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State Series: Arizona

Since the creation of the first airport in 1909 by Wilbur Wright, cities and states have come together to create one of the most expansive airport systems in the world. Over the next few months, our writers have taken an in-depth look at each state to see what airports it has to offer, what its history entails, and what changes we can expect in the future that will continue to shape the airline industry.

Arizona is one of the youngest states in the country and the last of the continental United States, achieving statehood in 1912 and becoming number 48. As American’s moved west they were astonished with the plethora of sunshine in the great state of Arizona and for many that meant, perfect flying conditions. Arizona quickly became the go-to region for flight training because of the ability to obtain flight hours in nearly perfect weather year round.


Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport – Phoenix, AZ

By far the largest in the state is Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) which serves over 44 million passengers a year making it the 11th busiest airport in the United States and the 29th in the world. Sky Harbor’s largest carrier is American Airlines which has over 300 daily departures and serves as American’s 6th largest hub. Second place goes to Southwest Airlines, which considers Phoenix one of their largest focus cities with 180 daily departures.

In 1928, starting with one runway, Scenic Airways opened the airport however they collapsed after the stock market crash. It wasn’t until 1930 that the first scheduled flight began with American Airlines offering both passenger and mail service.  Over the next 60 years, countless airlines have utilized Phoenix Sky Harbor to access the state’s capital city and the American southwest. Nowadays, there is constant construction going on at the airport to improve their facilities for the future.

Fun Fact: Because of constant year round winds, Sky Harbor is one of the largest airports in the world with all runways parallel to each other.

Tucson International Airport – Tuscan, AZ

Shadowed by Phoenix Sky Harbor, Tucson International Airport comes in a distant second as far as traffic and passengers are concerned. In fact, Tucson does not serve as a hub or focus city for any airline. Southwest Airlines is the largest user of the Tucson runways with 31% of the traffic and around 1 million passengers a year.  While waiting for your boarding group you will also notice several military aircraft, as Tucson shares its airfield with the Air National Guard which also operates several winter month operations for the Air Force.


Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport – Mesa, AZ

Built in 1941, this airfield started as a training field in World War 2. Today, it is a focus city for low-cost carrier Allegiant Air and servers just over 1.2 million passengers a year. To put into perspective the size of the airport, its top domestic destination is Provo, Utah.  Where?

Yuma International Airport – Yuma, AZ

Another joint use civilian and military airport, Yuma International is a stone’s throw from Mexico and California. If you find the desire to visit this city of 93,000 you can get there on an American Airlines CRJ-200 operated by American Eagle.

Scottsdale Airport – Scottsdale, AZ

Named as one of the busiest single-runway facilities in the nation, Scottsdale airport has nearly 200,000 operations a year.  Serving as one of the premier corporate jet facilities in the state, Scottsdale and its average of 360 VFR days a year make it a desired location. The airport is unique because there are many taxiways connecting the runway to resedential/ industrial areas near the airport.

Deer Valley Airport – Phoenix, Arizona

What makes this tiny airfield interesting is that in 2010 there were 368,747 aircraft movements making it the 25th busiest airport in the world by movements. There are no scheduled airlines that service Deer Valley; however two of the largest flight training schools operate here because of the near perfect conditions.

AirlineGeeks.com Staff


  • Shane Piper

    Shane started as an airline geek on the first day that his mother brought him to work with her as a kid at Dulles Airport. Visiting the ground control tower, driving out on the ramp, and even sitting in the engines, he knew this was something awesome. After learning all the aircraft types and collecting countless model planes, he was addicted. After college, Shane worked at the FAA command center and gained in-depth knowledge of the industry he already loved. For over 5 years, he has worked mainly in Information Technology with the Department of Defense and various military organizations, however continues to grow his passion for aviation and the world of flying. Still today he can’t go to the airport without staring out towards the runway or look up to the sounds of something overhead.

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