From Mines Field to LAX: The Early History of L.A. International Airport

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From Mines Field to LAX: The Early History of L.A. International Airport

With a renovation of the Tom Bradley International Terminal underway, and with Metro considering a fixed-rail transit connection, change is again afoot at Los Angeles International Airport -- the transportation hub that has hardly stood still since it emerged from the bean fields of Westchester in the late 1920s.

Originally named Mines Field after a real estate agent who brokered the site's land deal, the facility was L.A.'s first municipal airport but not the first airfield to serve the Los Angeles area. Dominguez Field, at the present-day site of Cal State Dominguez Hills, hosted the first U.S. air show, and beginning in 1929, Rogers Airport at the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue (then Crescent Avenue) hosted many air shows as well as passenger air service to San Francisco.

But Charles Lindbergh's famous transatlantic flight in May 1927 convinced Los Angeles city leaders of the need for a permanent, municipal airport. With an improved runway and dedicated facilities, a city airport would encourage airmail and passenger traffic between Los Angeles and other aviation-friendly cities, while a permanent presence would allow airlines, maintenance companies, and other private enterprises to cluster around the site. In September 1927, Lindbergh himself, in Los Angeles on a nationwide victory lap, told a Coliseum crowd of roughly 60,000 that "airports are the most important factor in the development of aviation...I wish to say that if you expect to keep your city on the air map, it will be necessary to construct a municipal airport."

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