Sky Harbor Airport’s evocative name was conceived by J. Parker Van Zandt, the owner of Scenic Airways, in 1928. However, the reasoning for the name is apparently unknown. Scenic Airways collapsed in 1929 after the infamous Black Friday stock market crash. Sky Harbor was built in late 1928 through early 1929 initially with one runway and was the fourth airport built in Phoenix. Acme Investment Company owned the airport until 1935 after the collapse of Scenic Airways. On February 23, 1929, Maddux Air Lines began the airport’s first scheduled passenger service with a route between San Francisco and El Paso stopping in Phoenix, Los Angeles, and several other cities however the service was short lived, ending by autumn 1929. Standard Air Lines had been serving Phoenix since late 1927 at a different airport and began landing at Sky Harbor on August 5, 1929. Standard operated a route between Los Angeles and El Paso stopping at Phoenix, Tucson, and Douglas, Arizona. Standard was acquired by American Airways in 1930 which later became American Airlines. American extended the route eastward to New York by way of Dallas, Nashville, and many other cities making for a southern transcontinental route across the United States. In 1935 the city of Phoenix purchased Sky Harbor airport from Acme for $100,000.
TWA began service to San Francisco in 1938 and added Phoenix onto its transcontinental network by 1944 with flights to Los Angeles and eastward to New York stopping at Albuquerque, Kansas City, and many more cities. Arizona Airways began intrastate service within Arizona in 1946 and merged into Frontier Airlines in 1950 which added new routes to Denver, Albuquerque, and El Paso. Bonanza Airlines began service by 1951 with a route to Las Vegas and Reno making several stops at smaller communities. New routes to Salt Lake City and Southern California were added in the 1960s along with nonstop flights to Las Vegas and Reno aboard Douglas DC-9 jets by 1965. Bonanza merged with two other carriers to become Air West in 1968 and was changed to Hughes Airwest in 1970 adding several new routes, including service to Mexico, creating a hub at Phoenix. Hughes Airwest was then merged into Republic Airlines in 1980 which continued the Phoenix hub operation until the mid-1980s. Western Airlines came to Sky Harbor in 1957 with flights to Denver, Los Angeles and San Diego, Continental Airlines came in 1961 to El Paso, Los Angeles, and Tucson, and Delta Air Lines began flights to Dallas by 1969. Since airline deregulation in 1978, Phoenix has seen numerous new air carriers begin service including United Airlines in 1980 and Southwest Airlines in 1982.
After World War II the airport began work on a new passenger terminal, as well as a new parallel runway and a diagonal runway. On the February 1953 C&GS diagram runways 8L and 8R are each 6,000 feet (1,800 m) long and runway 3 is 5,500 feet (1,700 m).
The $835,000 Terminal 1 (originally called the “West Wing”) which also had the first control tower, opened in October 1952. It was torn down in 1991 and replaced by a cell phone waiting lot, with Terminal 1’s parking lot now being the West Economy lot.
The April 1957 OAG shows 42 scheduled airline departures a day: 16 American, 11 TWA, 10 Bonanza, and 5 Frontier. American began a nonstop DC-7 to New York (Idlewild) in the summer of 1959.
The airport’s master plan was redesigned in 1959 to eliminate the cross runway to make room for new terminals. American and TWA began jet service to Phoenix in 1960 and 1961 respectively, and Terminal 2 (originally called the “East Wing”) opened in 1962. Terminal 2 was designed by the Phoenix architectural firms of Weaver & Drover and Lescher & Mahoney and opened in 1962. Terminal 2 also featured a 16-foot (4.9 m) high and 75-foot (23 m) wide mural composed of 52 different materials, including mosaic glass, gemstones, shells, and vintage toys. The Phoenix, designed by the late French-American artist and full-time resident of Phoenix Paul Coze, was commissioned in 1960 as Phoenix’s first work of public art and was installed in 1962 in the main lobby area of the terminal. The Phoenix will be installed in the Rental Car Center in 2021. In November 2006, a Military and Veterans Hospitality Room, sponsored by the Phoenix Military and Veterans Commission, was opened in Terminal 2. It has since relocated to Terminal 4 as the new USO. This terminal underwent two renovation projects. The first was completed in 1988. The second project, which cost $24 million and was designed by DWL Architects + Planners, Inc., was completed in 2007.