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First in Flight: Crissy Air Field

​Flying demonstrations above the Presidio had been thrilling spectators since the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. So, aviation was not new to the Presidio when the U.S. Army established an air coast defense station on the north shore in 1919.


In this bold era, military pilots pushed the limits of flight. Many milestones were achieved, including the first successful attempt to cross the country in a single day – a “dawn to dusk” journey that concluded at the Presidio in June 1924. Notable tragedies also occurred. Indeed, the airfield was named for Major Dana Crissy, who died during the First Transcontinental Reliability and Endurance Test. He is buried at San Francisco National Cemetery.


Although construction of the Golden Gate Bridge limited its use as an airbase, the Army continued to fly in and out of Crissy Field for sixty years. The facilities also found other uses. During World War II, the landing field was used as an assembly area for troop mobilization, and Japanese-American soldiers trained as translators in a military intelligence school that secretly operated out of a former air mail hangar.


Crissy Field began its transformation into a recreational area in the 1970s as joggers joined soldiers along the path that wound between hangars and the open, rocky shoreline. Today, Crissy Field is the park’s “front door” with trails, wetlands, and picnic areas welcoming thousands each year. Rehabilitated hangars and warehouses sit alongside the open spaces as recreational destinations for the public.

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