Beginning in 1928, before LAX or Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport, the first major airport in the Los Angeles area was Grand Central Airport in Glendale. It offered the first paved runway west of the Rocky Mountains and served as the departure point for the nation’s first transcontinental airline service.
In 1928, the Grand Central Air Terminal opened for air passenger service. The following year saw the departure from the airport of the first airline service between Southern California and New York, piloted by none other than Charles A. Lindbergh. The airport became the first and, for a brief period, the most important air travel center in the Los Angeles area.
In 1930, Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport opened and began, over the following decade, to eclipse Grand Central Airport as the primary air passenger airport in the Los Angeles area.
In 1933, two pilots, New Jersey surgeon Albert Forsythe and Charles Anderson, landed at Grand Central Airport, becoming the first African Americans to complete a transcontinental flight. The historic journey led to the creation of a famed World War II corps of black aviators.
Grand Central Airport appeared as a backdrop in many early films. In the film Sherlock Holmes In Washington, the airport served as "London Terminal" of "Transatlantic Airways." As passengers boarded the airplane on the tarmac, palm trees could be seen in the background.
During World War II, the airport became a center of military activity. Thousands of pilots were trained at the airport for the British RAF. The airport also served as base of operations for Army Air Corps P-38 Lightings that provided air protection for Los Angeles at the onset of the war.
After the war, the airport main runway was shortened to allow for a connecting road between San Fernando Road and Riverside Drive. This, in effect, prevented larger commercial aircraft operations. At the same time, most commercial airline service in the region moved to LAX.
In 1959, the airport finally closed. It was too small for the operation of jetliners.
Prudential Insurance acquired the airport after its closure and rebuilt it as an industrial park. The Walt Disney Company leased space there for its Imagineering division, eventually purchasing the land in 1997. Disney plans to transform the site into a tree-shaded media campus and restore the historic Grand Central Air Terminal and control tower (all that remains of the old airport) as a visitor center. The air terminal is located at 1310 Air Way in Glendale.