Merced's first airport consisted of sixty-six (66) acres. It was a private venture located northwest of Merced, near the intersection of U.S. 99 Highway and Snelling Road. This airport was operated by Mr. Lou Foote in 1927.
On March 15, 1932, the City Council approved a proposal made by the Airport Committee of the Twenty-Thirty Club that the City take title to a new airport site located near the Santa Fe Railroad, three miles northwest of the City. A gift deed from the Twenty-Thirty Club and Elmer Murchie, representing the Crocker-Huffman Company, was accepted at a special session of the Council. At the next regular Council session, the airport site was leased to George Voight for a period of five years, with the stipulation that all expenses of maintenance be defrayed by the lessor.
The airport site northwest of Merced was formally dedicated April 3, 1932, with appropriate ceremonies which were attended by a gathering of about 500 persons, including County and Municipal officials and airplane company representatives. The feature of the program was the christening of a new tri-motor Stinson passenger airplane which was to be known as Miss Merced. The airline was a subsidiary of the Stinson Aircraft Manufacturing Company. This airline company also established the first scheduled airline service through Merced.
In May 1936, the City of Merced assumed the responsibilities for the operation and expansion of the airport. Councilman Peter Myhand was appointed Airport Commissioner, and Mr. Ed Nichols was appointed the first Airport Manager.
The first airport improvement program was sponsored by the City of Merced, with the work being accomplished by the Works Project Administration. This project consisted of grading and drainage of the field, construction of an eight-unit hangar, and a cobblestone administration building. The Santa Fe Airport site now consisted of 123 acres and was known as the Merchamco Incorporated Industrial Site.
For the period 1938 to 1942, Councilman R. A. Jones was the appointed Airport Commissioner. During this time, the first air mail flight from Mariposa and Merced was made.
In 1940, the present site of the Merced Municipal Airport, located two miles southwest of Merced near Grogan and West Avenue, was acquired from the delinquent tax rolls. That year, the City Council approved a Works Project Administration construction program for $352,470. This program consisted of grading, leveling, drainage, and developing access roads.
Due to the United States entering World War II, the Civil Aeronautics Authority and Corps of Engineers assumed the responsibility for the second phase of the airport program. This consisted of paving two 150 x 4,000-foot runways and taxi strips, installation of 28,000 feet of perforated drainpipe, runway, and threshold lights. This work was completed in 1942 at a cost of $231,553.
When war was declared in December 1941, Edward Nichols made a request to the City Council for a leave of absence in order to enter the Air Force. This request was granted. At this time, both air sites were leased to the Air Force for the duration of the war and the lease was in effect from June 1942 until June 1945. Edward Nichols was reinstated at this time as Airport Manager and Councilman Wilbur McMurry was appointed Airport Commissioner.
In the fall of 1945, the City sold the original Municipal Airport site on Santa Fe Road to the Chamber of Commerce for $7,500. All hangars and buildings except the administration building were moved to the present location in the maintenance area on Childs and West Avenue.
Development of the terminal area was started with the installation of a 130-foot well for a water supply system in July 1945 and, in September 1945, the airport was connected to the City sewer lines.
On January 15, 1946, a lease with United Airlines was signed. The first business office of this company was a 24 by 40-foot building (quonset hut) located in the terminal area of the airport. The present building site was also leased at the same time for construction of a terminal building to be built by United Airlines. This building was completed February 1947 at a cost of $103,000.
In September 1946, application was made to the Plant and Structures Branch of the Civil Aeronautics Authorities to provide funds for resurfacing of runways and taxi strips, recabling of all airport lighting, installation of a remote control panel in the terminal building, and fencing the entire airport site. Application was approved and work completed in March 1947 at a cost of $235,069.35.
The Municipal Airport of Merced was annexed to the City of Merced on December 6, 1948 while Councilman James Turner was the appointed Airport Commissioner. The Airport was annexed in order to eliminate County taxes and to have proper police and fire protection.
The City of Merced adopted the Charter-Manager form of government and the Airport Commissioner system was discontinued on July 26, 1949.
On January 6, 1953, the purchase of 50 acres of land from Thomas and Elsie Visher was adopted by the City Council. The airport now consisted of 538 acres, and the land not required for airport use was leased for farming.
The construction of the control tower in 1975 provided for safer approaches and landings. This also meant an increase in air traffic in both commercial flights and private flying.
Airport operating surfaces have been maintained and resurfaced. In 1991, a new general aviation hangar was constructed. Later, during the 1990's, several portable hangars were relocated to the airport when the Atwater Airport closed.
In 2005, a new corporate hangar was opened.
In 2008, the Merced Municipal Airport was awarded the 2008 Small Community Air Service Program Grant by the Department of Transportation (DOT). In addition, DOT designated Merced Municipal Airport as an Air Service Development Zone.
In 2009, Merced Municipal Airport changed its name to Merced Regional Airport.