Airport History

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Pan Am tri-motor Fokker, Meacham Field, ca. 1927
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Pan American hangar, Key West, 1928
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Pan American seaplane, 1938
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Aerovias Q airplane, Meacham Field, 1948
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Key West International Airport building, 1960
(Click photos for larger views.)

Aviation history for Monroe County began in Key West when Augustin Parla flew a bi-wing seaplane to Cuba on May 19, 1913. Without a compass to guide him, he left Key West carrying the Cuban Flag that Jose Marti had carried with him during his travels in Florida raising monies for the Cuban cause. He landed at sea near Mariel, Cuba, where sailors rescued him from his hydroplane. His pioneering spirit in aviation is preserved in memorabilia at the San Carlos Museum in Key West and his name is inscribed at the Smithsonian Institute as one of the "Early Birds."

In May 1918, a two-motored Navy seaplane flew to Cuba. In 1928, Pan American Airlines began scheduled flights from Key West. Meacham Field was the primary runway for Key West. It was initially pressed into Army use after the Pearl Harbor bombing, and then later during World War II by the Navy as an adjunct runway to the Trumbo Point Seaplane Base and the main Naval Air Station on Boca Chica Key.

Aeromarine Airways was the first commercial airline to use Key West, followed by Pan American on Jan. 6, 1928. Pam Am's first mail delivery to Key West was October 19, 1927. Pan Am moved to Miami in 1934, but reinstituted service to Key West after the 1935 Hurricane.

After the war, control of the runway was returned to the city and the civilian facility was eventually called the Key West Municipal Airport. In January 1953, the city gave Monroe County clear title to Meacham Field, and the name was changed to Key West International Airport. That same month 63 planes of the 10th annual "Snowbirds Flight" returned to Key West from Havana. Aerovias Q was a Cuban Airline and National Airlines flew two flights daily from Miami.

Key West International Airport, the southernmost airport in the continental United States, is a single runway facility. It underwent major renovation starting in 2006 which more than doubled the size of the airport. Included is a new terminal with parking space for 300 vehicles which opened in 2009. Below is a view from inside the modern terminal.

terminal

[Historic photos on the left were originally published in the Florida Keys Star, 1960.]

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