The Philadelphia International Airport

This brief page providing some interesting facts and background information on the Philly International Airport is brought to you by our team of experienced Philly slip and fall lawyers.

Inaugurated in 1940 as the Philadelphia Municipal Airport, the forefather to PHL transported a mere (compared to today’s numbers) 40,000 passengers under the call sign of just a few airlines. In the following decades, the Philly Int’l Airport has expanded and evolved majestically as travel has exploded in popularity and the need for a large international airport in the Eastern border of Pennsylvania arose.

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The Birth Of The Philadelphia Municipal Airport

Philadelphia officially entered the air transportation field in 1925 when it provided 125 acres of land for training pilots of the Penna National Guard. One year later, the City entered into an agreement with a local exhibition company to operate the same facility as the “Municipal Aviation Landing Field.” Little more than a year late,r in 1927, history was made for the Municipal Landing Field when the Spirit of Saint Louis, piloted by Charles A. Lindbergh, touched down on its tarmac. During his visit, Lindbergh ceremoniously raised the American flag to celebrate what was then known as the Philadelphia Municipal Airport.

By the ’30s, an adjacent site to the original land grant was purchased by the City for $3 million and approved to be used for expansion of the Airport. Given that the land was previously derelict, this proved a most appropriate renovation. Unfortunately, due to the Great Depression, the Airport project did not progress until 1936. In fact, the actual construction of the building and landing field began in 1937, and the Airport was formally opened as Philadelphia Municipal Airport on June 20, 1940.

The 1940’s saw the airport transport almost 40,000 passengers, most of whom flew in Douglas DC-3 planes, which carried a measly 21 passengers. During World War II, military security forced the closing of the Airport, and commercial air service was not restored until June 1945, with a grant of $3.5 million to the Northeast Philadelphia Airport. Soon after, in 1945, the Philadelphia Municipal Airport was renamed to Philadelphia International Airport when American Overseas Airlines inaugurated their transatlantic services at the facility.

The year 1950 say construction projects approved, namely a new $15 million terminal building that would be inaugurated in 1953.

PHL in the Second Half of the 20th Century

In the late 1960s, the City and the airlines based at the Philadelphia International Airport began planning for a vast improvement project to meet the challenges of the jet age. Subsequently, the Division of Aviation constructed a brand new passenger terminal as well as airfield & accompanying facilities to meet the needs of the traveling public. The biggest component of this project, a $22 million all-weather runway with related high-speed taxiways, was finished & opened in December 1972.

During the 1980s, the Airport would see significant improvements with the implementation of a major $695 million capital improvement program. The decade opened with the approval of a state-of-the-art $6.5 million Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control facility in December 1981. Other enhancements included 500 ground-level short-term parking spaces, a SEPTA service rail line, and a multi-faceted project intended to improve the flow of traffic on the often-congested arrivals roadway.

The early 2000’s saw significant developments and upgrades to the Philadelphia International Airport. The opening of two new terminals nearly doubled the size of the Airport, from 1.4 million to 2.4 million square feet. Moreover, unexpected demand for air travel, borne of low-fare competition in this decade, steadily increased passenger traffic to more than 30 million in 2009. Perhaps most memorably, during this decade PHL broke into the global top 10 busiest airport rankings with 535,666 aircraft operations in 2009.

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