Airplanes played a pivotal role in attracting tourism to one southern Utah town.
On September 27, 1920 the first airplane cast its shadow over Cedar City, Utah. Who was flying it? And why were they flying there?
In the early 1920s, airplanes were still a novelty. While daredevil pilots created carnivals in the sky for earthbound spectators, others hoped to utilize airplanes for more lucrative purposes. In the autumn of 1920, Chauncey Parry, who managed the Zion Park and Grand Canyon Transportation Company, teamed up with Salt Lake Aero Club members H.H. Bullen and L.B. Dutro to film the red rock treasures of Utah and Arizona from the cockpit of a small plane. Along the way, the trio stopped at the Cedar City Fairgrounds and took passengers up for an exciting “glimpse at the landscape from a new angle.” The local paper wrote, “We cannot conceive of anything more inspiring and gorgeous than viewing the Cedar Breaks from an aeroplane at close range.” The flyovers inspired Cedar City boosters eager to develop new tourist attractions.
Little came of the scenic-flight business idea until 1929, when the Aeronautics branch of the Department of Commerce constructed an emergency landing strip just outside of Cedar City. Even then, commercial fliers couldn’t use the airstrip unless the City chipped in on construction costs. It wasn’t until the onset of World War II that the City, with the help of the federal government, finally scraped together enough funds to construct a permanent, municipal airport. During the war years, the 316th Army Air Corps Training Detachment used the airport for flight training. Once the war ended, the airport transitioned to civilian control and could finally be used for tourism and recreation. It took a few years, but by the mid-1940s, tourists could fly over Kolob Canyon for $5 dollars.
Today, more than 13,000 passengers fly through Cedar City each year. As anticipated, the municipal airport helped the town secure its status as a “natural gateway” to Southern Utah’s canyon country.
Rebecca Andersen for Utah Humanities © 2014
Image: Small aircraft at the Cedar City Airport, 1968. Image taken at the newly built airport in Cedar City, Utah. Tourism and recreation drew tourists into the Cedar City airport in the postwar period. Courtesy of Sherratt Library, Southern Utah University.
See “History of Cedar City Regional Airport,” Cedar City Regional Airport, accessed October 23, 2014; Historic news articles referenced here can be found at www.digitalnewspapers.org: “First Aeroplane in Cedar Breaks: Queer Bird Hovers for First Time Over Scenic Cliffs and Above Neighboring Valleys,” Iron County Record, October 1, 1920; “Commercial Planes Cannot Use Local Airport,” Iron County Record, June 24, 1931; “Plans are Formulated for Development of Cedar City Airport,” Iron County Record June 6, 1940; “Cedar City Airport Dedication Planned for Sunday, September 14,” Iron County Record August 28, 1941; “Navy Men Start Flight Training in Cedar City,” Iron County Record July 16, 1942; “California Flight School Plans Use of Cedar City Airport,” Iron County Record November 5, 1942; “See America’s Most Gorgeous Scenic Wonderlands from the Air,” Iron County Record, September 13, 1945; “Centre for Motion Pictures Filmed in Southern Utah,” Iron County Record, May 23, 1946; and “Enplanements for CY 2013,” Federal Aviation Administration, September 29, 2014, accessed November 17, 2014.
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