Originally known as Mills Field Municipal Airport of San Francisco, few could have guessed that the tiny airport that welcomed just 19 passengers in its first month of operations would go on to become SFO handling more than 53 million passengers per year.
The airport commemorated the milestone with the release of a video retrospective in 4K high-definition format, featuring archival photographs, vintage colour film, and rare audio interviews with pilots and flight attendants who recall the airport’s earliest days.
To view the video, please visit: www.flysfo.com/90th.
“On the 90th anniversary of SFO, we celebrate an evolution that continues to this day,” said airport director Ivar Satero.
“Opening two weeks before Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Pacific, our airport has always strived to stay a step ahead, anticipating the many changes that have transformed air travel throughout the years.
"But what has remained constant throughout the decades is what still guides us today: our commitment to safety, security, and a world-class airport experience.”
The airport that became known as SFO began as a temporary solution to a pressing need.
The Air Mail Act of 1925 authorised the United States Post Office to establish contracts with private aircraft operators to carry mail across the country.
The western terminus of the transcontinental air mail route was established in San Francisco, creating an urgent need for a facility to handle the activity.
With limited land available within San Francisco city limits, “Site #6”, a 150-acre cow pasture owned by Darius Ogden Mills, was determined to be suitable to develop a temporary facility, and a three-year lease was arranged.
Early structures were held together with nuts and bolts to allow for later disassembly and relocation. The airport recorded a mere 19 passengers in its first month of operation, which included the pilots.
In the decades that followed, SFO established itself as an airport of innovation, boasting a variety of 'firsts' among airports in the United States. These included the first split upper and lower level roadways in 1954; the first passenger loading bridge (aka Jetway) in 1958; and the first Public Arts programme and accredited museum in 1979.
Other milestones have been the establishment of the nation’s first venue (The SFO Round Table) to hear directly from residents on aircraft noise concerns in 1981; and the opening of the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certified terminal in the United States in 2011.
The latter objective being achieved when SFO opened the renovated Terminal 2.