From Camelback to Clouds: Unveiling Arizona’s Rich Aviation Legacy at the Laughlin Bullhead Airshow 2024

Published by The Bee News

January 15, 2024

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In the spring of 2023, the first Laughlin Bullhead Airshow filled the skies over the Colorado River with an array of aircraft and stunt performers. Below were crowds of spectators in awe of the performances and fascinated by the ground displays.

The free Laughlin Bullhead Airshow returns on April 6. Organizers of the stellar event have announced that in 2024 there will be even larger displays of historic, military, experimental and civilian aircraft on display.

The airshow in Bullhead City is the latest chapter in the story of Arizona’s rich aviation history that commenced in 1908. That was the year that Enos Engstrom and Augustus Bonney soared, for a short distance, above the slopes of Camelback Mountain near Phoenix in a home-made glider.
The world’s first airshow took place in August of 1909. And in February 1910, the Phoenix Aero Club hosted the Salt River Valley Air Festivities. It was the first event of its kind in the territory.

Headliners for the event were Charley Hamilton and Charles Willard that had performed before an estimated crowd of 226,000 spectators at the Los Angeles International Air Meet in January of the same year. For their appearance in Phoenix, the duo was paid $4,000 and shared 25% of gate receipts.

With promotion proclaiming this to be the second air show in the United States, organizers raised more than $14,000 from local businesses. The owners of these companies were eager to be a part of the historic event, and to display certificates in their windows with pride.
Not to be outdone, Emanuel Drachman partners with George E. Kitt, president of the Tucson Chamber of Commerce, and immediately initiates plans for an air show in the old presidio before the end of February.

Incredibly organizers in Douglas quickly organized a small show with Charles Hamilton as the headlining performer. That event also took place before the end of February. In less than 30 days the territory of Arizona had become a focal point for aviators and media from throughout the world.
Alfred Williams, a pioneering aviator, set up shop in Douglas. He built and tested a variety of aircraft and in May 1910 added a twist to the airshow. He performed with a daring passenger on board!

In September of 1911, another aeronautical milestone occurred in Arizona. Robert Fowler, competing for a $50,000 prize offered by William Randolph to the first pilot to fly across he United States, made an unscheduled landing at a ball field in Yuma. As was flying from California, this was the first plane to fly into Arizona from outside the state.

The Laughlin Bullhead Airshow is more than just another opportunity to thrill crowds with stunt pilots. It is a direct link to Arizona, and the nations, earliest aviation history.

As you make plans to attend this exciting and historic event, add High in Desert Skies: Early Arizona Aviation by William D. Kalt III to your reading list. Then make plans for a weekend of fun and excitement on the Colorado River in April.

Written By Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America

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