Houston IAH 50 years opening day

First official flight at IAH took place 50 years ago this weekend

HOUSTON — It was 50 years ago that Houston Intercontinental Airport — which would be renamed George Bush Intercontinental Airport in 1997 — welcomed the first official commercial flight to the new airport in Houston.

On Saturday, June 8, 2019, Bush Airport hits that 50th anniversary, and will commemorate it with gifts for passengers in Terminal A on Friday, June 7, 2019, beginning at 10 a.m. until they run out. There is also a 3D photo booth available in Terminal A North for passengers to pose with.

“It was 50 years ago that we first learned dreams are more than notions and wishes. That with hard work and dedication, you can go anywhere. Even the moon,” said Houston Aviation Director Mario C. Diaz. “And, appropriately enough, in that same time frame 50 years ago when man first set foot on the moon, another dream was realized when Houston Intercontinental Airport opened, strengthening our city’s status on the international stage.

“Now, five decades later, that same airport — now, George Bush Intercontinental Airport, named for the former president and great American statesman — is a modern, growing airport, recognized as a 4-star facility serving nearly 45 million passengers annually, including nearly 11 million international passengers.”

Back in 1969, just before midnight, a Texas International (TI) DC-9 piloted by TI Vice President A.J. High and carrying Houston city leaders and dignitaries took off from Hobby International Airport, did an aerial tour of the city, and touched down shortly after midnight at Houston Intercontinental Airport.

Texas International was the winner in a drawing to determine which airline would make that first official landing in the new airport, and it led a parade of flights waiting to land behind it, including flights by Continental and Pan American.

Meant To FlyIn his book Meant To Fly, Captain A.J. High wrote: “I made the flight with Jim Cowart as co-captain. TI usually called on Jim and me anytime there was a flight with member of the press or local dignitaries on board because we knew how to handle the people. This time we took the press, all the Houston City Council and most of the County commissioners. They were having a great time drinking champagne, walking around chatting with each other and coming up into the cockpit to talk to Jim and me. We took a leisurely flight out over Galveston Island and Bay to allow time for all of them to come into the cockpit, two at a time, to see what was going on.”

That first official flight took place nearly a week after an open house at the new airport on June 1 and June 2, 1969. Thousands from Houston and the region attended, touring the new facility, which featured two terminals, and were entertained by demonstrations and displays, including flights by the Blue Angels and the Goodyear Blimp and rides on the underground train that ran between the terminals.

The formal dedication ceremony was held on June 2, 1969, and among the dignitaries attending was a young U.S. senator who would eventually have the airport renamed for him in his honor.

The Houston Airport System celebrated the 50th anniversary at its IAH Fest in March.

To learn more about Bush Airport and all that Houston’s airports have to offer, check out the Houston Airport System’s  award-winning fly2houston.com website.