Aviation in Miami: The First 100 Years

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  SELLING — Selling Early Aviation in Miami

aerial photographMen hold a composite aerial photograph of the coast. Richard Hoit, one of the region’s first aerial photographers, probably made the composite photograph as well as this view. May 5, 1929. Photo by Richard B. Hoit. HistoryMiami. Hoit C10200.

It was one thing for thrill-seekers to pay for a 15-minute recreational flight or for World War I military aviators to risk their lives in the sky, and quite another to convince Aunt Betty and the cousins to trade their safe, comfortable train ride from New York to Miami for a flight on a newfangled airplane. In the early 1920s, flying wasn’t a travel option for many. Aircraft were cramped, noisy and had limited range and when flying over land routes, they also weren’t much faster than trains. Worst of all, airplanes crashed due to mechanical failure or adverse weather with alarming frequency.

photographerA photographer, probably Richard Hoit, holds his camera while seated in a biplane. May 5, 1929. HistoryMiami. Hoit C9825. airmailFlorida Airways airplane delivering its first airmail to Miami’s 54th Street Airport. April 1, 1926. Photo by Claude C. Matlack. HistoryMiami. Matlack 256-36.

With these limited prospects, early aviators in Miami worked mainly in the fields of airmail service and aerial photography. They also provided sightseeing flights to daring tourists and lessons to recreational pilots. Despite negative public perception, Miami did have one hefty advantage when it came to developing passenger flights: the city was at end of a long peninsula and, for continued travel to Cuba and the Bahamas, airplanes were faster than ships.

Early airlines founded in Miami, such as Chalk’s and Aeromarine Airways, offered flights to the Bahamas and other Caribbean destinations. All but Chalk’s, however, failed after a brief time, casting dim prospects on the future of passenger flights.

> Pioneering Aviators

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