Fresno Yosemite International Airport
USGS aerial image, 1998
|Airport type||Public / Military|
|Owner||City of Fresno|
|Operator||City of Fresno Airports Division|
|Elevation AMSL||336 ft / 102 m|
Fresno Yosemite International Airport (IATA: FAT, ICAO: KFAT, FAA LID: FAT), is a joint civil-military airport in Fresno, California. It is the primary commercial airport for the San Joaquin Valley and three national parks: Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon. It offers scheduled passenger flights to several major airline hubs in the United States and international service to Mexico. The facility opened in June 1942 as Hammer Field, a military airfield. The airport is owned and operated by the city of Fresno and has two runways on a property spanning 1,728 acres (699 ha). Its airport code 'FAT' stands for "Fresno Air Terminal," a former name for the airport.
Due to its central location within the state, the airport is home to several military, law enforcement, firefighting, and medical air units. The Fresno Air National Guard Base on the southeast corner of the airport is home to the 144th Fighter Wing of the California Air National Guard. The Fresno Air Attack Base on the eastern side of the airport supports aerial firefighting aircraft. Other government and military operators with facilities at the airport include the California Army National Guard, the California Highway Patrol, the Fresno County Sheriff's Office, and the Fresno Police Department.
The Fresno Yosemite International Airport opened as a military airfield in June 1942, just six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, leading the United States to enter World War II. The new airfield was named Hammer Field and was used by the United States Army Air Forces as a training facility for the new pilots of the Fourth Air Force. It had a single northwest/southeast oriented runway with a length of 7,200 feet (now runway 11L/29R).
Night fighter training, using Northrop P-61s, was moved to Hammer Field in January 1944, initially with the 481st Night Fighter Operational Training Group, replaced by the 319th Wing in May 1944. Training for the Bell P-59 Airacomet was added to the 319th mission in 1944, as well, confirmed Col. Ralph H. Snavely, commanding officer of the 319th Wing.
At the time, civil and commercial aviation used Chandler Field that had opened in November 1929. Chandler is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) west of downtown Fresno, on a small site. Less than a decade after it opened, it was clear that the small runway at Chandler would not be able to accommodate coming larger airliners.
After World War II, Hammer Field was inactivated by the Army Air Forces and the city of Fresno saw an opportunity to use the site to create a commercial airport much larger than Chandler Field. In 1946 the War Assets Administration reallocated the property to the city, which immediately began construction on a passenger terminal on the northeast side of the airfield. In 1948, the newly renamed Fresno Air Terminal (FAT) opened. Trans World Airlines (TWA) and United Airlines flights to San Francisco/Oakland and Los Angeles moved from Chandler Field to the newly opened airport. Chandler Field was retained by the city of Fresno as a reliever airport and continues to operate as the Fresno Chandler Executive Airport.
Strategic Air Command facilities for Convair B-36 operations were initially proposed for Hammer Air Force Base, but objections from the City of Fresno led them to be changed to Travis Air Force Base instead. The Fresno upgrade was projected to cost $22,303,000.
The California Air National Guard moved to the airport in the 1950s and established the Fresno Air National Guard Base on the southeast corner of the property. The guard also built munition storage bunkers along the northern edge of the airport grounds. The 194th Fighter Squadron moved to the facility in late 1954, followed by the 144th Fighter Wing in 1957. As the guard moved in, a second parallel runway (11R/29L) was constructed and opened to traffic in 1956.
A new, larger passenger terminal started to come together in 1959 on the south side of the field. The main building has a baggage claim area, the central lobby, and the ticketing area. Although renovated, that building stands today and has the same functions. From the central lobby, passengers used an underground tunnel to reach the open-air, remote concourse where they boarded planes from ground level.
The current air traffic control tower was built around the same time as the terminal and opened shortly after in 1961.
Pacific Air Lines was first to schedule jets to Fresno, Boeing 727-100s) in 1966. United was the dominant carrier at the airport in the mid-1970s, operating daily DC-8s to Denver and jets to San Francisco and Los Angeles. Hughes Airwest and PSA jets also served the airport.
The first significant expansion to the passenger terminal came in 1978 when a concourse was built straight out from the central lobby. This building, unlike the original remote concourse, was enclosed and climate controlled.
The airport saw significant down-gauging following airline deregulation. By 1983 United had ended intrastate flights from Fresno, and the airport mainly saw turboprops of smaller carriers. Delta operated mainline jets to Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Reno in the mid 1990s, but in 1999, the only mainline jets at Fresno were American flights to Dallas/Fort Worth.
Fresno has been the headquarters for at least three airlines. In the mid-1980s, Far West Airlines was founded in Fresno and used the airport as a small intrastate hub serving Burbank, Los Angeles, Modesto, Oakland, Orange County, Sacramento and San Jose. Air 21 was founded in Fresno in January 1994 and operated service between several western cities before ceasing operations in January 1997. Allegiant Air was founded in Fresno in January 1997, and its headquarters were located in the city until it declared bankruptcy in 2000, and the new CEO moved its headquarters to a suburb of Las Vegas.
