Airport celebrates 30th anniversary of terminal complex

It was like a high school reunion. Past and present Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport officials mingled with excitement.

All of them, including Clayton County and City of Atlanta officials, were in the airport's atrium for one reason — to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Central Passenger Terminal Complex (CPTC), which includes the airport's transportation mall and its six concourses.

"I see many of you out here who were here 30 years ago, but I see many of you out here who were not here 30 years ago," said Valerie Jackson, widow of former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson, Jr.

Hartsfield-Jackson officials held a press conference on Tuesday, which marked the anniversary of the CPTC, which opened on Sept. 21, 1980.

"Hartsfield-Jackson was created in the minds of visionary leaders," said Robert Kennedy, interim general manager of the airport, in a prepared statement. "Because of their courage, insight and leadership, we are able to stand here today at the world's busiest airport. Today, we are celebrating our past, and looking toward our future."

Kennedy described the CPTC anniversary celebration as an historic moment.

According to airport officials, the terminal complex has assisted the world's busiest airport's efficient and effective passenger-traffic flow.

Al Snedeker, a spokesman for Hartsfield-Jackson, said CPTC's first full-year of operation was in 1981. The terminal complex received 37.6 million passengers, of whom 1.1 million were international travelers. In 2009, CPTC welcomed 88 million total passengers and 9 million international passengers, he said.

"Some days, we have as many as 300,000 passengers," added Kennedy.

Kennedy said Atlanta's airport will continue to serve its passengers with the coming of the Maynard H. Jackson, Jr., International Terminal, scheduled for completion in Spring 2012.

Combined with the existing 28 international gates at Concourse E, and the 12-gate international terminal, it will create an international air travel complex of 40 gates, according to airport officials.

Data from the Federal Aviation Administration indicates that Hartsfield-Jackson's international passenger volume may exceed 13 million by 2015, according to officials.

Jim Drinkard, assistant general manager of planning and development, at Hartsfield-Jackson, also spoke at the press conference. Drinkard said he recalls working on the CPTC, as a design engineer for Atlanta Airport Engineers. He said he and his fellow engineers didn't have a fancy office, computers or other gadgets to create the terminal complex. Their innovative designs flowed from pencil to paper, he said.

"We were essentially creating a brand new airport from scratch," said Drinkard.

During its 30 years of existence, the terminal complex has remained a "bustling hub of passenger activity," said airport officials. The complex includes innovative technology, an efficient security checkpoint system, improved ticketing and baggage counters and diverse concessions.

According to airport spokesman, Al Snedeker, when CPTC opened in 1980, George Berry was Hartsfield-Jackson's general manager. He led the airport from 1978, to 1983, he added. Berry said he feels privileged to have been a part of the opening of the terminal complex.

"You don't have a simple job when you work at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport," said Berry. "You have a calling."