• Victor “Speed” Johnson taught hundreds of people to fly at small airports, including ones in Redwood City and San Mateo. Photo courtesy of the Hiller Aviation Museum.

Courthouse Docket

Wings Over Redwood City: Origins of San Mateo County Aviation

Redwood City was briefly an aviation hub for the entire Pacific Rim, thanks to a visionary young pilot/engineer who opened one of America’s first airfields there in 1916. Silas Christofferson set an unofficial U.S. altitude record by making the first flight over Mount Whitney.  His flying school, led by esteemed instructor Frank Bryant, produced many of the world’s first Asian and Asian-American pilots and the first woman to receive a pilot’s license on the West Coast. Though he died tragically young in a crash at 26, Christofferson left a legacy of aviation in San Mateo County through students and colleagues who produced some of commercial aviation’s greatest early achievements.

Drawing on images in San Carlos’ Hiller Aviation Museum, Barbara Wilcox tells the little-known story of San Mateo County’s earliest aviation days, how Redwood City lost out to Mills Field -- today’s SFO -- and how locals can explore that history today.


Saturday, February 23 at 1 p.m.: Women in Maritime History by JoAnn Semones​

Sponsored By:

The Courthouse Docket is a monthly series of presentations held in the History Museum's Historic Courtroom A. The Courthouse Docket Series is sponsored by Cypress Lawn Heritage Foundation.