Ramona is rural. Just ask the residents of San Diego County’s Valley of the Sun and they’ll tell you. They like it that way. Surrounded by rock-strewn coastal mountains, the valley was first inhabited by Native Americans and then the Spanish who named it “Nuevo,” meaning New. Milton Santee, who helped develop the area, changed the name to Ramona in 1884 after a popular book of the era.
Spread over 154 square miles and with a population of over 40,000, the community attracts many new residents and businesses each year. It’s only 40 minutes from Downtown San Diego and the beach and a half-hour away from Cuyamaca and Laguna Mountain resorts.
In 1943 the U.S. Navy built a small, dusty airstrip at what is now the Ramona Airport. In 1956, the facility was conveyed to San Diego County and the airport has now grown to become the aviation center for community service to San Diego’s inland and mountain communities. The Ramona Airport is the third busiest facility in the County’s system with just over 155,000 operations each year.
The Ramona Air Attack Base is located in the CAL FIRE San Diego Unit and was established in 1957 by the then California Division of Forestry, making it the oldest Air Attack Base in the Department’s system. In 1960, the US Forest Service set up and operated from Ramona, separate from CDF, until 1966 when the agencies integrated and Ramona became a jointly operated base.
Ramona responds to an average of 450 calls per year. On average, the base pumps 850,000 gallons of retardant a year. Ramona has a possible peak output of 250,000 gallons of retardant each day. The base’s direct protection area encompasses over 1.4 million acres for CAL FIRE, 300,000 for the US Forest Service, and covers all of San Diego County.
Uncomplicated airspace, available services, ideal climate and proximity to North County business and recreation centers make Ramona Airport an ideal destination for work or pleasure.
If you are familiar with the sport of drag racing, it will interest you to know that the very first, official 1/4-mile drag strip was opened at the Ramona Airport nearly 60 years ago. Now just an airport service road, remnants of the old strip still remain.
Serving every type of aircraft from home-built experimentals to corporate jets, the Ramona Airport is home to a fully staffed air traffic control tower, three full-service Fixed Base Operators (FBOs), an avionics center, an aircraft service center, nine aviation businesses, a full-time airport manager and the world’s only helicopter museum with operational helicopters.