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.

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