Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum is located in McCarran International Airport. Visitors can observe the history of commercial and general aviation in southern Nevada, from the first flight in 1920 through the introduction of jets. The Museum's main exhibit is located above baggage claim with additional exhibits in ticketing, at the A, B, C and D gates, Terminal 2, North Las Vegas Air Terminal and the general and corporate aviation terminal operated by Signature Flight Support. There is also an exhibit displayed at the Henderson Executive Airport. Aviation buffs can park south of the airport on Sunset Road and tune their FM radios to 88.5 to follow the conversations between the pilots and flight controllers during take-offs and landings.
A very special artifact
The Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum shows a wide range of artifacts related to the history of aviation in southern Nevada. One is a red 1956 Ford Thunderbird convertible. While this may seem an unlikely choice for such a role at a major airfield, but from 1957 until 1968 one did exist at McCarran Airport. Owned and operated by George and Peg Crockett's Alamo Airways, the vehicle was a fixture around the airport. George Crockett founded McCarran as Alamo Airport in 1941.
After Clark County purchased the field, renaming it McCarran Airport, the Crocketts operated Alamo Airways, supplying the needs of commercial, private and general aviation aircraft and pilots at the airport until 1968. The Thunderbird was a noted feature of the airport, and was actually first on the scene of a couple of emergencies, being lighter and faster than the main fire/rescue vehicles.
This vehicle is an exact duplicate of the original crash wagon, having been restored by the Imperial Palace from photographs supplied by Mrs. George Crockett. Once the restoration was completed, Mrs. Crockett presented the vehicle to the people of Clark County for display at the airport as part of the Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum exhibits.
This vehicle is a unique part of McCarran's and Southern Nevada's aviation history, and is now available for our many users to see and enjoy. We invite you to visit the exhibits at the museum when you are at the airport. The exhibits are open 24 hours a day, every day. The museum is a joint project of the Department of Parks & Recreation and the Department of Aviation.
The First Airport in Las Vegas
Las Vegas has never been the kind of community to let a new idea lie dormant. Within months of the first airplane flight to the area, Clark County had its first airfield. Named Anderson Field for the land owners, its opening on Thanksgiving Day, 1920 was a celebration in aviation. Renowned fliers of the era like Clarence Prest and Emery Rodgers took part in the fly in.
The field was designed by Robert Hausler. As an army pilot Hausler had flown over Las Vegas in 1918 en route from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City while scouting new air mail routes.
Hausler designed the airport to Army Service and Aero Club in Southern California standards, and strongly advocated establishing a local air mail route. The fields was located about where the Sahara Hotel Band Casino parking lot is today, at the corner of Sahara and Paradise. It was operated by Hausler, who leased the land until 1925.
In those first years, both Clarence Prest and Emery Rogers returned to Las Vegas to try to start aviation businesses. Neither was successful. Walter Varney, who later founded Varney Air in Northern Nevada, started a flying school at Anderson Field in 1923, but it too failed.
In 1925, Earl and Leon Rockwell bought the field. This proved fortuitous. Later that year, Harris Hanshue began negotiations with the Rockwells to bring his new airline, Western Air Express, to the field. The contract was signed, and Western Air Express started flying to Las Vegas on April 17, 1926.
The first flights brought out the town, and put Las Vegas and Clark County on the commercial airline map. Clark County has continued to be served by commercial air transportation ever since.
Those first flights carried airmail only. Not until May 23 were the first passengers, Ben Redmen and J.A. Thompson, carried. They were given coveralls, and rode perched on the mailbags in the forward compartment of the Douglas M-2 biplane. Only two weeks later, the first woman to fly to Las Vegas arrived June 10. Maude Campbell paid $160 for round-trip passage from Salt Lake to Los Angeles via Las Vegas.
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