See Rock City

See Rock City

Monday, November 2, 2015

Memphis Airport History

Encouraged by the Memphis Aero Club, est. 1925, Watkins Overton made the construction of a Memphis airport a major issue in his mayoral campaign of 1927. After his election, the 100-acre Ward Farm about 7.5 miles SE of downtown Memphis was selected for the location. On June 15, 1929, the Memphis Municipal Airport opened for business, consisting of a sod field runway and three small hangars. Two hundred planes flew in to celebrate its opening. However that fall the stock market crash dampened the demand for passenger services. 1930 saw only 15 passengers arriving and departing Memphis on a daily basis. But air mail and air freight kept the airport open; the major carriers were American Airways and Chicago & South. The first improvements came in 1934, when three asphalt diagonal runways were constructed. In 1937-38, the New Deal chipped in with needed improvements as the WPA built a new terminal and generally modernized the airport facilities and infrastructure. During World War II, the U.S. Army assumed administration of the municipal airport. After the military relinquished its control, moves were made to respond to increased demands for passenger travel, especially regarding the Douglas DC-3. In 1947 the terminal was enlarged and by 1949 there were least six major carriers. The facility reached the benchmark of one million passengers in 1959. Four years later, on June 7, 1963, the city dedicated a new terminal which--for its $5.5 million cost--provided twenty-two airplane gates for seven competing airlines.

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