Before ABC Airs Pan Am, HistoryMiami Opens "Aviation in Miami: The First 100 Years"

When ABC airs Pan Am, its new series about the glory days of air travel in the '60s, will it include Miami? After all, the airline began and ended in our city despite living out its heyday at its NYC headquarters. But the Magic City's engagement with aviation doesn't stop there. Three other airlines -- Eastern, National, and Delta -- were also headquartered here. In 1937, Amelia Earhart launched her ill-fated attempt to circumnavigate the globe from the 305. And it was exactly a century ago that the first plane soared over Miami when aviator Howard Gill piloted a biplane furnished by the Wright brothers.

HistoryMiami is marking this notable anniversary with a new exhibit, "Aviation in Miami: The First Hundred Years." So before Christina Ricci wiggles around as a stewardess on the New York-centric Pan Am, see where it all began. We spoke with HistoryMiami's Chief Curator Joanne Hyppolite about the exhibit, which opens this Thursday with a reception and will be on view through July 22, 2012.

New Times: What's the inspiration behind this exhibit?

Joanne Hyppolite: I think people will be surprised by how far aviation

has reached into our communities and impacted the people here. Literally

hundreds of thousands of people have been employed by the aviation

industry in Miami since the late '20s. That's hundreds of thousands of

people from developers and administrators to flight attendants, pilots,

mechanics, and baggage handlers who have a connection (stories,

memories, and real experiences) to aviation.

Can you give some examples of the kinds of artifacts on display?

Models of airplanes that have been significant in Miami's history

including the Wright Model B and Curtiss Model D that were the first

planes flown in Miami, a Cubana Viscount Turboprop (first Cuba to Miami

airplane hijacking), an L1011( the plane from the Eastern Airlines

Flight 401crash), and an original Brown Racer flown at the 1934 All

American Air Maneuvers.

Other artifacts include original Pan American Airways founder Juan

Trippe's office desk, a make-up table that Pan Am student flight

attendants trained on, Amelia Earhart luggage, a pilot's helmet and

goggles belonging to Charles Lindbergh and more.

There's plenty of hype surrounding ABC's new Pan Am TV series this Fall.

To what extent did Pan Am affect

South Florida as we know it today?

Pan Am was central to Miami's development. It established two of our

earliest airports, Pan American Field (which is on the current footprint

of MIA and the Dinner Key airport). Pan Am brought aviators, aviation

mechanics and aviation instructors from around the world to Miami to

train, work and establish the infrastructure needed to make Miami an

aviation hub.

Pan Am also brought legions of celebrities, politicians and dignitaries

to Miami including Franklin Delano Roosevelt (the first sitting

president to fly and he flew out of Dinner Key). Pan Am's Dinner Key

headquarters was instrumental in the development of international air

and passenger routes to Latin America and the Caribbean.

In recent years, air travel is consumed with safety and terrorism. What were some of the industry's issues from 40 or 60 years ago?

The exhibition is organized around several of the key issues in the

aviation industry during its 20th century development and how they

impacted Miami and its people: Selling, the

promotions that needed to take place to make commercial aviation

viable; safety, the training and infrastructure that needed to be

established to make flying safe; service, attending to the needs of the

flying public; and security, how aviation has intersected with

international politics.

Two other sections of the exhibition explore the beginning of aviation

in Miami through its first two flights and the development of Miami

International Airport. In the "Selling" section we examine the work early

celebrity aviators like Lindbergh, Earhart, and Rickenbacker did to

promote aviation to a skeptical public that had never flown before and

we explore high profile and successful events such as the Miami All

American Air Maneuvers, which helped tout Miami's world-class

aviation facilities.

"Aviation in Miami" opens this Thursday at HistoryMiami (101 W. Flagler St., Miami) with a reception at 5:30 p.m. and will be up until July 22, 2012. Admission to the reception is free. Otherwise, admission cost $5 to $8. Call 305-375-1492 or visit historymiami.org

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