The Fairchild Aerial Surveys (FAS) collection is perhaps the most significant of MIL's aerial photography holdings. This collection contains the earliest (1927) photography held by MIL, and makes up the bulk of the collection covering southern and central California from the late 1920s to the 1950s. FAS imagery came to MIL in at least two parts: 1) as part of a 1986 gift from Teledyne Geotronics and, some years later, from California State University at Northridge; and 2) in January 2013, MIL acquired the majority of the FAS vertical aerial photography collection at Whittier College. The FAS imagery obtained from Whittier College alone consists of 750,000 photographs taken between 1927 and 1965. Other portions of Fairchild imagery are located at UCLA and CSU-Northridge, the New York and New Jersey state archives, and the National archives. MIL holds the largest and most complete collection of FAS imagery.
The FAS photography at MIL consists of rolls of film, paper prints, cut-frame negatives, and/or positive transparencies. Some of the earliest FAS photography was captured on unstable nitrate film. In order to preserve this early imagery, the negatives were reproduced onto positive transparency film and the original nitrate film was destroyed. In cooperation with the UCLA Film & Television Archive, MIL is preserving the last remaining imagery on nitrate film acquired from Whittier College by having it scanned.
FAS flight IDs have the prefix C or NY, determined by the Fairchild office from which they originated, followed by two to five numbers. The California office prefaced flights with the letter “C”, and the New York office prefaced their flights with the letters “NY.” Most of the photography from the California office covers areas in southern and central California between the 1920s and 1960s. Photography from flights in other US states, and internationally, are also from the California office, and therefore have a flight ID beginning with the letter "C". The New York office produced early flights of the eastern seaboard states. Most of the Massachusetts photography in our catalog is from Fairchild, with flights originating from both offices. Fewer numbers in the flight ID generally indicates an older flight. However, the FAS flights are not necessarily numbered chronologically.