Ranked in 11th place as the United States’ busiest airport (and 29th place in the world) with over 44 million passengers in 2015, Arizona’s Sky Harbor is no doubt an airport with a long and interesting history. Initially built as a single-runway strip in the 1920’s, the airport grew into one of the largest in the country, servicing one of the country’s biggest cities, Phoenix.
sky harbor

In recent years, it began to offer international flights, bringing in visitors from the other side of the globe to visit the state of Arizona, and allowing native Arizonans to travel abroad. The airport is in constant development, allowing more passengers to pass through annually as well as increasing the efficiency of the overall airport.

The history of the airport can be traced back to 1928, when a small dirt strip was laid out for a small airline known as Scenic Airways. In 1929, with the Stock Market Crash and the subsequent collapse of Scenic Airways, the strip was acquired by Acme Investment Company. On July 16th, 1935, the small strip (known as the farm) was bought for $100,000 by the city of Phoenix. Thus began the development of the strip into a proper airport.

In 1952, Phoenix Sky Harbor began to appear on the maps of major airlines, such as American Airlines and TWA. It was in this year that Terminal 1 was constructed, at a cost of over $800,000. During this time, a control tower was constructed, using parts from underground fuel storage tanks that were welded on top of each other.

In 1962, with the emergence of the Jet Age, it became obvious a new terminal would need to be constructed to account for the massive amount of air traffic (1962 was the year Sky Harbor surpassed one million passengers). Enter Terminal 2. When Terminal 2 was completed, it was one of the most modern terminals in the United States, and greatly increased the capacity of Sky Harbor. This terminal was expected to maintain passenger traffic until 2000.

However, by the end of the 1960’s, it became clear that Terminal 2 could not hold the massive volume of passenger traffic until 2000, so a new terminal began construction in 1976 to further increase the maximum capacity for the airport. Three years and $35 million later, Terminal 3 opened in 1979. This allowed over seven million passengers to pass through the airport that year. Later, in 1985, nearly 12 million passengers passed through Terminal 3 alone. Terminal 3 is a massive terminal, with over 880,000 square feet of space, and still serves passengers to this day.

In the late 1980’s, the City of Phoenix decided to expand Phoenix Sky Harbor to include International flights. Thus, in 1989, construction of Terminal 4 began, and opened in November of 1990. The project was so large, that it was the largest and most expensive project ($248 million) that it was the largest in the entire city of Phoenix. As it’s the largest terminal in the airport, it carried about 70% of all airport traffic in 1991, with 15 million passengers.

In 1991, Terminal 1 was demolished. However, the other terminals kept the same numbers. Now Phoenix Sky Harbor is focusing on improving the commute between terminals with improved train