By Mary Woodhouse
The world had hardly been introduced to aviation in 1924. Charles Lindbergh was three years away from making his historic trans-Atlantic flight. But the board of directors of the Yavapai County Chamber of Commerce could see what flying machines would mean to the remote community of Prescott.
In 1924, the group negotiated a lease with the Fain family for a plot of land where today's Prescott Municipal Airport stands. On Aug. 26, 1928, the airport was dedicated to the memory of Ernest A. Love, a Prescott pilot killed in action during World War I.
In 1969, a group of citizens considered changing the name of the airport to honor Max Conrad. Gail Gardner wrote to The Courier that although Mr. Conrad was a "fine citizen," the airport should remain in memory of Love.
"Ernest A. Love, a Prescott boy, a 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force was killed in aerial combat in World War I and it is for him that our airport is named."
Of course, there was no U.S. Air Force in World War I. It didn't become an autonomous military branch until 1947. There is some question as to which branch Love actually served in but in World War I most pilots were part of the U.S. Signal Corps.
Gardner continues describing the dedication ceremony in his letter:
"There wasn't a building of any description on the airport, the County Engineer had bladed out the long runway and the short East and West runway and we, of the Chamber of Commerce Committee, had taken a sack of lime and marked out by hand a 100 foot circle where these runways intersected. Then we went up and down both runways with shovels leveling the mounds and filling up the holes made by the hundreds of prairie dogs that infested the field. We got a long metal pipe, a motorcycle hub and installed a wind sock, we bought a great coil of 1 inch rope, and gathered up all of the old Model T Ford axles in town, this in anticipation of tying down the host of military aircraft we had invited to the dedication. We erected a speaker's platform, built a couple of very primitive comfort stations quite far away and our airport was in business."
Photographs of that day show that the speaker's platform was actually two flatbed trucks backed end to end and decorated with a dozen or so flags. The stiff summer winds from behind the speaker's stand meant speakers were dodging flags while they spoke.
The Chamber Committee responsible for the airport included Gardner, Steve Spear, George Hill, Joe Eichbaum and the Standard Oil dealer, according to Gardner's letter. A copper plaque dedicating the airport to Love had been built by John Hennessey and the committee built a stand for it out of cement and colorful rocks. It eventually disappeared from the airport, rocks and all.
"Some eighteen or twenty planes flew in from March Field, Riverside, California with some notable pilots at the controls," Gardner continued. "Scenic Airways of Grand Canyon sent their Ford tri-motor."
Governor George W.P. Hunt "made a speech about the great future of aviation in Arizona, also adding a political note here and there."
Over the years, the airport has remained a vital, if sometimes invisible, asset to the community. Thousands of pilots from around the world have learned to fly from its runways through both the prestigious Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and private flight schools. Many of Arizona's most active and skilled general aviation pilots have called Prescott home and today, corporations looking for easy access to an airport are considering building at Prescott Municipal Airport.
Mary E. Woodhouse is a Freelance Writer in Prescott.
Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (pb149f9i9). Reuse only by permission.
At the dedication of Ernest A. Love Field in 1928 two flatbed trucks were backed up to each other and decorated with flags and banners to serve as a stage. The airport has served Prescott for 71 years for commerce and training.