Contra Costa County, California, bought land in 1942 for $88,000 for an airport in Central County. The county-operated the airport until the land was expropriated by the U.S. Army Air Forces Fourth Air Force. The Army also added land and constructed airport facilities and the Concord Army Air Base, a training base for pilots.
The Administration of War Assets (WAA) returned the airport to the county in 1946. The transfer was formalized in 1947 and the airport was named after County Supervisor William J. Buchanan, who worked for more than forty years on the County Board of Supervisors. The airport continued to be used occasionally by the U.S. Army, particularly during the Korean War, to transport troops.
George Lucas used Buchanan Field Airport in 1972 in the American Graffiti movie for one of the last outdoor scenes. In the scene, before Curt leaves for college on the Douglas DC-7C in the background, Steven Bolander (Ron Howard) says good-bye to buddy Curt Henderson (Richard Dreyfuss).
In 1977, with 357,000 daily operations, Buchanan Field reached its peak of service, making it the 16th busiest airport in the country, ahead of San Francisco International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, and LaGuardia Airport. The noise became a problem during this period and in 1988 the county board of supervisors enacted a county noise control order banning all aircraft from operating at Buchanan Field.
Beginning in the 1990s, the Supervisory Board revised the Master Plan for Buchanan Field Airport. In 1992, neighboring properties such as Sam's Club, Taco Bell, Sports Authority, and Jiffy Lube were allowed to operate commercially. In the eastern part of the county, the county has developed a new airport in Byron. On August 14, 2018, the Board of Supervisors (Board) of Contra Costa County passed a resolution recognizing the economic importance of these airports by agreeing that they are important economic drivers that enable Contra Costa County to fulfill their current and future community transport and economic needs. The Board also instructed staff to proactively seek creativity and competitive opportunities to improve the airports ' economic development potential as they are the county's capital assets and an integrated transport asset to the Bay Area area.
Past airline service:
Between 1969 to 1979 on Stol Air Commuter Britten-Norman BN-2 Islanders and Britten-Norman BN-2A Trislanders, Buchanan Field had commuter airline flights to San Francisco International Airport. San Francisco and Oakland Helicopter Airlines (also known as SFO Helicopter) scheduled nonstop SikorskyS-61s to Oakland International Airport for up to five flights a day to SFO.
In mid-1984, airline service returned to the airport: WestAir Commuter Airlines, Stol Air's successor, had eight weekdays of Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otters at SFO for less than a year. WestAir left Concord before becoming an airline of United Express.
Jet service arrived at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on May 1, 1986, when Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) launched nonstop BAe 146-200s. PSA had four weekday BAe 146s to LAX in 1988 after being purchased by USAir, one going to San Diego. USAir replaced the BAe 146s with USAir Express Dash 8s to LAX in 1991, then Beechcraft 1900Cs; these ended around the end of 1991.
American Eagle Airlines (Wings West Airlines) had four Fairchild Swearingen Metroliners daily in the San Jose hub of American Airlines in 1991. Americans later shut down their San Jose office and Concord was removed in 1992 by American Eagle.