Thursday, July 07, 2011

Miami's Aviation History

flight to havana from Miami
An article about Cubana Airlines' "Tropicana Special" flight from Miami to Havana in Cabaret Magazine, 1957.

There was a time in Miami when the party wasn't in South Beach but in Havana. You certainly didn't have to wait until you landed in Cuba to get your drink on. The party started on the flight, with live music, a floor show and the appeal of the exotic when mojito wasn't a mainstream word on the U.S. mainland.

Things would change regarding flights to Cuba, of course, but Miami would continue to grow as a main airway hub for the Americas. Today, Miami International is the country's second largest airport by volume of international passengers.

Miami played an important role in aviation history as far back as 1911 when Miamians witnessed the first ever flight over its sunny skies. Future major Everest Sewell and aviator Howard Gill flew over golf courses on a Wright Brothers winged biplane, much to the amazement of those city dwellers who had never seen an aircraft. Over the decades, Miami would be home to aviation training and host to sky-bound celebrities.

The new exhibit at History Miami museum puts it all on display for you, chock full of interesting tidbits for Miami trivia fans.

Here are just a few that caught my eye:
  • Burdine's flew gowns to Miami from New York on the first air mail route connecting both cities. (For you spring chickens out there, Burdine's was the original Miami department store, brought out by Macy's.)
  • Amelia Earhart began one of her around-the-world flights in Miami so that Pan Am's mechanics, reputed to be some of the best in the world, could inspect her plane.
  • The Pan-American Field had the first modern passenger terminal in the United States.
  • Many female instructors took over Embry-Riddle's aviation classrooms during World War II.
  • Charles Lindbergh flew several inaugural flights between Miami and Latin America.
The exhibit dig deep into more history including the rash of hijacking incidents in the 70's related to strained relationships between the U.S. and Cuba -- a far cry from that pre-revolutionary "nightclub in the sky." What with flight restrictions to the island easing up this year, it's still doubtful flying to Cuba will ever be a party.

Flying just isn't as pleasurable as it used to be, no matter what the destination. An exhibit panel on Mohamed Atta, the 9/11 terrorist who trained in a Florida flight school, offers a grim reminder.

Aviation in Miami: The First 100 Years is on display until July 22, 2012 and features lectures and films. The exhibit is free on Wine Down Wednesdays (first Wednesdays of most months). For more details, visit History Miami.


James Good said...

Did you know that in 1967, Opa Locka was apparently the world's busiest airport?

James Good said...

Also, there was an airfield on the Venetian islands, called Viking Field.

Maria de los Angeles said...

Hey James! Thanks for stopping by. No, I didn't know that, thanks for sharing. The exhibit had all kinds of interesting trivia... it was hard to remember everything. There was a lot on the role of women in aviation and that would have required a longer blog post and some of that was beyond the scope of Miami.