Las Vegas aviation museum

When in Vegas, be sure to visit the Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum at McCarran International Airport.

This isn’t just some little fluff piece about aviation in the Vegas area but a real, honest-to-goodness museum.

I saw it yesterday. It really impressed me.

How much money did you lose in the slot machines? :laughing:

Bad Link :frowning:

Don’t know why the link isn’t working. Here’s the article (just remember that it is about 7 years old but the information is basically the same):

Airport museum explores the colorful history of aviation in Southern Nevada




Mark Hall-Patton has spent his entire professional life working in, developing and administering museums. But Hall-Patton concedes his current assignment isn’t like any he’s known.

The Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum at McCarran International Airport “is utilized by a very transient population,” he explains. “And, as I like to say, most visitors to the museum are profoundly disinterested in its existence.”

Hall-Patton offers a wry smile. “For some reason,” he adds, “people come to Las Vegas for some other reason than to go to an aviation museum.”

The museum’s main portion is easy to miss, perched as it is on the walkway above the airport’s baggage claim area. Nonetheless, Hall-Patton estimates about 1 percent of the 36 million or so of the people who visit McCarran each year stop by, which is enough to make the museum one of the busiest in the state.

The museum’s first exhibit was unveiled in October 1993, notes Hall-Patton, and its existence stems largely from an offer by Peg Crockett – whose husband, George, founded Alamo Airport, McCarran’s predecessor, and Alamo Airways, one of the city’s pioneering commercial airlines – to donate family artifacts to the county.

In 1992, the county parks and recreation department and the Clark County Museum began the initial design of the exhibits, a project Hall-Patton assumed responsibility for when he was hired on as the museum’s administrator in December 1993.

Hall-Patton has spent 23 years in museums, most recently heading up the county museum in San Luis Obispo, Calif. He admits that when he took the job at McCarran he “didn’t know beans” about aviation history.

On the other hand, he says, “everything I’ve ever done has been local history.”

The several-thousand items in the Crockett collection represented a “good start” for the aviation museum, Hall-Patton says, but “the story we needed to tell started in 1920 with the first flight. So I started to try to find any connection I could.”

He tracked down the daughter of the first pilot to fly into Las Vegas. He talked to relatives of some of Southern Nevada’s aviation pioneers. He spoke to any group that’d listen to him, seeking leads, memorabilia and memories.

In each case, Hall-Patton told listeners of his hope of finding more than “pilot’s wings or the instruments from the airplanes. We also wanted the employee newsletters, the contracts you signed, the photographs, the Miss Bonanza Airlines banner.”

Hall-Patton says one of his favorite exhibits features an airmail pilot’s uniform from Western Air Express, which ran mail between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City.

It was a dangerous job. The exhibit tells the story of Maury Graham, one of the first pilots Western Air Express hired.

Graham was a careful pilot, Hall-Patton says, who “carried three altimeters when he would fly to make sure he didn’t find a rock in a cloud, as they say.”

On Jan. 10, 1930, Graham’s plane went down in a blizzard between Las Vegas and Cedar City, Utah, “but they couldn’t find the plane for five months,” Hall-Patton says. “Finally, some hunters found it and went up, and the mail was still there. It was recovered and some of the mail was sent on.”

Amazingly, Graham survived the crash and tried to hike out, Hall-Patton says. “He didn’t make it, but his body wasn’t found until three weeks after the plane was found, when another man up there noticed some wheat sprouting up behind a log.”

The explanation: Graham had been trying to quit smoking, and carried raw wheat in his pocket to chew on when he felt the urge to light up. After his death, the wheat had sprouted, leading searchers to his body.

While it’s not a pleasant story, it helps to remind modern-day air travelers that flying was, not long ago, far from the routine activity it is today.

Another exhibit hangs directly over the baggage claim area: A plane that, in 1959, was used in setting a nonstop flying record – 64 days, 22 hours, 19 minutes, 5 seconds – that still stands.

Hall-Patton notes the story usually elicits three immediate questions from visitors.

“Where the fuel came from is the first one,” he says. “Where the food came from is the second one. And where did the food go is the third one.”

Refueling was done on the fly, from a fuel truck that followed the plane on the ground. The pilots lifted baskets of food into the plane by rope. And, the answer to the third question – a small portable toilet seat – is displayed in a nearby glass case.

The exhibit also looks at the considerable role women played in Southern Nevada aviation history.

“The first plane registered to a Las Vegas owner was registered to a pair of sisters here in 1931,” Hall-Patton says. “The first female passenger coming through was Maude Campbell in June of 1926, the month after Western Air Express started flying passengers.”

Campbell was “an 18-year-old kid in Salt Lake City who decided she wanted to fly to Los Angeles,” Hall-Patton continues. "She spent $160, got her ticket, flew to Los Angeles, and then called her parents and told them what she had done.

“She ended up flying for years after that and became very well-known and was feted every time Western had a celebration,” Hall-Patton adds.

The exhibits also document the ways in which aviation and the development of Southern Nevada have intersected through the years. Still, Hall-Patton concedes, “I cannot tell you where the growth of McCarran built up Las Vegas and where the growth of Las Vegas was built on McCarran, because they have been so completely intertwined.”

In addition to the exhibits above McCarran’s baggage claim area, the museum maintains additional exhibits in the airport’s ticketing area and in each terminal, as well as the Signature air terminal and North Las Vegas airport. Also, the airplane viewing area off of Sunset Road and the receiver there by which viewers can listen to control tower communications, are part of the museum, Hall-Patton says.

One sign of the museum’s success is the interest it’s generated from other aviation professionals. Hall-Patton says he’s talked to representatives of airports in Chicago, Dallas-Forth Worth and as far away as Taiwan seeking advice about Clark County’s efforts.

Hall-Patton has become an aviation buff himself, able to rattle off pilots’ names, airplane models and airplane engine specifications with the best of them.

And, if nothing else, Hall-Patton says, researching Southern Nevada’s colorful aviation past “makes me very aware there is no way under the sun we’re going to figure out where we’re going to be in another 100 years.”

Sunday, October 01, 2000
Copyright Las Vegas Review-Journal

There’s also a short blurb on it at