Happenings at the Wedell-Williams Airport

Stop 4 of 7 in the Wedell-Williams Airport in Jefferson Parish tour

The Wedell-Williams Airport saw quite a bit of excitement after it opened in early 1931. The Ford company sponsored a series of annual air tours dubbed “The National Air Tour,” with the 1931 tour being the final one. The National Air Tour, led by referee Major James Doolittle, stopped in New Orleans for the first time at the airport the following July. Such air tours promoted aviation in the United States, and for a few days national eyes rested on New Orleans as the pilots stopped at the Wedell-Williams Airport.

Like many other airports of the time, the Wedell-Williams Airport hosted aerial spectacles. On April 6th, 1932, possibly in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of America's entrance into World War I, flyers performed a mock aerial battle over Canal St. and over the Wedell-Williams Airport. The 1932 New Orleans Carnival of the Air also featured fliers, but instead of seeing aerial battles, spectators saw death-defying stunts and races. They were possibly watching the events from where you are standing right now, which in the 1930s, was flat, grassy, and perfect for watching the planes. Wedell showcased his now-famous #44 in this event, but Edith Fasterling almost overshadowed that bright red racer when she crashed her plane a mile away from the airport.

Crashes and dangerous aerial stunts piqued people’s fascination with airplanes, but it hurt aviation’s viability as a safe mode of transportation. Education in advertising and the constant pursuit of safety and comfortable transportation helped the aviation industry attract apprehensive passengers. The use of planes for tourism and business transactions demonstrated that planes might not be more dangerous than taking a train or riding in a car. Though the pilots of the Wedell-Williams Air Service often showcased their daring at air shows and races, safety remained a top priority.

Images

The 1931 National Air Tour

The 1931 National Air Tour

From an autogiro, a Times-Picayune photographer documented the Wedell-Williams Airport as it hosted 19 planes on July 13, 1931. This was the first picture taken from this early version of a heliocopter in Louisiana. Image courtesy of the Times-Picayune View File Details Page

Judging the Air Tour Planes

Judging the Air Tour Planes

Harry Williams, President Abraham Shushan of the Board of Commissioners of the New Orleans Levee District, and other judges assessed the competitors' performance records. Inset in the picture is the autogiro described in the previous picture Image courtesy of the Times-Picayune View File Details Page

The New Orleans Carnival of the Air

The New Orleans Carnival of the Air

On April 8, 1932, the Wedell-Williams Airport in Jefferson Parish hosted the air carnival, which thrilled all comers with races, jumps, and other aerial shows. Image Courtesy of the E.F. Newman Collection, Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans View File Details Page

Edith Fasterling's Devastating Crash Near Airline Hwy.

Edith Fasterling's Devastating Crash Near Airline Hwy.

Fasterling was one of a small group of women pilots in the 1930s. These women took to the air with as much bravado as the men. During a flight in the New Orleans Carnival of the Air, her plane's engine died. Upon seeing the plane crash, pilots rushed to the site to find the aviatrix and her brother standing outside of the wreck, smiling. Image Courtesy of the Times-Picayune View File Details Page

Emergency Mercy Flight

Emergency Mercy Flight

In late December 1933, infant Sue Trammel, the daughter of W.B. Trammel of the Houston Natural Gas Company, needed an emergency brain operation in Baltimore. Jimmy Wedell ended his Columbia, TX vacation early to fly the baby and her family to Baltimore in record time despite the bad weather. Photo courtesy of the Wedell-Williams Memorial Foundation and the Louisiana State Museum View File Details Page

German Prince Provides Faster Transportation

German Prince Provides Faster Transportation

Wedell's speed was partly due to swapping planes with Prince Louis Ferdinand Hohenzollern (the grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm), who was happy to do so when he heard of the situation. It put off his travel plans, but that mattered little to him. Image courtesy of the Times-Picayune View File Details Page

A Successful Operation

A Successful Operation

On December 29, young Sue received her operation. Because of Wedell's speed and the doctors's skill, the baby survived. Image courtesy of the Times-Picayune View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Teresa M. Thessen, “Happenings at the Wedell-Williams Airport,” New Orleans Historical, accessed May 26, 2017, http://neworleanshistorical.org/items/show/683.
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