Nevada has played a crucial role in the creation of modern commercial aviation. In 1978, United States Senator Howard W. Cannon successfully sponsored the first bill deregulating the commercial airline industry, changing forever the face of aviation as we know it.
In 1934, Cannon became interested in flying while working on a law degree from the University of Arizona. In World War II, he served as a second lieutenant with the 440th Troop Carrier Group. After the war, Cannon continued to serve in the reserves, and retired as a major general.
During his four terms in the Senate, Cannon chaired the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee's Aviation Subcommittee, and the Armed Services Committee's Tactical Air Power Subcommittee. He co-sponsored many bills affecting aviation, including the 1970 and 1976 Airport and Airway Development Acts, and the 1982 Federal Airport Development Act.
Cannon's Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 ushered in the current era of commercial aviation. He believed that commercial aviation should be treated like other industries, in which competition is encouraged. From United Airlines to Common Cause, groups inside and outside the industry supported the effort.
For Las Vegas and Clark County, deregulation was a great success. For the previous thirty years, there had been only five airlines flying into McCarran International Airport, but within five years after deregulation, that number increased to seventeen. Usage during that same period increased 29.4%, from 7.9 million in 1978 to 10.3 million in 1983.
Clark County and Las Vegas have reaped the benefits of Cannon's achievement. To pay tribute to his life of service to Nevada, on June 1, 1999, the Clark County Commission chose to name the Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum in his honor.
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