San Francisco International Airport

Miami Int’l Airport and the Miami Hound Machine

The ‘Miami Hound Machine’ – a team of therapy dogs – is coming to Miami International Airport.

Miami International Airport’s new therapy dog program, charmingly called the Miami Hound Machine, is making its debut today.

The team’s five volunteer K-9 Ambassadors – Abbey, Belle, Dash, Donovan and Pico – and their owners will be on site today with airport officials for a press conference. The pups will then go to work inside Concourse D, visting with passengers and being cute.

Members of the Miami Hound Machine are all certified therapy dogs from the Alliance of Therapy Dogs and will be on duty in the MIA terminals during peak travel periods.

Therapy dogs at airports are a growing trend. So are the types of animals on the therapy dog teams – San Francisco International Airport’s Wag Brigade has a pig (Lulu); Denver International Airport’s CATS program (Canine Airport Therapy Sqaud) has a cat named Xeli, and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) often has a small herd of miniature horses stop by.

Have you encountered a member of an animal therapy team at an airport? Thumbs up or down?

Amelia Earhart slept at the first airport hotel

Where was the very first airport hotel?

Oakland Airport Inn

Oakland Airport Inn – Courtesy Port of Oakland

My “At the Airport” column on USA TODAY this month explores the history of airport hotels, including the three (so far) hotels I found that claim to be the first airport hotel.

SFO Airport Hilton

The sprawling San Francisco Airport Hilton opened in 1959. Photo courtesy San Francisco International Airport.

In its long “History of Firsts,” Hilton Hotels & Resorts claims to have pioneered the airport hotel concept with the opening of the San Francisco Airport Hilton in 1959.

Their claim is off by at least 30 years.

Aviation historians say that, in fact, the first hotel built at a United States airport opened its doors to the traveling public on July 15, 1929, on the grounds of what is now the North Field of Oakland International Airport.

“The Oakland Airport Inn was adjacent to the dirt runway,” said Ian Wright, Director of Operations at the Oakland Aviation Museum, “And the structure still stands today.”

At opening, Oakland Airport Inn boasted 37 rooms, a restaurant, a barbershop and a ticket office, according to Air & Space Magazine,.  But in 1931, in a article concluding that airport hotels would never catch on with travelers,  Aviation described the hotel as being “almost completely devoid of patrons after a year of operations” because two airlines had shifted flights away from the Oakland airport.

Restaurant that once served the Oakland Airport Inn. Courtesy Port of Oakland

To fill the rooms, the hotel management instead courted pilots and students from the Boeing School of Aeronautics, which operated on the airport’s grounds from 1929 until the early 1940s.

Courtesy Port of Oakland

Courtesy Port of Oakland

Today the building that housed the Oakland Airport Inn is home to the Amelia Earhart Senior Squadron 188, a local unit of the Civil Air Patrol.

That Earhart homage is fitting: Amelia Earhart was a regular guest at the Oakland Airport Inn. And in May 1937 she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, set out from the airport’s North Field for their ill-fated second attempt to fly around the world.

Dearborn Inn

Ford Trimotor plane flies over Dearborn Inn at Ford Airport in 1931. Courtesy The Henry Ford

While guests can no longer check-into a room at the Oakland Airport Inn, they are able to book rooms at the Dearborn Inn, in Dearborn, Michigan (near Detroit).

The hotel opened its doors on July 1, 1931 and along with claiming this to be the world’s first airport hotel, the Michigan Historical Marker out front says Henry Ford built the inn to serve Detroit-bound guests arriving at the Ford Airport, which opened in 1924.

Stout Air Services, run by Edsel Ford’s friend William Stout, began offering flights between Dearborn and Grand Rapids, MI in 1926 and in 1929 was flying daily (except Sunday) to both Chicago and Cleveland using Ford Trimotor aircraft.

Courtesy The Henry Ford

Courtesy The Henry Ford

“The Dearborn Inn was actually the brainchild of Henry Ford’s son, Edsel, and was intended to be the ‘front door’ to the city of Dearborn and to The Ford Motor Company,” said Charles Sable, Curator of Decorative Arts at The Henry Ford, “Edsel wanted to provide employees, visitors and airline flight crews with nice, comfortable accommodations.”

Noted Detroit architect Alfred Kahn designed the building for a hotel Edsel wanted modeled after the charming New England inns with Colonial-style décor he’d stay in when traveling back and forth between his homes in Detroit and Bar Harbor, Maine.

Dearborn Inn

Cafeteria at the Dearborn Inn – Courtesy The Henry Ford

“The exterior of the hotel is vaguely a Colonial design,” said Sable, “But one feature that’s really cool is that at the tippy top there’s a ‘widow’s walk,’ or observation platform, where guests could go out and watch the planes land at the airport.”

