Eastern Airlines
 50th Anniversary

The Medallion contains metal from most of the aircraft Eastern has flown since the Pitcairn Mailwing and from the Apollo 8 spacecraft.

1928 to 1978

The History of the World’s Busiest Airport – Our Eastern Based

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport

The original Pitcairn Mailwing PA-5 with a 220 horsepower Wright Cyclone engine is the first Mailwing in the Pitcairn Fleet with Registration NC2895 in our fleet. The manufacturer’s serial number is MSN #1. 

Our first flight out of Atlanta carrying mail was late 1920’s.  The max takeoff weight was 2620 lbs and the range was 300 miles before re-fueling. 


On February 1st, 1927 Eastern won the New York to Atlanta airmail route, which was called CAM 19, and the November 23rd, 1927 Pitcairn was awarded CAM 25 – Atlanta to Miami.  Inauguration of airmail service was May 1st, 1928.

This aircraft is displayed in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. 

                          ATLANTA CANDLER FIELD

                   FROM RACETRACK TO AIRPORT

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is located on what was once the Atlanta Speedway, a racetrack built in 1909 by Coca-Cola founder and one time Atlanta mayor, Asa Candler. The site, which was primarily farmland and swampy pastures at the headwaters of the Flint River, was chosen because it is one of the few relatively flat areas in the region. Candler organized a company called the Atlanta Automobile Association which assembled the 287-acre tract from 14 different properties. Candler purchased the package in 1909 for $77,674.28. The track, also known as Atlanta Motor Speedway, Candler Raceway, Automobile Speedway, and Atlanta Raceway, cost $400,000 to build and opened on November 9, 1909.

The speedway was not the success that Asa Candler had envisioned and it closed after only one season. Undeterred, Candler began staging air shows and air races at the field in 1910, eventually adding motorcycle and car races back into the mix. Later in the decade, as the government began airmail service, Atlanta began to search for a suitable site for an airfield. Newly elected Alderman, William Hartsfield was given the task of finding a location and the abandoned racetrack was the site he chose. In 1925 Asa Candler gave Atlanta a 5-year, rent-free lease on the property for use as an airfield. As part of the agreement it was named Candler Field.


Doug Davis, a pilot for Pitcairn Aviation (later to become Eastern Air Transport) built the first hangar at Candler Field around 1926. Within months, several other buildings were constructed adjacent to the site.

                                          THE EARLY YEARS OF ATLANTA AIRPORT: 1920s - 1930s

The first scheduled airline service from Atlanta occurred on September 15, 1926 when a Florida Airways plane departed for Jacksonville and Miami. A crowd of 15,000 turned up to witness the historic event. Unfortunately, the airline quietly ceased operations only 9 months later leaving Atlanta and its new airport without airline service. In August 1927, New Orleans-based St. Tammany, Gulf Coast Airways, began airline service to Atlanta followed by Pitcairn Aviation in 1928. Pitcairn would eventually become Eastern Air Lines which, along with Delta, dominated Atlanta Airport for more than 6 decades.

Charles Lindbergh visited Atlanta Airport on October 11, 1927 during a cross-country tour following his solo flight across the Atlantic. He flew a Ryan B-1 similar to the "Spirit of St. Louis." The actual "Spirit of St. Louis" lacked cockpit and cabin windows due to extra fuel tanks that were installed for the trans-Atlantic flight. During his visit to Atlanta Lindbergh ended up ankle deep in mud after his aircraft became stuck in the wet Georgia red clay.  


Lindbergh was met by local dignitaries upon his arrival at Candler Field. He was then escorted to downtown Atlanta for a parade in his honor where thousands of spectators lined the streets to see him. It was the largest public gathering in Atlanta's history at the time. He then gave a speech to a crowd of 20,000 at Georgia Tech's Grant Field promoting the development of commercial aviation and Air Mail services. His forward-thinking vision coupled with his status as a national hero helped change the public perception of air travel from that of a dangerous novelty to an accepted form of transportation. His visit to Atlanta was a major catalyst for the rapid expansion of Candler Field in the 1930s.

The airport name was officially changed to Atlanta Municipal Airport in 1929, although it was also referred to as Candler Field into the 1940s.


