TEST--- No Data ---
3/13/1964 3 hBALLOON EVALUATION AND 'C' LAUNCH TEST--- No Data ---
3/16/1964 5 hBALLOON EVALUATION AND 'C' LAUNCH TEST--- No Data ---
4/17/1964 9 hALBEDO MEASUREMENTS--- No Data ---
4/21/1964 32 hEVALUATING OF ONE-WAY VALVING DUCT--- No Data ---
5/21/1964 33 hTEMPERATURE MEASUREMENTS--- No Data ---
5/25/1964 52 hTEMPERATURE MEASUREMENTS--- No Data ---
6/3/1964 90 hMINIATURE COMMAND SELECTOR TEST--- No Data ---
7/27/1964 1 hBALLOON TEST--- No Data ---
7/31/1964 5 hBALLOON TEST--- No Data ---
9/10/1964 10 hBALLOON EVALUATION--- No Data ---
9/23/1964 100 hAIR BAFFLE DUCT EVALUATION--- No Data ---
9/25/1964 10 hTEST OF VOR BALLOON LOCATING SYSTEM--- No Data ---
11/23/1964 53 hBALLOON EVALUATION--- No Data ---
12/5/1964 14 hTHIN FILM BALLOON EVALUATION--- No Data ---
1/8/1965 7 hALPHA-RADIATION HYGROMETER--- No Data ---
1/10/1965 9 hALPHA-RADIATION HYGROMETER--- No Data ---
2/17/1965 26 hBALLOON TESTNear Logandale, Nevada, US
2/24/1965 7 hALPHA-RADIATION HYGROMETER--- No Data ---
3/4/1965 6 hTEST OF VOR BALLOON LOCATING SYSTEM--- No Data ---
3/8/1965 3 hTEST OF VOR BALLOON LOCATING SYSTEM--- No Data ---
3/23/1965 ---ALPHA-RADIATION HYGROMETER--- No Data ---
3/24/1965 7 hTEST OF VOR BALLOON LOCATING SYSTEM--- No Data ---
3/28/1965 ---ALPHA-RADIATION HYGROMETER - HORIZONTAL FLIGHT TESTBalloon burst at 34.000 ft
4/22/19655:31 pst8 hALPHA-RADIATION HYGROMETER--- No Data ---
4/23/1965 7 hALPHA-RADIATION HYGROMETER--- No Data ---
5/8/1965 ---'C' LAUNCH TEST--- No Data ---
5/9/1965 4 hBALLOON EVALUATION AND 'C' LAUNCH TEST--- No Data ---
5/22/1965 7 hALPHA-RADIATION HYGROMETER--- No Data ---
6/22/1965 6 hALPHA-RADIATION HYGROMETER--- No Data ---
6/25/1965 6 hALPHA-RADIATION HYGROMETER--- No Data ---
7/20/1965 6 hALPHA-RADIATION HYGROMETER--- No Data ---
7/22/1965 6 hALPHA-RADIATION HYGROMETER--- No Data ---
8/2/1965 76 hTEST OF SL-1883 BALLOON FILM--- No Data ---
9/2/1965 14 hALPHA-RADIATION HYGROMETER--- No Data ---
9/20/1965 4 hSVT DESIGN EVALUATION--- No Data ---
9/21/1965 6 hALPHA-RADIATION HYGROMETER--- No Data ---
9/23/1965 7 hALPHA-RADIATION HYGROMETER--- No Data ---
9/24/1965 4 hSTRATOSPHERIC TRANSMISSION MEASUREMENTS--- No Data ---
9/30/1965 4 hSTRATOSPHERIC TRANSMISSION MEASUREMENTS--- No Data ---
10/25/1965 ---ALPHA-RADIATION HYGROMETER--- No Data ---
10/27/1965 6 h 30 mALPHA-RADIATION HYGROMETER--- No Data ---
10/30/1965 59 h 20 mALPHA-RADIATION HYGROMETER--- No Data ---
11/3/1965 30 hENCODER TEST--- No Data ---
11/10/1965 5 hENCODER TEST--- No Data ---
1/25/1966 9 hALPHA-RADIATION HYGROMETER--- No Data ---
1/27/1966 12 h 25 mALPHA-RADIATION HYGROMETER--- No Data ---
2/27/1966 ---ALPHA-RADIATION HYGROMETER--- No Data ---
3/11/1966 30 hVOR BALLOON LOCATING SYSTEM TEST--- No Data ---
3/12/1966 1 h 10 mHYPSOMETER CONTROLLED BALLAST SYSTEM TESTFailure of the balloon at 44.000 ft.
