Las Vegas aviation pioneer Margaret Crockett dead at 97

Peg Crockett, seen in November 2006. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Long before becoming one of the busiest travel hubs in the U.S., the area where Harry Reid International Airport sits was a plot of land with dirt runways where Margaret “Peg” Crockett and her husband, George, lived, and serviced, flew, rented and sold private aircraft.

Last year, Crockett appeared incredulous as she marveled at the mammoth facility, looking over historical artifacts from what was once known as Alamo Airport. Her family had donated relics for the in-airport museum over time.

“Well, to me it’s my baby,” she said in a video filmed by the airport for 2021’s Women’s History Month. “I can’t believe it, how it’s grown.”

Crockett’s loved ones, along with Southern Nevada’s aviation community, mourned her March 30 death at the age of 97.

“LAS would never have existed without her dedication and spirit,” airport officials wrote, referring to the Las Vegas airport code, calling her a “pioneer.”

Since her mother’s death, Caty Crockett has been reflecting on the elder Crockett’s lifetime of experiences.

“To be 97 is pretty amazing,” the daughter said in a phone interview. “She lived a very full life. I’d say she had a long, rich life.”

A meeting between Crockett and Rosemary Vassiliadis, Clark County’s director of aviation, the first woman to hold the airport’s top position, was filmed for the Women’s History Month video.

“This is a thrill of my career,” Vassiliadis said.

A humble and spry Crockett replied: “Look at the job you’re doing. Running that little place was nothing compared to what you’re doing.”

“You are a legend in our industry, and especially here at the airport,” Vassiliadis said.

‘Legend’

Crockett, whose maiden name is Nickerson was born in 1924 in Pasadena, Calif., where she would experience the Rose Parade from a tree in her family home’s front yard.

After her architect father retired, the family moved to the valley in 1937, building the Hidden Well Ranch, where she helped entertain the property’s guests, such as filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock and author Lloyd Douglas, with cookouts and trail rides.

“There was a little cottage on the property, and Mother and Dad lived in that, and there was a small shed out back that Dad refinished in knotty pine and made my house,” she told the Las Vegas Review-Journal for a 2014 story. “It was my castle.”

It was not long before she began participating in Helldorado parades.

“We had horses, and I loved it,” Crockett told the newspaper. “I turned from a little city girl into a cowgirl overnight. I had the boots and the hat and the Western shirt. We all did in those days.”

As WWII raged in the early 1940s, a teenage Crockett, who was a licensed pilot, participated in the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron which pilots would transport military aircraft from factories. Alamo Airport was one of the facilities used for the operation.

“I felt good about it, because women didn’t fly much in those days,” she said in the airport’s 2021 video. “I felt I had a place and a duty to the women.”

She married George Crockett, who had founded the airport, a few years later. A wedding announcement from the time noted she wore a gabardine suit with a corsage of natural orchids. The newspaper clip described the couple as being “prominent in local flying circles.”

And they were, befriending aviators such as Howard Hughes.

After the couple sold the rest of their flying operation, they traveled the world. For decades, they hosted the Las Vegas Rotary Club, and Peg Crockett was made Honorary Rotarian in 1992, two years after her husband died.

She was involved in the Mesquite Club, Assistance League and National Society of Colonial Dames of America, and a Boy Scouts of America honoree for her contributions. She also was also predeceased by her son, Henry Chris Crockett.

“She had many many friends, here and everywhere,” said her daughter, Caty “She really enjoyed every minute of it.”

A celebration in life is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 1 at the Spanish Trail Country Club.

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @rickytwrites.