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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our sixth calendar year
    PCR #299  (Vol. 6, No. 50)  This edition is for the week of December 12--18, 2005.

The History of Miami International Airport -- Part One
 by William Moriaty
"King Kong"
 by Mike Smith
Rocky Balboa
 by Mark Terry
Thanks To All....King Kong News of Sorts....Alternate Covers Are Going APE....Monkey Around With The X-Men
 by Brandon Jones
Richard Pryor....It's Awards Time....Jaws: The Story, Part 47
 by Mike Smith
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More tales from "La Floridiana" await you in "William Moriaty's Florida"! For more information simply click the book cover above!

The History of Miami International Airport -- Part One  

Quite a few months back I received an e-mail from a reader of this column who identified himself as "Juan G." who was wondering if I would do a story on one of my favorite places on the planet, Miami International Airport.

Well Juan, please consider this your Christmas gift and New Year's gift as I am honored to add this latest literature to the annals of La Floridiana!

First We Start With The Seminole Fruit and Land Company
In 1927 when Pan American Airways President Juan Trippe elected to move his airline's base of operations from Meacham Field in Key West to Miami (in order to get higher transport premiums on his airline's air mail contracts with the United States government), the airline purchased a 116 acre tract of scrub land from the Seminole Fruit and Land Company that was located on the south side of N.W. 36th Street across from the Glenn Curtiss community of Miami Springs. When the new facility opened in the fall of 1928 it consisted of a terminal building, two hard surface runways, concrete aprons, and two hanger buildings.

Pan American Field, September 15, 1928
On September 15, 1928, Captain Edwin Musick pushed down the throttles of his Pan American Airways Sikorsky S-38 amphibian aircraft loaded with two passengers and 340 pounds of mail. Roaring down the runway of Pan American Field in Miami, Musick's S-28 aircraft lifted off the ground on its first scheduled flight to Meacham Field in Key West.

Edwin Musick's flight made history.
It was the first scheduled flight to operate out of what would become Miami International Airport, one of the most colorful, historic and busiest airports on the planet.

A photo of the classic 1928-era terminal designed by Delano and Aldrich that was known first as Pan American Field, then the 36th Street Airport, and in 1949 as the Miami International Airport.
Pan American Field, January 9, 1929
On January 9, 1929, Pan American Field had its official dedication ceremony. This was highlighted by an inaugural mail and passenger flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico by famed aviator Charles Lindbergh. Like Musick, Lindbergh also piloted a Pan American Airways Sikorsky S-38 amphibian aircraft. Through this event, Pan American Field became the third airport in the country officially recognized as an airport of entry in the United States. The Pan American Field terminal was the first modern passenger terminal built in the United States. At a sticker price of $50,000, the terminal was a truly superb work of stucco, glass and steel, a structure well surpassing the passenger waiting areas attached to maintenance hangers found at most of the airports of that era. Designed by Delano and Aldrich, the same architects who created the Pan American terminal at the Dinner Key sea plane base in Miami (which now serves as that city's city hall) and the original terminal at La Guardia Airport in New York City, the terminal featured a restaurant, pilot's facilities, staging rooms for boarding and departing of passengers, airport offices, a public health office and customs and immigrations facilities. By the middle of 1929, Pan American Field was the number one port of entry by the air in the United States boasting the ability to handle up to 25 aircraft operations a day.

The 1930's: Pan American Field Becomes the 36th Street Airport
By 1930 a third runway with connecting taxiways, and a third hanger was built. Once Pan American Airways purchased the New York, Rio, and Buenos Aires Line, whose fleet consisted solely of seaplanes, Pan American shifted the majority of its flights to the Dinner Key facility, using the Pan American Field facility as an aircraft overhaul and maintenance base. In 1934, famed aviator Eddie Rickenbacker was instrumental in moving his Eastern Airlines operation from the Miami Municipal Airport to Pan American Field. 1937 heralded the advent of George "Ted" Baker's National Airlines operations to Pan American Field. This tribunal of three major airlines now serving this airfield prompted a change of its name to the 36th Street Airport.

War Time: A Port Authority and A Military Field Join In On the Act
A row of Pan American Boeing 307 Stratoliners grace the ramp at Miami's 36th Street Airport.
Although World War Two had an incredible impact on domestic commercial airline operations, "drafting" many of their planes and pilots into military service, growth at the 36th Street Airport continued unabated. Additional airlines were added to the roster of the airport that was to be a base of operation for the Big Three (Pan American, Eastern and National) airlines that would dominate the field's history for close to five decades. By the last year of the Second World War, the size of the 36th Street Airport had grown dramatically, stretching from Red Road to LeJeune Road. Under the provisions of Chapter 22963 of Florida Law, the Dade Board of County Commissioners were authorized to act as that County's Port Authority. The Authority's major initiative was to purchase the airport from Pan American Airways in order to make the facility owned by the County. As a result of this, the first Airport Revenue Bonds ever issued in the United States were used in order to achieve that goal. Before this development, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built an airfield about a mile southwest of the 36th Street Airport. Known as the Miami Army Airfield, the Port Authority purchased the facility in 1947. The Authority further acted to remove the Seaboard Railroad tracks that separated the two airfields. In 1949 the tracks were removed and the two airfields were joined together. The now one larger facility was given the new name of Miami International Airport. For years the U.S. Army structures of the old Miami Army Airfield remained on the premises of the Miami International Airport and were known as the Miami International Air Depot or the "M.I.A.D.". The buildings housed cargo and aviation-related industries for close to five decades, but one by one the historic structures have just about been eliminated due to airport expansion and revitalization.

