MIAMI – On March 23, 2017, History Miami Museum and Miami International Airport hosted the grand opening of the Hall of Aviation, a permanent living history gallery which features various exhibitions showcasing Miami’s long and illustrious history with flight.
The first exhibition, A Century of Flight: The Story of Aviation in Miami, features images, airplane models, and uniforms that illustrate Miami Airport’s rise as a commercial aviation hub and as the aviation gateway to the Americas.
Miami’s history as an aviation mecca began over 100 years ago in July of 1911, when Howard Gill flew his biplane over the Miami Golf Link, celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of the city. At the end of his flight demonstration, local Miami businessman Ernest Sewell flew aboard Gill’s airplane over Miami for the first time.
In 1912, the Curtiss Aviation School opened in Miami, paving the way for Miami to become the flight and maintenance training capital of the world, something that it is still known for worldwide today in training present airmen.
With generally good weather year round, Miami was and is ideal for training. The U.S. Marines and U.S. Army Air Corps would train pilots here in Miami at local air bases, such as Opa-Locka. Famed civilian airlines, such as Pan American World Airways and Eastern Air Lines who both called Miami home would be invaluable resources to the war effort during World War II.
Pan Am and Pitcairn Aviation, the forerunner of Eastern Air Lines pioneered airmail and passenger service throughout the Caribbean and South America from Miami. At the exhibit, one can view a National Air Lines DC-10, and a cutaway Pan Am 747-100, as well as an Eastern Air Lines L1011, all once daily sights at the airport.
Present at the event was Marcie Rickenbacker, granddaughter of the late Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, former Chief Executive Officer of Eastern Air Lines. She spoke of her times in Miami as she watched it blossom into the international hub that it is now. Miami International Airport has the most air carriers serving it of any U.S. airport today and is also a hub for several cargo carriers.
Miami has grown so much over the last century, as has Miami Airport. Carriers such as Eastern, Pan Am, National, and Braniff have long since flown their last flights, but their influence and history remain.
MIA has blossomed as an international travel hub, serving four continents on a daily basis. Miami continues to add several carriers yearly, the next being WOW Air, which will inaugurate Miami’s first ever service to Reykjavik, Iceland on April 5. Aer Lingus will also connect Miami to Dublin, Ireland starting on September 1, 2017.
The Hall of Aviation at Miami Airport, located in Terminal J on the 4th floor just outside the international arrival’s greeting area will evolve over years to come, with new exhibits coming soon. It is intended to grow with the airport as a living history tribute to Miami’s past, present, and future.