3/16/1966 48 hHYPSOMETER CONTROLLED BALLAST SYSTEM TEST--- No Data ---
4/25/1966 ---ALPHA-RADIATION HYGROMETER--- No Data ---
4/27/1966 ---ALPHA-RADIATION HYGROMETER--- No Data ---
6/13/1966 36 hMINIMUM WIND INVESTIGATION--- No Data ---
6/17/1966 1 hMINIMUM WIND INVESTIGATIONBalloon failure
6/22/1966 2 h 10 mMINIMUM WIND INVESTIGATIONBalloon burst at 54.750 ft
6/24/1966 30 hMINIMUM WIND INVESTIGATION--- No Data ---
6/28/1966 1 h 45 mMINIMUM WIND INVESTIGATIONBalloon burst at 47.000 ft
7/23/1966 4 h 25 mSUPERPRESSURE BALLOON TESTBalloon leaker
7/29/1966 106 hSUPERPRESSURE BALLOON TEST--- No Data ---
8/15/1966 28 hBALLOON CONTROL TEST--- No Data ---
8/17/1966 6 h 25 mSTUDY OF CAUSES OF BALLOON BURSTS AT TROPOPAUSE--- No Data ---
8/22/1966 30 h 20 mBALLOON CONTROL TEST--- No Data ---
10/5/1966 6 h 30 mEVALUATION OF DACRON REINFORCED POLYETHILENE--- No Data ---
10/7/1966 27 hTEST OF VOR BALLOON LOCATION SYSTEM AND HF ANTENNA--- No Data ---
10/12/1966 30 hTEST OF VOR BALLOON LOCATION SYSTEM AND HF ANTENNA--- No Data ---
10/18/1966 23 hTEST OF VOYAGER DATA LINK SYSTEM AND VOR BALLOON LOCATION SYSTEM--- No Data ---
10/19/1966 9 hX RAY MEASUREMENTS--- No Data ---
12/14/1966 5 h 40 mBALLOON TEST--- No Data ---
1/10/1967 3 h 15 mTUFTS LAUNCH PLATFORM TEST--- No Data ---
2/12/1967 5 h 30 mHAPPE (High Altitude Particle Physics Experiment)--- No Data ---
4/26/196713:58 utc---HUMIDITY DISTRIBUTION STUDY--- No Data ---
4/29/19677:5110 hX-RAY STUDIES--- No Data ---
8/7/196714:04 utc---INFRARED SOLAR MEASUREMENTS--- No Data ---
10/21/1969 9 h 20 mPAYLOAD UNKNOWN--- No Data ---
10/23/1969 5 h 20 mPAYLOAD UNKNOWN--- No Data ---
1/29/1970 ---PAYLOAD UNKNOWN--- No Data ---
4/6/1970 ---PAYLOAD UNKNOWN--- No Data ---
12/10/1970 ---E-BALLOON - TEST EVALUATION--- No Data ---
2/7/1972 5 hUHF RELAY TEST--- No Data ---
3/7/1972 4 hINSTRUMENTATION TEST--- No Data ---
3/14/1972 9 hUHF REPEATER TEST--- No Data ---
5/9/1972 30 hD-LAYER WHISPERING GALLERY EXPERIMENT--- No Data ---
5/12/1972 14 hATMOSPHERIC FREQUENCY PROPAGATION--- No Data ---
6/27/1972 6 hTRANSPONDER TEST--- No Data ---
7/12/1972 2 hTRANSPONDER TEST--- No Data ---
10/26/1972 4 h 10 mPAYLOAD UNKNOWN--- No Data ---
6/5/19756:40 pdt---CRYOGENIC WHOLE AIR SAMPLER--- No Data ---
6/26/19757:15 pdt---CRYOGENIC WHOLE AIR SAMPLER--- No Data ---
10/8/1977 ---CRYOGENIC SAMPLER--- No Data ---
10/17/1977 ---CRYOGENIC SAMPLER--- No Data ---
4/30/198211:30 utc---BAMM II (Balloon Altitude Mosaic Measurements)--- No Data ---