Pan American World Airways Boeing 377 Stratocruiser is unveiled to the greater Miami public for the first time at Miami International Airport.
A War Ends and Meteoric Growth Begins
By 1951, the addition and annexation of land to the Miami International Airport brought the total acres of the airport to 2,878. Airport operations had risen so sharply since the field's opening in 1928 that it became apparent that the 36th Street terminal was obsolete, so plans were drafted for a new terminal complex at 20th Street.

Historical Annual Passengers

  • 1930: 8,600 passengers
  • 1940: 140,000 passengers
  • 1950: 1,400,00 passengers

    Historic Annual Cargo

  • 1930: 20 tons
  • 1940: 350 tons
  • 1950: 51,100 tons

    Historic Passenger Aircraft Serving Miami International Airport From the 1930's to 1950

  • Sikorsky S-28- Pan American Airways
  • Ford Tri-Motor- Eastern Airlines
  • Fokker F-X- Eastern Airlines
  • Fokker F-7- Pan American Airways
  • Fokker F-10- Pan American Airways
  • Ryan B-5- National Airlines
  • Stinson Tri-Motor- National Airlines
  • Curtiss Condor and Kingbird- Eastern Airlines
  • Lockheed Electra- National Airlines
  • Lockheed L-18 Lodestar- National Airlines
  • Curtiss-Wright C-46- Pan American Airways, Eastern Airlines
  • Douglas DC-2, C-47/DC-3- Pan American Airways, Eastern Airlines
  • Boeing 307 Stratoliner- Pan American Airways
  • Douglas C-54/DC-4- Pan American Airways, Eastern Airlines, National Airlines
  • Boeing 377 Stratocruiser- Pan American Airways
  • Lockheed L-49/L-049 and L-69/L-069 Constellation- Pan American Airways, Eastern Airlines, National Airlines
  • Douglas DC-6- Pan American Airways, Eastern Airlines, National Airlines
  • Convair 240/340- Pan American Airways, Eastern Airlines, National Airlines

    Skies laden with heavy Caribbean moisture form a perfect background to the de-planing of this Pan American World Airways Lockheed Constellation at Miami International Airport.
    Related Web Sites
    National Airlines -- National Sundowners: http://www.nationalsundowners.com/home.php
    Eastern Airlines -- U.S.Centennial of Flight: http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Commercial_Aviation/EasternAirlines/Tran13.htm
    Eastern Airlines -- History of Airlines: http://avstop.com/History/HistoryOfAirlines/Eastern.htm
    Pan American Airways -- Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan_American_World_Airways
    Miami International Airport -- Official Web Site: http://www.miami-airport.com/

    All photos courtesy of the Florida Memory Project of the State Library and Archives of Florida.

    Next Week: The Jet Age and a New Terminal Lands at Miami International Airport! All here in Nolan's Pop Culture Review!

    Looking for the perfect Christmas gift?
    Check out the Clyde Butcher collection of books at http://clydebutcher.com/shopcart/shopcart.cfm?c=%2D%20Books
    Books by Charlie Carlson: http://www.spookhunters.com/about.htm
    You won't want to miss Owl Goingback's books at http://www.owlgoingback.com/

    And just how is Charlie Carlson's "Weird Florida" book doing? Best to hear from the man himself in his e-mail of November 28th!
    "Weird Florida moved to number one spot in the top ten best sellers this morning on Florida Books & Videos webpage, It was previously in 3rd place among Florida books.

    01.Weird Florida
    02.100% Pure Florida Fiction (Paper)
    03.A Short History of Florida Railroads
    04.An Anthology of Music in Early Florida
    05.Best Backroads of Florida : The Heartland - Volume 1
    06.Flatwoods: The Fugitive Kind (DVD)
    07.Florida Curiosities
    08.Florida's Famous & Forgotten
    09.Gordon Solie... Something Left Behind
    10.Living Deliberately

    According to the Weird Florida Online Fan Club site of Lakeland legends Lisa Sanchez and Lynn Gilbert, Charlie Carlson's portion of the Barnes and Noble publication "Weird Hauntings" is wrapped up. The book is slated for release in the fall of 2006. In addition, Charlie's latest book, "Ashley's Shadow" is now available and can be ordered at the Spook Hunters web site address given next to the Books by Charlie Carlson above.

    "La Floridiana" is ©2005 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.