Los Angeles International Airport — LAX

October 2004 » In Civil History
Wheat, barley, and lima beans once grew where the world's third-busiest airport, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), is located today. The airport serviced 67.3 million passengers in 2000, who traveled to destinations in the United States, as well as Canada, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Australasia. The city's penchant for attracting world events - such as the 1984 Olympic Games the 1994 World Soccer Cup - also has played an important part in boosting the airport's growth.

Wheat, barley, and lima beans once grew where the world's third-busiest airport, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), is located today. The airport serviced 67.3 million passengers in 2000, who traveled to destinations in the United States, as well as Canada, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Australasia. The city's penchant for attracting world events - such as the 1984 Olympic Games the 1994 World Soccer Cup - also has played an important part in boosting the airpor's growth.

Andrew B. Bennett, anative of Los Angeles, leased 2,000 acres of theDaniel Freeman ranch in1894, which became known as the Bennett Rancho. Bennett leased his acreage to tenant farmers.

Eventually, many of the ranch's land parcels weresold to various companies,and in 1912, a large section of the land in the southwest corner of the Centinela Valley was purchased by James Martin and the Los Angeles Extension Company, which Martin controlled.

During the 1920s, Bennett Rancho attracted pioneer aviators, who used a small portion of the ranch as a makeshift landing strip. People began coming to the ranch on weekends to view the early flying machines in action.

In 1927, Inglewood Municipal Judge Frank Parent, Harry Culver, a real estate promoter, and George Cleaver, an oil land developer, led a group of citizens pushing for establishment of a major airport on Bennett Rancho. That same year, the Los Angeles City Council became interested in creating a municipal airport.

In July 1927, real estate agent William Mines,representing Martin's interests, offered 640 acres of the former Bennett Rancho to use as an airport for the city of Los Angeles. On July 25,1928, the city councilchose what became known as Mines Field as the location for the city's airport. Mines Field boosted aviation when people flocked there to see national air races with legendary figures such as Charles Lindbergh.

Mines Field was dedicated and opened as the official airport of Los Angeles in 1930, and the city purchased it to be a municipal airfield in 1937. The name was changed to Los Angeles Airport in 1941, and to Los Angeles International Airport in 1949.

Until 1949, the entire airport was located east of Sepulveda Boulevard. As the airport extended west, a tunnel was completed in 1953so that Sepulveda Boulevard could pass underneath the runways. It was the first tunnel constructed of its kind. In 1959, jet service began at LAX, carrying passengers between LAXand New York.

Several features contribute to make LAX auniquely designed airport. The distinctive white Theme Building, constructed in 1961, resembles a flying saucer landed on four legs.

A rotating restaurant, the Encounter Restaurant, provides a sweeping view of the city and is suspended 70 feet above the ground, beneath two intersecting arches that form the legs. The restaurant, topped by an observation deck, features a space-age interior design. In 1992, the Los Angeles City Council designated the building a cultural and historical monument.

Ground was broken for the Tom Bradley International Terminal in 1982 and the $123 million terminal opened in 1984. In 1996, a new 277-foot-tall control tower was constructed at a cost of $29 million. The control tower services LAX's four parallel runways. Individual local control and ground controllers handle the duties for each of the four runways. Clearance delivery, flight data,and gate-hold positions are operated from the central position of the tower cab.

Soon afterward, 14 Plexiglas cylinders, each up to 10 stories high, were placed in a circle around the intersection of Sepulveda Boulevard and Century Boulevard, with additional cylindersof decreasing height following Century Boulevard eastward. The cylinders, lit from inside, slowly cycle through a rainbow ofcolors, and provide a landmark of the city for visitors arriving by air at night.

LAX's central terminal complex features nine passenger terminals connected by a U-shaped two-level roadway. 


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