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History of Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport is one of the busiest in the world, and it is the main hub for Delta flights, both domestic and international. If you fly with Delta to Orlando International Airport, then you will most likely land at this huge and rapidly expanding airport, which has a long and interesting history.
In fact, the land on which Atlanta Airport was built first housed the Atlanta Speedway. Built in 1909 by the founder of the Coca Cola Company, Asa Chandler, this speedway became one of America’s greatest automobile racetracks. Unfortunately it only lasted about a year as people did not attend the races in sufficient numbers. But its demise gave the opportunity for it to be used to display that new and exciting invention, the aeroplane at Atlanta’s first air show.
The First World War saw aeroplanes being widely used, and after the war they were sold off at extremely low prices – you could buy an aeroplane for around $300, less than the $500 it would cost to buy a Ford T car. Although the old track lay unused during the war years, one of Atlanta’s government officials, Alderman William B Hartsfield had enough vision to insist that the city must remain at the forefront of aviation, and that air travel would be vital to the growth of the city of Atlanta.
The Mayor, Walter Sims leased the land from Asa’s son, for a 5 year period, so that it could be developed into an airfield. This was called Candler Field. It was on September 15th, 1926 that the first Florida Airways plane landed, carrying a cargo of US mail. A year later Charles Lindberg, the famous aviator who was the first pilot in history to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean, landed his plane, Spirit of St Louis at Candler field. People turned out in droves to give him a hero’s welcome.
It was Delta airlines who flew the first passengers into the airport in June 1930, and by 1934 it was flying a permanent service from Fort Worth to Atlanta. The airport’s first control tower was opened in 1939. During the Second World War, the airport doubled in size, and by 1942 had 1700 takeoffs and landings in one day. By 1946 it had become Atlanta Municipal Airport. The airport continued to expand, and by 1948 was logging 360, 000 take offs and landings.
The 50’s saw the airport become the busiest in the country in 1957, and this resulted in a new passenger terminal being commissioned. The opening of this new terminal was celebrated in style in 1961, and it was designed to serve six million passengers annually. With 48 gates, a new control tower, one mile of concourses and approach radar which could reach 60 miles it was ‘state of the art. ’
However, it grew at an unprecedented rate and a year later 9. 5 million passengers had travelled via the airport. By 1967 it was recognised that a new plan was necessary to develop it for the future, and construction of a new airport began in 1977. The new airport opened its doors in September, 1980, with a new name honouring the former Atlanta mayor who was the inspiration behind the first airport. At two and a half million square feet, the complex was the largest airport facility in the world, capable of accommodating 55 million passengers a year, and 16 airlines.
But the airport development did not stop there as in 1984 a new 9, 000 ft fourth runway was completed. The international facility, Concourse E opened in September 1994, and of course the 1996 Olympics resulted in further improvements, including renovations and reconstructions, and the addition of the beautiful three storey 250, 000 sq ft Atrium. Approximately 2 million spectators, and 10, 000 athletes passed through the airport.
As Atlanta International Airport continued to expand in the 21st century, another runway was necessary, and in 2006 a fifth 11, 889 ft runway was completed. The building of this runway was a massive project which required the transporting of 27 million cubic yards of soil in a 5. 5 mile long encased conveyor belt system. At the height of the building project 11 conveyor belts were in operation, moving 3, 600 cubic yards of soil per hour. The runway will actually be built on a bridge that crosses the Interstate 285, so aircraft will take off and land on top of 10 lanes of traffic which will speed along a highway a few dozen feet below. Of course, this bridge has had to be reinforced to allow future jetliners which will weigh 255, 000 lbs, and may even weigh over a million lbs, to land and take off.
Currently the airport covers nearly 3, 750 acres, or the equivalent of 2885 football pitches placed side by side. Its mission is to be ‘the world’s best airport by exceeding customer expectations. ’ It will be interesting to see if it achieves this target.
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Page added on: 1 January 2009
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