Atlanta opened a new $30,000 administration and passenger terminal with great fanfare on May 7, 1932 that served the airport until 1948. This was also the first control tower at Atlanta airport. A building with the letters E.A.T. (Eastern Air Transport) on the roof was Atlanta's first airline terminal. The Eastern Air Transport building was Atlanta's first passenger terminal during 1930-32. Along with the Eastern Air Transport Hangar and Terminal, American Airways (now American Airlines) also had a hangar.  American lost its Atlanta routes in 1934 when new Air Mail contracts were awarded to Eastern and Delta, which had inaugurated service to Atlanta in 1930.


Vivien Leigh, followed by Olivia De Havilland, arrived in Atlanta for the premiere of Gone With The Wind on December 13, 1939. The following day, Clark Gable and wife Carole Lombard were greeted by Georgia Governor Rivers upon their arrival at Atlanta Municipal Airport.

Atlanta Municipal Airport entered the 1940s with a new control tower and administration building and traffic was growing rapidly as the airlines were awarded new routes, flying them with sleek, modern DC-3s and DC-2s. Delta operated a total of four of the 14-passenger DC-2s during 1940 and 1941. They were replaced by larger and more economical DC-3s. Eastern operated the DC=2 and DC-3 aircraft as well.  (Photo left: 1942 Atlanta Flight Attendants.

If you were to view Atlanta Municipal Airport from the air in 1940 you would see three paved runways, the longest of which was only 3,500 feet long. Mayor William Hartsfield was largely responsible for the improvements made to the airport following two incidents in 1939 in which aircraft had run off the short runways. After the war it was apparent that the terminal built in 1932 was quickly becoming obsolete. The terminal was closed in May 1948 although the control tower remained in service until 1961.


The 1932 terminal had reached its capacity after the war as traffic increased and larger 4-engine aircraft entered service. The first jet engines had been developed during the war and airlines anticipated the arrival of jet airliners within the next decade. Until it could be determined what type of terminal would be required to accommodate the next generation of airliners, the city created an inexpensive temporary terminal from a Quonset-style war surplus hangar. The facility was used from May 1948 until a true jet-age terminal was opened in May 1961.


During some month of the year, the Atlanta Municipal Airport, for all types of operation is the busiest in the nation. Three commercial airlines serviced ten major air transport routes radiating from Atlanta.  In 1947, 472,839 passengers used the terminal facilities and 1,802,862 pounds of air mail were handled, 8th largest total in the U.S.


World War I fighter ace, Medal of Honor recipient and head of Eastern Air Lines, Eddie Rickenbacker (center) checks the progress of the temporary terminal on March 30, 1948, about 5 weeks before opening day in a photo appearing in the Atlanta newspaper. A postcard view of the ticket lobby and waiting area of the temporary terminal. As the postcard states, this was the longest ticket counter in the world when the facility opened in 1948.

Atlanta’s Temporary Passenger Terminal

The ticket counter, 200 feet in length, is the world’s longest. The spacious lobby, women’s lounge, snack bar, barber shop, gift shop, observation platform, and covered walkways provide all passenger comforts. “The Peachtree Room,” was the newest in the chain of famous Dobbs House Restaurants, that offers 24-hour service.


A 1949 view of the ramp along the east wing showed 4 Eastern Air Lines DC-3s, 2 Constellations and a DC-4 with a Delta DC-4 in the background.

Atlanta passenger terminal airport is one of the largest and most heavily trafficked fields in the country. North, south, east and west connections and routings for all points in the United States are made here. This view shows an Eastern Airliner which will shortly head for the warm breezes of Florida.

Municipal Airport


Atlanta’s great airport is one of the four busiest in all America – with 242 scheduled airline flights in and out daily.  It is conveniently located only seven miles from the center o Atlanta – near Hapeville.  More than 100,000 passengers arrive or depart each month.

By 1956 Atlanta Municipal Airport was the busiest air transfer hub in the world and traffic had far surpassed the capacity of the temporary terminal. An Eastern Air Lines training poster from 1956 showed the hectic conditions during the "noon push".


With the "Jet Age" terminal still years from completion, two long meandering concourses were constructed as an interim solution to increase the number of gates. The east wing was also extended to provide additional aircraft parking spaces. Eastern Air Lines dedicated their 900 foot long concourse on January 22, 1957. Delta's concourse, nearly a quarter mile long, was opened on October 14, 1957.


An Atlanta Airport terminal diagram from 1960 shows six airlines serving the airport. Of these six, only Delta remains. What happened to the others? TWA merged into American Airlines in 2001. Southern merged with North Central to become Republic in 1979 which was merged into Northwest in 1986. Northwest was merged into Delta in 2010. Eastern went bankrupt in 1991 and Capital was merged into United in 1961.


