The international airport of New Orleans was originally named Moisant Field and the MSY identification comes from the airport’s origins as Moisant Stock Yards, the name given to the land where the U. S. aviator John Bevins Moisant (Illinois 1868 – New Orleans 1910) crashed where the airport was later built.
John Bevins Moisant was born in Kankakee, Illinois, to French-Canadian immigrant parents but lived in El Salvador for around a decade. In 1909, at the request of José Santos Zelaya, President of El Salvador, John went to France to investigate airplanes.
Consequently, John went to the Reims Air Meeting in France and became very interested in aviation: he took flying lessons and started his short but remarkable aviation career. John won a number races and contests and, most impressive, he built and flew the first all metal frame aircraft made in aluminum (1909) and flew the first flight with passengers across the English Cannel (1910).
John Moisant’s experimental aluminium plane of 1909. Source: Collection of Jean-Pierre Lauwers
The following year, he participated in the Belmont Air Show at Belmont Park, New York, where he flew his Blériot monoplane around a balloon 10 miles away and returned to the racetrack in only 39 minutes, winning an $850 prize. A few days later, he competed and won in a race around the Statue of Liberty beating out Claude Grahame-White, a British aviator, by 42.75 seconds. However, he was later disqualified because officials ruled that he had started late, and never received the $10,000 prize
Afterwards, John formed the Moisant International Aviators, a traveling flying circus, together with his brother. The troupe flew in air shows in several cities like Richmond, Virginia; Chattanooga and Memphis, Tennessee; Tupelo, Mississippi; and Kenner, Luisiana.
John Moisant died of a broken neck in December 31, 1910 in an air crash while making a preparatory flight in his attempt to win the Michelin Cap. The accident took place in the current location of Luis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. The owners wanted to honor him, so they called the stock yards the Moisant Stock Yards, or MSY for short: certainly the best airport code story of all.