In 1996 the airport's name was changed from Fresno Air Terminal to Fresno Yosemite International Airport to attract out-of-state and international visitors to Yosemite National Park to the airport. Despite the new name, scheduled international commercial flights would not begin operating in Fresno for nearly a decade. At the time, airport managers petitioned the FAA for a new identifier code to replace FAT, which carries a negative connotation and no longer matched the initials of the airport. The request was denied, with the FAA reaffirming its long-standing policy to only issue a new identifier code when an airport is physically relocated (such as in 1995 when Denver Airport was moved out of Stapleton).
At the turn of the 21st century, the city began a series of projects that would expand and remodel the passenger terminal. The first and most notable project was the expansion of the concourse building. The project, designed by DMJM Aviation extended the terminal further northeast and created a new two-level section with six jetbridges. Before this project passengers boarded all planes using stairs or ramps. When completed in 2002, the new concourse building received praise for its design and was named one of the top 10 projects in Fresno Architecture for the decade with critics commending the use of steel and the curved glass facade.
A new Federal Inspection Services facility for international arrivals was completed in early 2006, giving federal officials space to check passports and complete customs work. Completion of that facility allowed Fresno to begin receiving scheduled international commercial flights. The first international service started in April 2006 with Mexicana operating flights between Fresno and Mexico City with an intermediate stop in Guadalajara.
With the new concourse extension and new international arrivals facility completed, older portions of the terminal building were given a major renovation. The project was designed CSHQA and completed in several phases between 2006 and 2010. While keeping the facility operational, nearly every part of the building was updated including the baggage claim area, security checkpoint, central lobby, ticketing area, and low-level concourse. The centerpiece of the project was the construction of a life-size, replica sequoia forest in central lobby, reflecting the airport's role as a gateway to the nearby national parks. The giant trees appear to be supporting the roof of the terminal and are surrounded by the split rail fencing and granite curbs that visitors see at national parks.
A consolidated rental car facility opened at the airport in 2009. The $22 million project allows customers of most rental car companies to pick up and drop-off vehicles just outside the terminal. The project also included the construction of maintenance buildings and storage lots on a nearby, 11-acre site.
Direct international service from Fresno briefly ended in August 2010 when Mexicana ceased operations. International service resumed, with more flights, less than a year later when both Aeroméxico and Volaris added service between Fresno and Guadalajara in April 2011.
The secondary runway (11R/29L) was widened, lengthened and strengthened in a $30 million project completed in October 2012.
Fresno Yosemite International Airport is currently working on a $115 million expansion project that will add new gates, expand terminal facilities and add a 900-space three-level parking garage. Planning for the project began in 2019 with construction expected to begin in early 2021.
The project will make several changes to the main terminal, including the addition of a new upper-level concourse with two new gates and jet bridges that can be used for both domestic and international flights, enlarging the screening area for arriving international passengers, expanding the luggage-handling and sorting area for outbound flights, increasing the number of Transportation Security Administration security checkpoint lanes.
Airport managers anticipate that the project will take about 20 months to build out and will open before the summer 2022 travel season. 
The majority of scheduled commercial flights to Fresno use smaller regional jet aircraft operated by regional airlines, and the airport is home to a significant operations base for SkyWest Airlines, the nation's largest regional airline. Fresno does still see mainline jet service on the busiest routes, and while only a few international flights operate to Mexico each day, they are some of the airport's most well patronized.
SkyWest carries between 50 and 60 percent of the passenger traffic at Fresno, with seasonal variability. The regional airline operates under contract with mainline partners as American Eagle, Alaska SkyWest, Delta Connection and United Express. SkyWest has a 17-acre maintenance and overnight parking facility on the east side of the airfield with 21 aircraft positions, and an approximately 92,000 square foot hangar. SkyWest also uses Fresno as a crew base for pilots and flight attendants.
Mainline air carrier service includes Allegiant Air service to Las Vegas operated with the Airbus A320, American Airlines service to Dallas/Fort Worth operated with the Boeing 737-800, United Airlines service to San Francisco with the Airbus A320 and seasonal service to Denver with the Airbus A319, and Frontier Airlines service to Denver with the Airbus A321.
International carriers also use mainline jets on their service to Mexico. Aeroméxico and Volaris both operate service between Fresno and Guadalajara, Mexico's second-largest city and a major airline hub in the country. Additionally, Volaris also operates service to Morelia, the capital of and largest city in Mexico's Michoacán state. Direct international service from Fresno began on April 1, 2006, and are now some of the busiest flights from the airport. As of 2016, international service on Aeroméxico and Volaris accounted for about 6% of all flights to Fresno, but carried more than 13% of all passengers flying to the airport, a combined total of almost 201,000 people.
