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Phoenix Sky Harbor: Providing 80 Years of World Class Service

by Public Relations | Published On: Sep 14, 2015 | Last Updated: 

Hangar in the 1930sCity of Phoenix leaders were either very visionary or very fortunate when they decided to buy Phoenix Sky Harbor.  At first glance, the purchase of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport by the city of Phoenix in 1935 may not have seemed too promising. But the fear of losing out on airmail and urged by its residents, the city of Phoenix purchased the airport for $100,000.   And for the next eight decades, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport has ascended in ways no one could have projected back during the height of the Great Depression.

Today, America’s Friendliest Airport® is among the country’s top 10 busiest airports and generates an economic impact just shy of $30 billion.

To pay tribute to Phoenix Sky Harbor’s 80th birthday, a collection of photographs chronicling the airport’s maturation are assembled in an exhibition called Moving Forward: 80 Years of World Class Service. The exhibition, which is curated by the Phoenix Airport Museum, is located west of the food court in Terminal 4 on level 3 and features the airport’s evolution through black-and-white and color photographs that stretch back to the 1920s.

In addition, the airport is displaying objects that were part of air travel through the years, including airline playing cards, menus and amenity bags that contained hand lotion, toothbrushes and other amenities.

The exhibition is a historical journey that is chronicled in 10 sections:

  • Moving to the Valley: From Farm Field to Airfield – Photos include images of the 1920s and Scenic Airways, which purchased farm land outside the Phoenix city limits to build Sky Harbor Airport.
  • Moving In: Phoenix Buys an Airport – Photos depict the how the airport looked like when the city of Phoenix bought the facility from Scenic Airways.

  • Moving Toward War: Brings Airport Improvements – Photos illustrate a triangular landing system in the 1940s that allowed military aircraft to take off and land in any direction at Sky Harbor.

  • Moving Modern: The 1950s and Terminal 1 – Photos of Terminal 1 are displayed in this section, which notes that the airport ranked 11th in the U.S. for overall use.

  • Moving in Style: The 1960s and Terminal 2 – Illustrations include photos of Terminal 2, which displayed one of the airport’s first public art pieces, a 75-foot-long mural.

  • Moving on Up: A New Tower and Terminal 3 – Photos in this 1970s section showcase a new FAA tower and large-scale paintings displayed in Terminal 3.

  • Moving & Constructing: The Ambitious 80s and 90s – Photos highlight the emergence of a giant, new building – Terminal 4, which today captures 80 percent of all passenger traffic.

  • Moving into the 21st Century: Adapting for Growth – Photos in this turn-of-the-century section show art in the off-site Rental Car Center and yet another, new FAA tower.

  • Moving People: Get on Board the Sky Train – Photos introduce the automated PHX Sky Train® and demonstrate why the people mover has proven very popular with the public.

  • Moving to the Future: Terminal 3 Modernization – The photos in the last section highlight the Terminal 3 Modernization effort, which will provide travelers with a more efficient way of getting through the terminal, as well as providing more amenities.

The Phoenix Airport Museum is one of the largest airport art museums in the U.S.  The museum includes an art collection of approximately 900 artworks, 35 exhibition spaces in six buildings and the Phoenix Aviation Archive.

For more information, visit our Museum section.

See pictures from the exhibition on our
Pinterest page.

 Pictured above and to the right the North Terminal and hangar in the 1930s.