By Jim Meide
The first time I ever saw the Reid Hillview airport was around 1959. My father was stationed at Moffet Field at the time, in Squadron VF-124. The front line fighter they were using then was the Chance Vought F8U Crusader, the navy's first 1000 mph fighter.
Reid's Hillview Airport, circa 1958
We were living in Mountain View during this time. My mother also worked at Stanford Hospital. She usually had to work on Sunday. On those days my dad would sometimes pack my sister and myself into the car and we would visit nearby airports. On one of these days we ended up at Reids Hillview. I can still recall as we drove into the airport seeing some skydivers sitting on the lawn with their parachute gear. We hung around a short time, checking out the field and just walking around talking to people. We only visited Reid's one time during this first stay in the Bay Area.
A quick aside; we once visited San Carlos airport on another of these Sunday outings. I can remember well there was an Arial Photography outfit operating at the airport. The plane they used for this work was a photo recon version of the P-38! Some of you may recall this airplane. It had a bulbous nose where the standard sleek nose with the machine guns used to be. The camera operator actually stayed in this cramped compartment during the flight.
|An early fly-in at Reid's Hillview. The airport was renamed Reid-Hillview when the county took over.
Years later I got involved in backpacking in the Sierras, and for this activity needed topography maps. I would sometimes purchase these at the United States Geological Survey offices in Menlo Park. There they had a display of the history and activities of the USGS. I learned from these displays that the USGS was still photo mapping the Sierras well into the 1950's. It's likely that the P-38 I saw sitting at the San Carlos airport was used in this effort.
Being in the navy meant we moved around a lot. My dad transferred to the then new Lemoore Naval air station in 1961. After yet more moving around, my mother, sister and I eventually resettled in the Bay Area in 1964. I was a junior in high school at the time. For the last part of the school year I attended Cupertino High. During one physical Education class I overheard some fellow students talking about flying. I wandered over and soon joined the discussion. It was there that I met Vern Miller. Many of you knew him, and possibly his parents. They were a "flying family", that all started with his father flying as a bomber pilot in WW-2. I can't recall exactly now, but at the time Vern may have been working towards his private license, or may have already earned it. Vern was a senior at this time.
Vern and I quickly became friends. Shortly after that he asked if I would like to take a flight with him, something I couldn't say yes to fast enough. When the big day arrived, we met at Reid Hill view airport. It was there that his dad based his Aeronca Champ.
Vern knew his way around the airport very well. Eventually through that friendship I was able to work as a “line boy” for Spartan Aviation, the only flight school operating out of a "real building" at the time. Harold "Mac" Mcmurdo was the owner, and his fleet consisted mainly of Cessna aircraft. He was a Brantly Helicopter dealer, and had one on the line which he used for training. Mary Lail was his secretary, and her husband was a San Jose Police officer.
Mac's school was located near where the Civil Air Patrol offices are now. Those offices were at one time the County Airport Operations office, and were used until the main terminal was built in 1970.
Reid-Hillview just before the new main terminal was built (1970)
Mac's mechanic at the time was Norm Derks. Norm had his own maintenance shop located in one of the hangars in the main line of hangars shown here. Norm later went on to get his flight engineer rating for B-727’s (when there was such a thing, remember that 3rd seat in the cockpit?) and flew for non-scheduled airlines for some years.
About this time I started taking flying lessons at Spartan Aero. My instructor was Mr. Bob Haney. Bob had flown P-38's during WW-2. I managed to get to solo that summer before starting back to high school for my final year. I finished up my Private ticket by the next summer.