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75 Years Ago – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport Officially Opened For Business

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Scranton and Wilkes-Barre were linked as the new $5 million Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport near Avoca was officially opened on June 1, 1947. As a throng from Lackawanna and Luzerne counties watches, an American Airlines plane receives freight cargo destined for shipment to cities throughout the world. An estimated crowd of 40,000 people attended the opening of the airport. This photo was taken around noon, almost three hours before the ceremony started.

June 1, 1947

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport open for business. It was a banner day for our region with the opening of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Class IV Airport near Avoca.

The airfield, larger than LaGuardia Field in Queens, New York, by 156 acres, was to be the region’s place for passenger and freight air traffic, with the carriers American and Colonial airlines.

Close to 40,000 people were on hand for the opening ceremony at the airport.

The ceremony started at 2:30 p.m. with the raising of the American flag by the members of the Civil Air Patrol, while the 109th Field Artillery Band played “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The Rev. Jules Ayers, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Wilkes-Barre, offered the invocation, which was followed by brief remarks by U.S. Judge John W. Murphy and attorney Daniel J.F. Flood, former U.S. representative from Luzerne County.

Also offering remarks were R.S. Damon, president of American Airlines, and Sigmund James, president of Colonial Airlines.

Once the remarks were finished, the crowd’s attention was directed to a recently landed Colonial Airlines plane that taxied to the speaker’s platform. Elected officials from Luzerne and Lackawanna counties were aboard, including Lackawanna County Commissioners George Bonner and M.F. Lawler, and U.S. Rep. James Scoblick of Archbald.

After the passengers disembarked, a christening ceremony took place. The plane, one of American Airlines’ flagships, was named the “Wilkes-Barre-Scranton.” The christening was performed by two sets of twins — one from Lackawanna, one from Luzerne. The twins were 18-year-old Mary and Anne Krayer of Scranton and 17-year-old Gertrude and Margaret Perkins of Wilkes-Barre. The four girls all received wristwatches from Damon.

The exercise concluded with six flights around Luzerne and Lackawanna counties aboard the “Wilkes-Barre-Scranton.” Each flight carried groups of people involved in the opening ceremony and employees of the new airport.

Reporter’s notebook

Robert Bower, co-pilot of the “Wilkes-Barre-Scranton,” lived in Wilkes-Barre, and his father, R.H. Bower, lived in Dunmore.

Airport Manager Howard Shafer told The Times that ticket sales for flights to Chicago, St. Louis and the West Coast exceeded expectations.

County Commissioner Lawler and his 13-year-old nephew, William, both had their first airplane flights aboard the Colonial Airlines’ flight that landed during the ceremony. The flight went to Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Reading before returning to Northeast Pennsylvania.

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