Los Angeles International Airport is the primary airport serving Los Angeles, C ali fornia. It is generally referred to by C ali fornians simply as “LAX”, with the letters pronounced individually.
Los Angeles International Airport handles more “origin and destination” (i.e. not connecting) passengers than any other airport in the world. It is the world’s fifth busiest by passenger traffic and sixth-busiest by cargo traffic, serving some 60 million passengers and more than 2 million tons of freight in 2004.
Los Angeles International Airport is the third-busiest airport by passenger traffic in the United States. In terms of international passengers, Los Angeles International Airport is the second-busiest in the U.S. (behind only JFK International Airport in New York City, but only 20th worldwide. Before 9/11 it was the third busiest airport in the world. It is a major hub for United Airlines.
Los Angeles International Airport serves destinations in North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Oceania. The airport occupies some 3,425 acres of the city on the Pacific coast, about 15 miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles.
Los Angeles International Airport is one of the most famous locations for commercial aircraft spotting, most notably at the so called “Imperial Hill” area (also known as Clutter’s Park) in El Segundo where nearly the entire South Complex of the airport can be viewed.
Another famous spotting location sits right under the final approach for runways 24 L&R on a small grass lawn next to the In-N-Out Burger restaurant, and is noted as one of the few remaining locations in Southern C ali fornia where spotters may watch such a wide variety of low-flying commercial airliners from directly underneath. The airport’s coastal location exposes it to fog, during which flights are occasionally diverted to Ontario International Airport in San Bernardino County 47 miles (76 km) to the east.
In 1928 the Los Angeles City Council selected 640 acres (2.6 km²) in the southern part of Westchester as the site of a new airport for the city. The fields of wheat, barley and lima beans were converted into dirt landing strips without any terminal buildings. It was named Mines Field for William W. Mines, the real estate agent who arranged the deal. The first structure, Hangar No. 1, was erected in 1929 and is now a historic landmark.
Mines Field was dedicated and opened as the official airport of Los Angeles I 1930, and the city purchased it to be a municipal airfield in 1937. The name was officially changed to Los Angeles Airport in 1941 and to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in 1949. Prior to that time, the main airport for Los Angeles was the “Grand Central Airport” in Glendale.
Until this time, the entire airport was located east of Sepulveda Boulevard. As the airport expanded westward to meet the Pacific Ocean, a tunnel was completed in 1953 so that Sepulveda Boulevard would pass underneath the airport’s runways. It was the first tunnel of its kind.
The distinctive white “Theme Building,” constructed in 1961 resembles a flying saucer that has landed on its four legs. It was designed by a team of architects and engineers headed by William Pereira and Charles Luckman that also included Paul Williams and Welton Beckett.
The initial design of the building was created by James Langenheim, of the Pereira-Luckman firm. A restaurant that provides a sweeping view of the Los Angeles International Airport is suspended beneath two intersecting arches that form the legs. The Los Angeles City Council designated the building a cultural and historical monument in 1992.
A $4 million renovation, with retro-futuristic interior and electric lighting designed by Walt Disney Imagineering, was completed before the “Encounter Restaurant” opened there in 1997.At one time, tourists and passengers were able to take the elevator up to the roof of the “Theme Building”, but after the September 11th attacks, the rooftop was closed off to everyone for security reasons. It was once said the rooftop would reopen for public use, but that was determined to be a rumor.
The first jet service appeared at Los Angeles International Airport in 1959 transporting passengers between Los Angeles International Airport New York. The first wide-bodied jets appeared in 1970 when TWA flew Boeing 747s between LAX and New York.
Groundbreaking for the new Tom Bradley International Terminal was conducted in 1982 by Mayor Tom Bradley and WWII aviator General James Doolittle, and the $123 million terminal was opened in 1984. In 1996, a new 277 foot (84 m) tall air traffic control tower, with overhanging awnings that shade the windows and make the building vaguely resemble a palm tree, was constructed at a cost of $29 million.
Soon afterward, fourteen plexiglass cylinders, each up to ten stories high, were placed in a circle around the intersection of Sepulveda Boulevard and Century Boulevard, with additional cylinders of decreasing height following Century Boulevard eastward. The cylinders, lit from inside, slowly cycle through a rainbow of colors, and provide an additional landmark for visitors arriving by air at night.
Los Angeles International Airport can be reached using the Century Boulevard exit to Interstate 405, or the Sepulveda Boulevard exit on Interstate 105. There is also a shuttle bus “G” that connects to the Aviation/I-105 station on the Metro Green Line light rail. The line was originally intended to connect directly to the airport, but budgetary restraints and opposition from local long-term parking lot owners impeded its progress.
However, a free shuttle bus is available every 10 minutes. 24hr. parking is available at the Aviation/Harbor Fwy Green Line Station.
Since March 15, 2006, LAWA runs two bus lines to the various Los Angeles International Airport terminals at least hourly, on the hour, and around the clock.