What does Chevrolet and our Mohave County Airports have to do with each other?

Published by The Bee News

December 14, 2022

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The first decades of the 20th century were a period of dramatic transition in the desert southwest. Stagecoaches operated out of Kingman until 1916, and the local Studebaker dealer sold horse drawn wagons and carriages until the early 1920s. Well into the mid-1930s teamsters and mule skinners were still hauling supplies and equipment to remote mining camps and ranches well into the 1930s. 

And yet in 1908 drivers roared across the desert from Los Angeles to Phoenix in the first Desert Classic Auto Race. The Phoenix Aero Club was established in 1909 and hosted the territories first air show in 1910. In that same year A. L. Westgard, on behalf of the Touring Club of America, mapped the Trail to Sunset, a road connecting Chicago and Los Angeles that crossed Arizona diagonally from Springerville to Yuma. 

In the fall of 1914, Louis Chevrolet and Barney Oldfield were counted among the drivers competing in the last of the Desert Classic races. The mezzanine at the El Garces hotel and depot in Needles, California was crowded with spectators as the drivers lined up for the second leg of the race on the National Old Trails Road, predecessor to Route 66, through the Back Mountains and into Kingman, Seligman, and Ash Fork.

Louis Chevrolet

The following summer Edsel Ford and friends from college, and more than 20,000 travelers followed that pioneering highway to California to attend the Panama Pacific Exposition. Ford also stayed at the El Garces and noted in his journal dated July 17, 1915, that Needles was “oppressively hot.” 

In early 1919 the town of Needles was brought to a standstill. Stores and schools closed early so people could see the De Havilland DH-4 that had stood on its nose when pilot Lieutenant R.O. Searle flying with the Texas based Gulf to Coast Squadron made an emergency landing in a field near town.

In February of 1919 the Gulf to Coast Squadron was temporarily assigned to the newly established Hualapai Field airfield in Kingman. This was the first landing field established in northwest Arizona.

According to a feature in the Mohave Miner published in December 1918, aviators approved the new field as wind conditions were deemed favorable. It was established to serve as a stop for the U.S. Aerial Mail Service Chicago-Los Angeles route. 

The Gulf to Coast Squadron pilots were tasked with creating the first aerial survey of the Grand Canyon and upper Colorado River Valley. This historic expedition proved to be the cornerstone for a rich aviation history in Mohave County. 

Charles Lindbergh landed at Hualapai Field in early 1928. He would make several visits to Kingman during construction of Port Kingman, an airfield for TAT, one of the first passenger airlines. And during WWII the Kingman Army Airfield with auxiliary fields along Route 66 at Yucca, and at Site Six, now Lake Havasu City, was one of the largest military training centers in the United States. 

A new chapter in the county’s aviation history will be written on April 1, 2023. The Laughlin Bullhead Airshow will feature top air show performers, military demonstrations with vintage warbird displays, and civilian aerobatic exhibitions. There will also be static exhibits on the ground showcasing aviation history. A special thanks to our first premier sponsor Findlay Motor Co. of Bullhead City for paving the way for this great air show.

Written by Jim Hinckley



An Army De Havilland DH-4 refueling at Wallapai Field in February 1919
A Sikorsky S38-10 amphibian on its delivery flight refueling at Western Air Express Field, currently Kingman Airport, in October 1928


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