Reno-Stead Airport began in 1942 as the Reno Army Airport, an air base built by the Army Air Corps. In 1951 the air base was renamed Stead Army Airbase in honor of Croston Stead, who died while engaging in a mock dog fight in his P-51 Mustang.
From 1954-1964 the air base served as a training center for 80,000 Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force, and foreign officers, as well as most of the pre-1965 astronauts. The military officers were given classroom instruction on basic survival, evasion and escape. The field training consisted of trying to survive in the harsh mountainous terrain surrounding Stead. Conditions were worsened by the instructors simulating guerrillas and trying to capture the students. The classroom and field training lasted 15-21 days.
In 1963 the air base was set to close, along with 25 other military bases throughout the country. In 1966 the Stead Army Airbase was transferred to the City of Reno, and in June of 1966 it began operating as Reno-Stead Airport.
Since 1966, Reno-Stead Airport has been home to military operations, the birthplace of the Lear Fan, and home to the National Championship Air Races.