Today the Dearborn Inn operates as a Marriott Hotel featuring modern rooms that are still decorated with Colonial-style furniture and fabrics. The 231-room hotel complex also still offers guests the option to stay on “Pilots Row” – in rooms once used by airline crews – or in one of the five replica Colonial-style homes of Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe and other famous Americans that Henry Ford had built at the inn.

Other ‘early’ airport hotels

Some of today’s travelers may remember a few other early airport hotels that are now also footnotes in history.

Memphis International housed the Skyport Inn from about 1972 until around 2012. The in-terminal hotel had about 30 rooms split between the A and C Mezzanines and was popular with pilots and flight attendants who had early morning flights. Many, if not all, of the rooms may have lacked windows: in an article about the hotel being razed to make way for office space, the Memphis Business Journal noted that each room at the Skyport Inn had its own skylight.

The Airport Mini Hotel that once operated at Honolulu International Airport closed its doors not long at 9/11. But for many years the hotel offered travelers on layovers a space to nap and freshen up for less than $10 an hour. “Apparently the rooms were small, but the bathrooms were decent,” said airport spokeswoman Claudine Kusano.

And while we now know that th sprawling Hilton that operated at San Francisco Airport from 1959 until the late 1990s was not the world’s first airport hotel (by a longshot), we do know that a night club at the hotel called Tiger A-Go-Go was quite popular with passengers, airline crew and employees.

So popular, it seems, that in 1965, the pop duo Buzz & Bucky released a single about the lounge titled (what else but) Tiger-A-Go-Go (click on the link to give it a listen) which spent four weeks on the Billboard charts.

What are your favorite airport hotels?

Fresh art at San Francisco Int’l Airport: the Cat in Art

Cat night-light late 18th–early 19th century. Courtesy SFO Museum

The SFO Museum is hosting a new exhibit at San Francisco International Airport featuring more than one hundred objects celebrating cats.

There are an estimated 600 million domesticated cats worldwide, with cats edging out dogs as the most popular modern-day pets.

Historically, cats were worshipped by the ancient Egyptians and celebrated as symbols of good luck throughout Asia. In Europe, cats were associated with magic, witchcraft, and evil spirits and were persecuted for centuries before they gained cultural acceptance

Although officially condemned in Medieval Europe, cats were praised by painters, sculptors, and intellectuals during the Renaissance, with Leonardo da Vinci proclaiming that “even the smallest feline is a masterpiece,” the exhibition tells us.

Caticons: The Cat in Art, explores the history of the cat and its allure through art, literature, and decorative arts from around the world and is on view in the pre-security area of the International Terminal at San Francisco International Airport through April, 2019.

Here are some more images from the exhibit, courtesy of the SFO Museum exhibit:

Seated cats c. 1900

Temple cats – 19th to early 20th century

 

SFO Museum offers free films at SFO Airport

 

Courtesy SFO Airport

Airports in Portland, Oregon and Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn. have them. And now San Fransciso International Airport has one too!

The SFO Museum has opened a gallery space for video art and short films at SFO Airport.

Located in the the International Terminal Main Hall, the gallery will show a rotating reel of short films, including documentaries, narratives, experimental films and all forms of animation – with a new film introduced weekly.

Up now: a program that includes works by South African filmmaker Tlhonepho Thobejane and an award-winning animated short by Michael Bidinger and Michelle Kwon.

This free gallery is located pre-security at SFO Airport is free and is open daily from 5:00 a.m. to Midnight.  You can also see the videos on the SFO website.

 

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Exquisite airplane models on view at SFO Museum

Hughes H-4 Hercules (“Spruce Goose”) model. Courtesy SFO Museum

A new exhibition from the SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport features almost  three hundred 1:72 scale (one inch = six feet) models of pioneer, sport and commercial aircraft made with plastic, wood, metal, wire, string, and epoxy and detailed with paint and decals.

Air France Concorde SST (Super Sonic Transport) model aircraft. Courtesy SFO Museum

The models come from the collection of Jim Lund, a Bay Area native who made aircraft models as a kid and returned to the practice as an adult.

“Numerous models were constructed or modified from kits produced by manufacturers worldwide,” exhibit notes tell us,  and “In the many instances when no kit was available, Lund crafted the model parts from scratch based on manufacturers’ plans using the ‘vacuform’ process—a method that creates plastic parts from his hand-carved wood forms.”

Aviation Evolutions: The Jim Lund 1:72 Scale Model Airplane Collection is on view pre-security on Depatures Level 3 through May 13, 2018.

Here are some more examples of what’s on view.

 

American Airways Curtiss Condor T-32 airliner model aircraft. Courtesy SFO Museum

 

SCADTA (Sociedad Colombo Alemana de Transporte Aéreo) Junkers F.13 airliner model aircraft . Courtesy SFO Museum

 

Dornier Do X flying boat airliner model aircraft. Courtesy SFO Museum