By Harold Fuller
It was March 1947 and the prospects for an air line service into Hawthorne were appearing a distinct possibility. Mr. Edmund C. Converse, President of Bonanza Airlines and his staff made a flying visit here to conduct a survey of the technical facilities available to establish such a service. They had received prior permission to land at the naval depot airfield which at that time was not available for private or commercial use. Mayor Henry Gilbert and members of the city council and members of the Hawthorne Business Men’s Association met the party at the airport and accompanied them to the office of Captain N.C. Gillette, the Naval Depot Commandant. Discussions followed on how best to cut through the miles of red tape with the U.S. government to “make it happen.”
Bonanza Airlines had started their operation the previous year with a Reno to Las Vegas run but were handicapped by not having a mail contract and had to rely on totally on passenger service. For the airline to survive it was necessary to pick up additional business by making stops in Hawthorne and Tonopah.
The ball started rolling and Senator Pat McCarren was soon informed by Admiral Nimitz that the 12th Naval District would approve the proposal for a five year revocable lease with the City of Hawthorne for use of the airport. The proposal was guided through the Washington maze by McCarren and soon temporary approval was given so that operations could start. Hawthorne and Bonanza’s DC-3’s were in business; with flight arrangements being made by Mr. Jack Bott at the Golden Key Drug Store.
The flight schedule and rates were published and the north bound flight would leave Las Vegas 11:05 a.m. and arrive at Hawthorne – 12:45 p.m. Leave Hawthorne – 12:55 p.m. and arrive Reno – 1:25 p.m. Hawthorne to Reno cost $5.88 and to Las Vegas cost $16.63. South bound flights left Reno at 1:55 p.m. Flights were available every day except Tuesday. The first flight into Hawthorne was on May 23, 1947 and the first passengers headed for Reno were: Mrs. Ed Bearden, Mrs. Stiendrt from the base and Mrs. Cwough, the visiting sister of Capt. N.C. Gillette. The line continued to expand with fill in stops at Carson-Minden, Kingman, Prescott, Ajo, Yuma, El Centro, San Diego and finally the big one; Los Angeles.
Things went well between Hawthorne and Bonanza for a few years but increased human traffic between the larger cities generated complaints about the “milk run” having to set down at Tonopah and then again here, wasting time, picking up “a couple” of passengers.
Ed Converse and Bonanza were getting big with very profitable runs into the larger cities with Hawthorne and some of the smaller cities becoming a detriment. They believed it necessary to drop us off the route; and they did.
As Jack McCloskey once said; “Ed Converse forgot who took his airline to the dance.”