The North Las Vegas Airport opened as Sky Haven Airport on December 7, 1941. The airport, the creation of John and Florence Murphy and their partner, John Barrett, was celebrating its opening day when news of the air raid on Pearl Harbor came. The scheduled flying demonstration was immediately put on hold as the nation progressed to war.
Even though its opening was interrupted, the little airport proved a big success during World War II. Private and business pilots used the field, as well as off-duty pilots from the Las Vegas Army Air Field. While Barrett and John Murphy served as Army Air Corps instructors in Arizona, Florence Murphy ran the field for the war's duration. The civilian flyers using the field included Howard Hughes, who flew in on numerous occasions.
After the war, the Murphys sold their interest in Sky Haven to their partner. Barrett operated it until 1948 when he became the first airport manager for the new McCarran Airport. Eventually Barrett sold his interest in Sky Haven to Wes Durston, who owned the airport throughout most of the 1950s and into the 1960s. He eventually renamed it Thunderbird Field. Though continually busy, the field was small enough that its runways were not paved until 1960. Also in 1960, a new administration building and restaurant were added.
In 1965, Ralph Englestad bought the airport and sponsored a national air race at the field. In 1966, the City of North Las Vegas bought the field and changed its name to the North Las Vegas Air Terminal. North Las Vegas only owned the airport for a year before Howard Hughes's Summa Corporation purchased the facility in 1967.
As early as 1974, the North Las Vegas terminal had become a general reliever airport for McCarran International Airport, and the FAA took over air traffic control. Summa Corporation continued to operate the field until 1987, when it was purchased by Clark County. The current terminal building was completed in 1992.
Today, North Las Vegas is Nevada's second busiest airport, in terms of takeoffs and landings. General aviation and sightseeing airline activity have moved it into the top fifty airports in the nation. Though born in war, the North Las Vegas Air Terminal has matured into a significant part of southern Nevada's peacetime aviation heritage.
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