The first Michigan Air Tour consisted of 42 pilots who flew to 32 cities from June 10-16, 1929. Concurrently the Upper Peninsula staged a similar tour. At this time, there were no aviation charts (maps) by which to navigate. They had to find their way to airfields that were not even depicted on road maps! This initial Air Tour began at what was then the Pontiac Airport (now Oakland County International Airport).
In June of 1979 the 50th Anniversary Commemorative Air Tour was held. Sixty-five airplanes and more than 200 crew and passengers traced the routes of the Upper and Lower Peninsula 1929 Air Tour. How exciting it was to see “Ted” Abrams and Governor Murray Van Wagoner, both of whom had flown in the 1929 tour participate in the 50th Anniversary Tour. It is a sad fact that, today, many communities are trying to get rid of their airports, favoring the use of the land for housing or other commercial ventures. The Michigan Air Tour continues as a way to demonstrate to communities the economic importance of their airports.
A different route is planned each year and statistics are gathered from the State of Michigan as to how much money each airport on the tour contributes to their community. At each stop along the way, a presentation is made outlining not only the economic importance of each airport, but also outlining all their airport has to offer in the way of public services such as educational opportunities (not only flying lessons, but opportunities for youngsters to participate in career days, Civil Air Patrol, Boy Scout Explorer activities, etc.) and assistance to the community in times of hardship (sometimes during a national disaster, the only way into a community is by air). This is also a way in which to educate the public on aviation safety.