The longest continuously operating carrier out of the Fresno Yosemite International Airport is United Airlines, which began serving the airport on its opening day. For about two decades, United did not operate directly operate service to Fresno, instead shifting service in the mid-1990s to SkyWest, which operates flights as United Express. United resumed mainline jet service on August 15, 2017, between Fresno and its hub in San Francisco, reflecting the increased traffic on the route. A little less than a year later, United launched seasonal, non-stop service to its hub at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on June 7, 2018 using Embraer 175 regional jets. The route is currently the longest operating from Fresno. Although mainline service to San Francisco was eventually shifted entirely back to SkyWest in late 2018, United's second absence from Fresno would turn out to be much shorter than its first. Because of the route's successful first summer, United announced that it would resume service to Chicago O'Hare on March 31, 2019 for the spring and summer seasons, as well as upguage the route to larger Airbus A319 "mainline" aircraft. These flights were later extended through fall and into December of 2019.
Fresno Yosemite International Airport covers 1,728 acres (699 ha) at an elevation of 336 ft (102 m) above mean sea level, with two paved asphalt runways: 11L/29R (primary) and 11R/29L (secondary). Runway 11L/29R is 9,539 by 150 ft (2,907 by 46 m) and runway 11R/29L is 8,008 by 150 ft (2,441 by 46 m).
For the year ending March 31, 2017, the airport had 99,559 aircraft operations, an average of 273 per day: 61% general aviation, 18% scheduled commercial, 15% air taxi and 6% military. At that time there were 179 aircraft based at the airport: 56% single-engine, 14% multi-engine, 13% military, 9% jet and 7% helicopter.
|Alaska Airlines||Portland (OR), San Diego, Seattle/Tacoma|||
|Allegiant Air||Las Vegas|||
|American Airlines||Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, PhoenixSky Harbor|||
|Delta Air Lines||Salt Lake City|||
|United Airlines|| Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco |
|Volaris||Guadalajara, León/El Bajío (begins October 28, 2019), Morelia|||
|Ameriflight||Burbank, Santa Maria, Ontario|||
|FedEx Express||Denver, Memphis, Oakland, Visalia|||
|UPS Airlines|| Ontario|
|1||Los Angeles, California||110,000||American, United|
|3||Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas||102,000||American|
|4||San Francisco, California||83,000||United|
|5||Denver, Colorado||71,000||Frontier, United|
|6||Las Vegas, Nevada||61,000||Allegiant|
|8||Salt Lake City, Utah||51,000||Delta|
|9||San Diego, California||48,000||Alaska|
|Year||Passengers||Change||Fresno Yosemite International Airport Passenger Totals 20022018 (in millions)|
The 144th Fighter Wing of the California Air National Guard is based out of the Fresno Yosemite International Airport. The California Army National Guard also maintains an Aviation Classification Repair Activity Depot (AVCRAD) at the airport. The depot performs high-level maintenance and repair of Army aircraft. Its jurisdiction covers a 15-state region in the Western United States.
Other government and military operators with facilities at the airport include the California Army National Guard, the California Highway Patrol, the Fresno County Sheriff's Office, and the Fresno Police Department.
The airport is located about a mile away from California State Route 180, with vehicles using Peach Avenue to connect between the airport and the highway. California State Route 180 connects to all of the other freeways in the Fresno area: California State Route 41, California State Route 99, and California State Route 168. Yosemite National Park can be accessed by California State Route 41 and Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park can be accessed by California State Route 180.
The city of Fresno offers paid on-site parking in a large lot located just west of the airport. The lot is divided into a short-term area with 283 stalls and a long-term area with 1,879 stalls. There is also a separate cell phone waiting lot located off the airport's main driveway with 47 stalls, designated for drivers waiting for arriving passengers.
Fresno Area Express (FAX) operates two public transit buses to the airport, each with half-hourly service. Route 26 Palm / Butler runs between the airport and North Fresno via Southeast and Downtown Fresno (where passengers may transfer to other FAX routes). Route 39 FYI/Clinton runs between the airport and West Fresno.
The City of Visalia operates the V-Line bus between the airport and the Visalia Transit Center (where passengers can connect to Visalia Transit routes) and the Visalia Airport (which offers V-Line passengers free long-term parking for up to ten days).
The airport offers a consolidated rental car facility at the north end of the terminal. Nine rental car companies have passenger service counters inside the terminal near the baggage claim area and up to 400 cars can be parked in a lot just north of the terminal building. The 11-acre rental car facility opened in 2009 and was built at a cost of US $22 million.
In 2016, Volaris and Aeromexico accounted for about 6 percent of all arriving and departing flights at Fresno Yosemite International airport, but their combined passenger totals of almost 201,000 represented more than 13 percent of all passengers flying to and from Fresno last year.
Media related to Fresno Yosemite International Airport at Wikimedia Commons