Thursday, March 23, 2017

Taking off with 25 facts about our own Sacramento International Airport


1. The gleaming and modern international airport we now know first opened on October 21 1967, as the one-runway Sacramento Metropolitan Airport.

2. Before that, Sacramento travelers had to drive to San Francisco or the Bay Area for most flights or travel through the limited flights available at the small Sacramento Municipal Airport (now called Sacramento Executive Airport), which still exists in the Rancho Cordova area.

3. Faced with an encroaching population of homes and communities around the old airport in Rancho, city planners commissioned a study in the 1950s to move the airport to a less congested area. 

4. When they proposed the purchase of 6,000 acres of land and breaking ground in present-day Natomas, they were faced with criticism that the new site was too remote and that there never would be enough passengers to justify an airport there. 

5. Nevertheless, Sacramento International Airport is now located only 10 miles northwest of the city’s downtown and covers an area of 6,000 square acres.

6. Its airport code is SMF, or KSMF with the ICAO coding system.

7. When the new Sacramento Metropolitan Airport first opened at its present SMF location, it was estimated that 750,000 passengers would fly in and out of the airport in the first year. However, it quickly surpassed that number, reaching more than one million passengers in the first ear alone.

8. In 2011, SMF flew 9 million passengers with an average of 323 flights per day, but by 2016, the airport grew to accommodates upwards of 10 million passengers.

9. About half of them travel on Southwest Airlines flights.

10. SMF first became an international airport in 2002, when the carrier Mexicana started nonstop flights to Guadalajara, Mexico

11. The airport now serves three international destinations - Guadalajara, Cabo San Lucas and Mexico City with non-stop flights, although some of them are seasonal. 

12. Thanks to their new B.A.R.C. program (Boarding Area Relaxation Corps), there are about 20 therapy dogs and their handlers strolling through the airport, helping travelers cope with their stress or just putting a smile on their faces.

13. In fact, according to the SMF official website, passengers are allowed to bring their dogs into the airport “as long as they are on a leash and under the control of their owner,” although each airline has specific rules for traveling with pets and service animals.

14. SMF features two runways, one concrete and spanning 8,605 x 150 ft., and the other asphalt and measuring 8,598 x 150 ft.

15. The airport also has two terminals, A and B, with 32 boarding gates between them.

16. Due to its close proximity to an avian migratory route, Sacramento International Airport had a real problem from 1990 until 2007 as their planes kept hitting birds. 

17. Despite its challenges with bird strikes, SMF has a sterling safety record, with only three incidents on record throughout its history:

On November 25, 2015, United Airlines Flight 2005 going from SMF to Denver had to turn around after a bird struck the aircraft in flight and caused an explosion in the engine. Luckily, the plane landed safely, and no one was hurt.

That wasn't the case on August 26, 2010, when a JetBlue flight coming from Long Beach blew out four tires upon landing, causing a fire around the plane. Passengers and crew were evacuated, but 15 did sustain injuries, with five hospitalized – although none too serious.

A little more than a year later on December 27, 2011, an aircraft heading to Seattle had to abort its takeoff after it blew out two tires, causing it to make a hard landing, although no injuries were reported.

18. While the tragic events of September 11, 2001, did restrict and reshuffle many airports across the country, it didn't slow the growth of Sacramento's airport. In fact, four airlines were added to SMF's routes shortly after 2001, Frontier (2002), Mexicana (2002), Hawaiian (2002) and Aloha Airlines (2003).

19. However, the real estate crash and Great Recession from 2008 on did provide a significant blow to SMF, with many routes closed as airlines around the US scrambled to stay in business when faced with much lower demand.

20.  In 2006, our little hometown airport became one of the first in the entire US to offer free WiFi to all passengers throughout their terminals.

21. SMF was also the first airport in the US to offer all rental car carriers under one consolidated terminal, making it convenient for patrons and also increasing shuttle efficiency and reducing traffic.

22. There are big plans in the works for expanding SMF airport in the next 20 years, with nonstop flights to international tourist destinations like Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, London, and Frankfurt a possibility within the next three years or so. 

23. If you’ve traveled in or out of SMF you’ve probably noticed some unique artwork by local artists, but there are two iconic works that are most recognizable:

24. In the baggage claim area of Terminal A you’ll find two giant columns of suitcases and luggage reaching 23’ high, which is a work by artist Brian Goggin called Samson.


25. But Sacramento’s airport may be best known for its colossal red rabbit in mid jump suspended from the ceiling of Terminal B. Made of aluminum, steel, granite and bronze and painted a uniform cherry red, Leap by artist Lawrence Argent is meant to incite a whole lot of questions from passing air travelers – with few answers why he chose a rabbit! 

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