Recognizing Aviation’s Impact & Achievements on National Aviation Day
The year was 1903. Two brothers with a talent for innovation and a desire to do something daring and new launched their invention, an airplane. For 12 seconds over a distance of 120 feet, the airplane flew. These innovators were Wilbur and Orville Wright, and their actions forever changed the course of history and spurred the development of the aviation industry as we know it today. In honor of this achievement, in 1939, Aug. 19 was deemed National Aviation Day to honor contributions in the aviation industry. Aug. 19 coincidentally enough is also Orville Wright’s birthday.
As National Aviation Day approaches, one doesn’t have to look far to see the impact the aviation industry has especially on Arizona’s economy and livelihood. For instance, did you know the Grand Canyon State has 84 airports? A look at some statistics about the industry in Arizona shows how vital aviation is:
- 470,000 jobs and a payroll of $14.7 million
- 10 percent of the State’s total employment
- The Aviation economic impact on the state is $38.5 billion per year
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is the largest airport in the state of Arizona. In 2010, more than 38 million passengers traveled through Sky Harbor’s doors. Phoenix Sky Harbor has more than 33,000 employees.
“Airports are the backbone of aviation in Arizona and throughout the world,” said Phoenix Sky Harbor Aviation Superintendent and President of the Arizona Airports Association Jennifer Maples. “The importance of these vital community resources cannot be overstated. Recognizing August 19th as National Aviation Day is one way we can support the industry which gives us so much in terms of economic impact, employment, essential services, and access to the world.”
A Look Back
Just as the aviation industry has grown and developed over time, so has Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The Airport was nicknamed “The Farm,” and after being purchased by the city of Phoenix in 1935, started to build facilities to accommodate future growth. Phoenix Sky Harbor started off with one terminal, one gate, three daily flights, and 600 passengers a year. Now the Airport has grown to three terminals, has almost 100,000 passengers a day, and exciting future developments are underway such as the PHX Sky Train™ which recently reached a milestone earlier this week with the delivery of the first train car. Click here to read more about this.
The city of Phoenix also owns and operates two general aviation airports. They are Phoenix Deer Valley Airport and Phoenix Goodyear Airport. Phoenix Goodyear Airport located in Goodyear, Ariz., recently celebrated its 70th anniversary. It was used extensively in World War II as a Naval Aircraft Acceptance Facility (NAAF). Phoenix Deer Valley Airport located in North Phoenix is a much younger facility. It was built in 1960, and today is one of the busiest general aviation airports in the United States.
A Passion for Aviation
Many of us can recall the first airplane we saw close up or the first time we traveled by air. For passionate aviation enthusiasts, their interest and enjoyment of aviation is not only apparent, but is contagious. Stories of unique aviation moments and pictures of distinctive planes stir emotions and foster excitement. For Aviation Superintendent II Dustin Loftis, working at Phoenix Sky Harbor is a dream come true. Loftis always knew he wanted to be able to fly. In fact, his fondest memory is his first solo training flight.
Loftis, who holds a pilot’s license, graduated from Arizona State University with an aeronautical technology management degree. He worked with Boeing for a few years before arriving at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport first as a temporary airside operations assistant and then as a full-time airside operations assistant before being promoted to his current role. In this position, Loftis is the construction coordinator for Airside Operations and works with many different groups.
“I enjoy the wide-variety and that there is something new and different each day,” Loftis said.
But Loftis’ favorite aspect of aviation and working at Phoenix Sky Harbor is being out on the airfield, especially when special arrivals or charters are involved. He has had the opportunity to work as the VIP coordinator for Airside Operations and has handled arrivals for bowl game charters and the Super Bowl. He has also had the opportunity to work the arrival of Air Force One for the President. These are his favorite memories at Phoenix Sky Harbor.
Loftis is quick to note, however, that his team plays a crucial role in operations at the Airport and is one of the main reasons he loves working in this field.
“The team I work with are a fantastic group of people,” Loftis said. “This is the most enjoyable job I have ever had.”
See More & Learn More
Aviation enthusiasts traveling through Phoenix Sky Harbor can visit Terminal 3 to see a restored SPAD XIII aircraft from 1917. The vintage aircraft on display contains 80 percent original parts from three SPAD aircraft and 20 percent replicated parts and has a wooden airframe and fabric covered wings. Find out more and watch a video here.
Want to see a collection of unique and interesting planes that have passed through Phoenix Sky Harbor? Visit our Facebook album to see photos taken by Aviation Superintendent II and enthusiast Dustin Loftis.
To learn more about Sky Harbor’s history, click here.
First posted: 8/18/2011