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5 things you didn’t know about McCarran International Airport

McCarran International Airport, one of two airports in the world (Reno being the other) to have slot machines, started out serving a few thousand people in the late 1940s, growing to 1 million in 1959 and now serving over 40 million travelers as one of the busiest airports in the U.S.

The major host to Spirit, Southwest and Allegiant Airlines also is a gateway to almost every major international destination. The airport is technically located outside of Las Vegas, in Paradise, which is perfect considering most of the Strip is too.

Here are five things you might not know about one of the nation’s biggest airports:

It was named for former Sen. Pat McCarran

McCarran was Nevada’s Reno-born senator from 1933 until his death in 1954. He was known for his strong anti-communism views.

The airport was named in recognition of him in 1948 for authoring the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938, which pushed for growth of civil aviation. He also wrote the Federal Airport Act and the National Aircraft Theft Act.

In 2012, Sen. Harry Reid made clear his desire to remove McCarran’s name from the airport.

“Pat McCarran was one of the most anti-Semitic … one of the most anti-black, one of the most prejudiced people ever to serve in the Senate,” he said. “It’s not a decision I am going to make, but you asked me to give you my opinion. I don’t think his name should be on anything.”

Terminal 3 was big for Nevada (really, really big)

The (mostly) international terminal cost $2.4 billion — the costliest public works project in Nevada. The terminal originally held 15 international carriers and later added five domestic airlines.

With a $51 million project to begin in November, McCarran is planning to double the number of gates for international flights.

It hosted some odd airlines in the past

When the Las Vegas Strip slowed down on development during the 1960s, resorts were adding new attractions and gimmicks to draw in visitors. This included the Hacienda’s 30-plane fleet, designed to fly in gamblers from around the country. The planes reportedly were complete with a piano and bar.

A 1958 Cessna 172 hangs from the roof above baggage claim painted with “Hacienda,” but it wasn’t one of theirs. The hotel-casino sponsored the small plane’s flight that set the World Endurance Aloft after flying 64 days, 22 hours and 19 minutes straight.

Most passengers fly to California

A lot of the airport’s focus has been on international travelers in recent years — reasonable, considering the numbers. But where is everyone flying from Las Vegas? California, mostly, with many flights going to Los Angeles and San Francisco, according to Transtats.

Reminder: L.A. is about four and a half hours away by car. 

Its longest runway is the third longest in U.S.

The longest commercial runway in the country is 16R/34L at Denver International Airport at 16,000 feet long and a price tag of $166 million. McCarran’s 25R/7L is just under at 14,505. The runway closed in 2014 for a $67 million overhaul, but opened again for the summer months. It’s expected to close again around the end of October. 

Contact Kristen DeSilva at kdesilva@reviewjournal.com.  Find her on Twitter: @kristendesilva

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