LAX and the buildup to the 1984 Olympics

Model of West International Terminal (Tom Bradley International Terminal), Source: Los Angeles World Airports / Flight Path Museum

In May of 1978, the 1984 Summer Olympics were awarded to Los Angeles. It would be the second time that the city would host the Olympics, the first being  the 1932 games. Though LAX existed as Los Angeles Municipal Airport in 1932, it did not yet have commercial service and air travel represented only a fraction of travel in the 1930s.

By the late 1970s, LAX was already nearing design capacity, the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 provided further impetus to start the studies aimed at increasing capacity at the airport as more and more people traveled by air.

The Central Terminal Area where all the terminals are located, was less than twenty years old. Planning studies were initiated in order to adapt the airport to the increasing traffic demands, and in late 1978, the LAX Board of Commissioners approved a plan to vastly modernize the facilities at LAX including:

  • A new domestic terminal (now Terminal 1)
  • A new west international terminal (now Tom Bradley International Terminal, TBIT)
  • A second level roadway separating departure and arrival curbs.
  •  Terminal piers connecting the original 1960s satellite concourses to the terminal processors containing check-in, baggage claim, and other passenger facilities (excluding Terminal 2)
  • Connecting the existing terminal processors to each other. In the original 1960s layout, each terminal was an independent unit terminal, not the more familiar long continuous building line that we know today
  • New parking structures in the core of the Central Terminal Area
  • Temporary inflatable terminal structures to augment Terminal 2 capacity

The planned state of the Central Terminal Area, LAX (permanent facilities) in 1984. Source: Flight Path Museum Archives / Los Angeles World Airports

May 18, 1978

Los Angeles awarded 1984 Summer Olympics

The International Olympic Committee awards the 80th Summer Olympics to Los Angeles and the United States.

Late 1978

Board of Airport Commissioners approve plans for modernization of LAX

Plans to modernize LAX to meet increasing domestic and international traffic is approved. New facilities include new terminals, pier connectors to existing satellite concourses, parking structures and a second level roadway. Temporary inflatable terminal structures are also added.

Addition of Second Level Roadway and inflatable structures. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

Addition of Terminal 1 with a midfield satellite configuration. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

Addition of West International Terminal and parking structures. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

1979

New terminal facilities are inflated

Temporary inflatable structures are installed to augment the passenger processing capability of Terminal 2 for international flights.

Interior of an inflatable terminal during the 1984 Summer Olympics. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

Overview of the inflatable terminals. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

International bag claim inside the west inflatable terminal. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

Inflatable Terminal as viewed from the curbside. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

Interior of the Bag Claim Inflatable structure. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

1981

Groundbreaking for the Second Level Roadway

Section sketch of the proposed Second Level Roadway. Source LAWA / Flight Path Museum

Section sketch of the proposed Second Level Roadway. Source LAWA / Flight Path Museum

Sketch of the vertical circulation plans for the Second Level Roadway. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

Construction of the Second Level Roadway. Source LAWA / Flight Path Museum

Aerial view of all construction projects in November 1982 including the Second Level Roadway. Source LAWA / Flight Path Museum

Second Level Roadway on-ramp under construction. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

July 8, 1982

Groundbreaking for construction on West International Terminal and Terminal 1

Terminal 1

The original Terminal 1 concepts were focused around a midfield satellite connected by tunnel to the processor. Two alternatives are show here, one with half of the satellite serving commuter/regional aircraft and the other alternative sized for mainline aircraft. Ultimately a more traditional pier configuration was chosen. Also noticeable on the graphics is the original concept for the West International Terminal, a smaller terminal processor with linear check-in and many bus gates for remote stands.

Terminal 1 with a midfield satellite serving mainline only. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

Terminal 1 with a midfield satellite serving mainline and commuter aircraft. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

Model of Terminal 1 with a mainline midfield satellite concourse. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

West International Terminal
(Tom Bradley International Terminal)

Multiple concepts were studied for the West International Terminal, including the original concept which was much more conservative in size and design. Its final design allowed it set new standards in terminal planning and design. 

Alternate glass clad concept. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

Alternate glass clad concept. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

Original sketches of the West International Terminal departure hall. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

Original sketch of the West International Terminal check-in area. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

Original sketch of the West International Terminal check-in area. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

Original plan view of the check-in hall at the West International Terminal. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

Construction of the West International Terminal. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

Construction of the West International Terminal. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

Construction of the West International Terminal. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

Construction the new West International Terminal is taking shape. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

1983

Second Level Roadway opens

The second level roadway opens in 1983 in two phases. The first phase was completed in the Spring; phase two was completed six months later.

Ticketing on the second level of terminal buildings opened over the next year adjacent to the new Second Level Roadway

Completed Second Level Roadway, decorated for the XXIII Olympiad. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

January 1984

Terminal 1 Opens

Terminal 1, a new domestic terminal in a pier configuration accommodates Muse Air, Southwest Airlines, PSA and US Air. The original concepts for Terminal 1 existed in the 1950s Master Plan showing multiple small satellites with an under-apron terminal. By the 1970s the satellite concept had evolved into a midfield satellite concept. The final design was a modern pier inline with the new piers at LAX.

The original midfield satellite concourse concept for Terminal 1 went quite far in design until plans changed. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum.

June 1984

West International Terminal (Tom Bradley International Terminal) opens

The new West International Terminal, newly renamed Tom Bradley International Terminal after then Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley opens. The new terminal sets new international standards as being one the first terminals to offer common-use facilities to different airlines as well as an island check-in configuration, which has since become the recommended standard for terminal facilities.

Tom Bradley International Terminal (former West International Terminal. Source: LAWA / Flight Path Museum

July 28, 1984

The XXIII Olympiad begins

The 1984 Summer Olympics begin at the opening ceremony in front of 92,516 spectators, many of whom came through LAX.

Source: International Olympic Committee for 1984 Summer Olympics