Shushan Airport is now known as Lakefront Airport.
Art Deco administration building at Shushan Airport
2010 photo of the restored art deco facade of the Lakefront Airport administration building. Infrogmation photo.
Architectural drawing of the Administration building of Shushan Airport. The state built the airport on the eastern side of the Industrial Canal. Then-governor Huey P. Long authorized the construction of the airport in 1929. The airport opened in 1934. Airport visitors pull up to this splendid example of art deco style. The Army Air Corps hardened the administration building at the outset of World War II. While the original art deco design remained, the AAC covered it with a “bomb proof” exterior. The building underwent extensive renovations in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Its original facade was restored, as well as the art deco fixtures, floors, etc., in the interior.
Shushan to Lakefront
architectural rendering of Shushan Airport administration building.
The state originally named the airport after Huey Long ally Abraham Shushan. Long rewarded Shushan’s loyalty (and financial contributions) with a position on the Orleans Parish Levee Board. Shushan became president of that board. That’s why the airport took his name. Shushan got caught up in several political scandals in the 1930s. Abe became a liability to his patron. The Long faction cut him loose and re-named the airport in 1939. It became New Orleans Airport, with the three-letter designation, NEW. When Moisant Field in Kenner evolved into the city’s primary airport, New Orleans Airport became Lakefront Airport. It still retains NEW as its code, with now-named Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport as MSY.
This rendering is part of the Franck Studios collection at THNOC. The architectural firm that created it is uncredited.
As tensions increased in Europe in the late 1930s, the United States Army Air Corps created antisubmarine aircraft squadrons along the Gulf of Mexico. One of these bomber squadrons operated from Lakefront Airport. While the planes parked at the airport, there wasn’t enough space to house the squadron’s personnel and offices. The Army acquired land on the west side of the Industrial Canal. They built the support facilities for the squadron there. Pilots and maintenance crew worked back and forth across the canal. The western base later became part of Camp Leroy Johnson, an army supply depot.
New Orleans Lakefront Airport (NEW) was the city’s go-to airfield during WWII.
Postcard of New Orleans Airport (NEW) from the 1930s. The image shows a commercial aircraft parked behind the main terminal building, boarding passengers. Image source unknown–if anyone’s done a deep dive on this one, please let me know. The aircraft appears to be a Douglas DC-3.
Delta Airlines 1945
Fast forward to 1945. One of the ads I found in the Times-Picayune for 26-December-1945 was for Delta Airlines. The ad caught my eye for two reasons. First, it was Delta to Dallas. Delta ceased nonstops from New Orleans to Dallas in 2003. The airline filed for bankruptcy then and gave up hub operations at DFW. Delta’s headquarters stands off the runway at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. Delta to Dallas? Thing of the past.
The second thing–the flight time! Modern flights to Dallas, say MSY to Love Field (DAL), maybe an hour and ten minutes. Three hours? Well, yeah, it’s not a jet. But still!
The image in this ad looks like a DC-3 as well. The Douglas DC-4 had four engines, and the illustration looks like a two-engine aircraft. The military used the DC-3 as a sleeper aircraft, with 14 bunks. The Army Air Corps version of the plane, the C-47 transported paratroopers and glider troops to Normandy on D-Day.
Moisant or Lakefront?
A commenter to the ad post on Instagram asked, which airport? Another commenter replied this had to be Lakefront Airport, because MSY didn’t open to commercial aviation until May, 1946. So, New Orleanians hopping a plane to Dallas in 1945 drove out to the lakefront. NEW opened (as Shushan Airport) in 1934. A year later, airlines shifted to Kenner. Lakefront Airport morphed into a general aviation site, with Air National Guard units as well as private aircraft.
Lakefront Airport Today
The gorgeous Art Deco terminal underwent a major renovation in 2012-2013. It’s gorgeous, and merits an article of its own, which we’ll get to at some point.
Moisant Airport in the 1960s. what we now call “the old terminal.”
As we approach Thanksgiving and Yuletide, Da Airport picks up its pace. In 1960, what we now think f as “the old terminal” opened for business. These postcard shots of the main terminal at Moisant Field, from Mr. Garrett L. Robertson of Metairie, show the completed front facade and interior. So, the airport, which opened in 1946, operated from a terminal in a large hangar building. Mayor Chep Morrison spearheaded the new terminal project. Construction began in 1959. While this terminal served the airport from 1960 to 2019, calls for a new airport came throughout its history. The “new terminal” opened in 2019.
Moisant Stock Yards
The airport’s IATA code, MSY, stands for Moisant Stock Yards. John Moisant was an aviation pioneer and stunt pilot. He died in a crash on the site of the airport in 1910. Agricultural facilities on the site took his name. New Orleans Lakefront Airport (originally named Sushan Airport) had the IATA code NEW. Therefore, the new airport in Kenner required something different. Moisant fit, hence MSY. The code confounds visitors to this day.
The main building stood on Airline Highway. It offered an appealing visual as visitors and locals alike came out. The spacious interior included restaurants, lounges, and other amenities for travelers. So, gates extended via a concourse directly behind the terminal building. As the airport grew in capacity, the facility built more gates. Concourses “A” and “B” opened in 1974.
The original gates underwent renovation in 1992, becoming “C” concourse. Additionally, Delta and United Airlines moved to “D” concourse, upon its completion in 1996.
The airport’s name evolved from Moisant Field to Moisant Airport, to New Orleans International Airport. The airport retained its MSY code throughout. So, in 2001, the Aviation Board officially changed the airport’s name. It became “Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.” This marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late jazz great Louis Armstrong,