Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico
T oday we live an era of hyperspeed air travel by millions of men and women worldwide. So it almost seems an afterthought to celebrate the 100th anniversary of motorized flight. It shouldn’t be because it signaled a monumental shift in the events of daily life, especially travel.
It was on Dec. 17, 1903, that Wilbur Wright soared what then was an amazing 852 feet — today that is only a couple of good pokes of a baseball to center field in a major-league park — in a 59-second flight above sandy, remote, windy Kill Devil Hill at Kitty Hawk, N.C.
From that simple moment came a spark of what the future would hold for eastern New Mexico. Thus it is good to reflect today on the fact that eastern New Mexico’s rich aviation history will continue to play an important role in our economic future.
“On June 28, 1929, Clovis became one of the national landmarks in the infant world of aviation,” Curry County Historian Don McAlavy wrote in one of his history books. On that date, Transcontinental Air Transport dedicated its new airport for use in the 48-hour route for Los Angeles-to-New York passenger service.
TAT’s air service actually began more than a week later, on July 8, when Charles Lindbergh, from L.A., signaled to New York that the first flight was about to begin.
Renowned aviators Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart flew out of Portair Field, which is now home to Cannon Air Force Base.
Cannon, of course, is a foundation for our region’s economy today, with more than 4,000 active-duty military and civilian personnel stationed there.
Most recently, the base’s F-16 fighter jets have played a major role in the United States’ war against terrorism. More than 900 Cannon personnel have been deployed off and on since Sept. 11, 2001.
Cannon’s direct economic impact is more than $200 million annually in the region, including payroll and construction projects, base officials report.
It’s no wonder economic development officials from the region and across the state are working hard to keep Cannon off the list of military base closures slated for 2005.
Certainly, fewer of our regional economic successes would have happened without the brief ascension into the heavens 100 years ago today. The curiosity, the drive, the courage of Wilbur Wright and his brother Orville should be applauded. Achieving flight in a motorized vehicle came true because they committed themselves to the accomplishment of a dream.
It is a trait that rings true still today. Our area owes a special thanks to the Wright brothers and other pioneers of flight for their leadership in slipping from Earth’s bonds