Learn about Mather’s long, distinguished history.
Operated by Sacramento County Airport System, Mather Airport (MHR) is 20 minutes from downtown Sacramento and specializes in cargo and general aviation. Mather is conveniently located along US 50 and hosts the annual California Capital Airshow. The airport's features include an FAA tower, instrument approaches, tie down rentals and more. One of the two lighted and paved runways is 11,300 feet, one of the longest in California.
Mather Airport’s tenants also offer a variety of aviation services including a full-service FBO, aircraft repair, flight training, and car rentals.
The name, “Mather Field,” was inspired by Carl Mather, a Second Lieutenant in the Army Signal Corps. Lieutenant Mather was tragically killed on January 25, 1918 at the age of 16 during one of the first training classes for World War I pilots at Ellington Field. His classmates were later stationed at Mills Field and requested that the facility be renamed in Mather’s honor. On May 2, 1918, Mills Field was officially renamed Mather Field.
During the war, Sacramento’s Liberty Iron Works in North Sacramento produced Curtiss JN-4 aircraft. On June 11, 1918 a Sacramento-built Curtiss called “Jennie” piloted by Lieutenant John F. Buffington became the first aircraft to take off from Mather field.
The field was closed in 1923 after the armistice agreement halted World War I and ended pilot training at Mather Field. Remaining personnel were sent to bases in other states.
Despite hosting an all Air Corps tactical exercise in 1930, the Globe Wrecking Company of Chicago dismantled and demolished the buildings at the site over the course of six months in late 1933. In 1935, the barren airstrip served as the locations for ten days of 70th Service Squadron’s field training support of the 7th Bombardment Group from Hamilton Field.
Prior to entering World War II, the US government rebuilt Mather Field and by 1941 the air base was fully activated. Mather was used for pilot, navigator, observer, and bombardier training throughout the war and served as a strategic stopover location for troops and aircraft departing for or returning from combat duty in the Pacific.
In 1958, a Strategic Air Command B-52 wing was assigned to the base. Although the wing was deactivated in 1989, B-52s continued to use the airfield for training exercises throughout its history. The Air Force Base also served as a center for international and inter-service navigator training through base closure.
The Air Force announced the planned closure of Mather Air Force Base in 1988. The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors carefully examined the potential for conversion of the field to a public use facility and appointed the Sacramento Area Commission on Mather Conversion to facilitate the process. In 1991, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors endorsed a comprehensive plan to reuse the base for civil aviation purposes. Environmental analyses were then performed to support the plan and the Air Force issued a record of decision in 1993, the same year Mather ceased operation as an Air Force Base.
Mather Field re-opened for civilian use on May 5, 1995 and is home to the Mather Regional Park, the Mather Commerce Center by McCuen Properties, and Mather Airport. Taking advantage of the former Air Force Base’s ample ramp space and generous runway, UPS moved their operation from Sacramento International Airport to Mather Airport.
In 2006, Mather hosted the inaugural California Capital Airshow. The first civilian-run airshow in Sacramento history featured the US Navy Blue Angels and attracted more than 100,000 people during the two-day event. Each year, the airshow continues to attract aviation enthusiasts from around the globe to Mather Airport.