McCarran’s Hidden Gem Captures History of Vegas Flight


You’ve no doubt passed by the Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum dozens of times, giving it nary a glance as you dash through McCarran International Airport. Might we suggest that next time, before you take flight, you first take in a little history? Among the dozen or so exhibits you’ll find on the second floor of Terminal 1, between the two baggage-claim areas, are tributes to key players in the Vegas air-travel game (including Howard Hughes, William H. Nellis and the museum’s namesake, a former four-term U.S. senator who helped usher in modern-day McCarran); a detailed account of the airport’s evolution; and artifacts including a display of midcentury aircraft parts and a large collection of historic airline insignia.

The marquee attractions at the County-run museum: the red 1956 Ford Thunderbird (a replica of the “crash car” that once responded to airfield emergencies) and the Cessna 172 that hangs from the ceiling above the east baggage claim. It’s the aircraft that was used to set the world endurance flight record from December 4, 1958, through February 7, 1959, when it hovered aloft, never once touching ground, as part of a promotional stunt for the Hacienda Hotel. The record of almost 65 days still stands 55 years later.

Beyond the main museum, there are also historical displays in the ticketing and B Gate areas. And here’s the coolest part: It’s all free. When is the last time you could use that word in association with your flying experience?

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