Delta introduced pure jet service on September 18, 1959 when it became the first airline in the world to operate the Douglas DC-8. A second level was quickly added to Delta's gates 11 and 12 and both featured jet ways that allowed passengers to board without having to go outside the terminal.


After nearly a decade of planning and several years of construction, Atlanta's modern jet age terminal opened on May 3, 1961. The complex was the first in the world to be built specifically for jet aircraft. At the time, it was the largest passenger terminal in the country, covering sixty acres, with nearly a mile of concourses and 48 gates with parking for 52 aircraft. The enormous light-filled lobby and modern architecture was a far cry from the cramped/dreary temporary terminal that preceded it. The layout was fairly typical of large airports of the early '60s, similar to Miami or Chicago O'Hare. The central 2-story terminal featured a 500 foot long ticketing lobby upstairs and baggage claim downstairs with long concourses extending from the main building. The turquoise paneled administration building and control tower was one of Atlanta's most identifiable landmarks during the following two decades.

The 1961 terminal was the first in the world to be designed specifically for jet aircraft, yet only Delta Airlines had the foresight to have their gates built on a second level to allow jet way access to planes. All other airlines initially had gates at ground level and continued to use stairs for aircraft boarding.

In the post 9/11 atmosphere of passengers being treated as potential criminals, it's hard to imagine a time when passengers were actually encouraged to go up on the roof and stand only a few feet away from parked aircraft! Those were the days. Atlanta's old observation deck was one of the best around and was right in the middle of the action with great views of the concourses and runways. It featured park benches, an enclosed area and speakers that played air traffic control transmissions.


Concourse B which was occupied solely by Eastern Air Lines. The temporary terminal was just beyond that.


Much of the future parking lot was still part of the aircraft apron for the temporary terminal. Even though parking spaces were being painted on the asphalt, planes still used this area as a taxiway.

The ticket lobby at the 1961 was nearly 500 feet long with high barrel vaulted ceilings, golden terrazzo floors, and depending on the time of day, lots of natural light. The lobby had two long ticket counters with an area in between them that led to the aircraft gates. On the east side of the terminal, left to right, were the airline counters of Southern, United and Delta. On the other side were the counters of Eastern, Northwest and TWA. The parking lot is now the location of the Renaissance Concourse Atlanta Airport Hotel.


This abstract mobile depicts the symbol of Atlanta, the Phoenix, the mythical bird that rose from its own ashes. It hung above the area that connected the ticket lobby with the boarding gates. Atlanta sculptor, Julian Harris designed the $35,000 mobile. At the top of the escalator was the mezzanine level and the Skyport restaurant and lounge which offered a great view of the airport action.


A 1965 view of an Oldsmobile Toronado!


New cars were displayed here for most of the 19 year life of the terminal. In the distance is the corridor that led to the boarding gates, and to the left were Delta's 2 concourses and slightly to the right were the "Y" shaped concourses C and D. A hard right turn would lead to Eastern's concourses A and B. The mezzanine level at the top of the escalator with the Skyport Cinema Lounge was through the doors to the left.


The primary airlines at Atlanta Municipal Airport in the early 1960s: Eastern, Delta, United, Piedmont, and Southern. While Delta Airlines had their concourses built with two levels in anticipation of an all-jet fleet, Eastern chose to have their gates built at ground level without jet ways. Despite its enormous size, the 1961 terminal surpassed its design capacity in the first year of operation as the airlines experienced rapid growth. One of the great features of the 1961 terminal, the rooftop observation deck, that sat atop concourse C/D.


The 1970s began in high style with the introduction of the "Jumbo Jet." Delta introduced Boeing 747 service on October 25, 1970 between Atlanta. Dallas and Los Angeles. Unlike any airliner before it, the 747 featured two aisles, two levels, and cabins as wide as a living room. Delta was one of the few airlines to operate all three types of first generation wide body jumbo jets at the same time: the 747, the Lockheed L-1011 and the Douglas DC-10. The airline operated a total of 5 (five) DC-10s between 1972 and 1975 while awaiting delivery of the L-1011s. The Pan Am 747 was operating interchange flights to Europe.

The William B. Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport

Former Atlanta Mayor William B. Hartsfield died on February 22, 1971, and a week later on February 28, on what would have been his 81st birthday, the airport was renamed in his honor. The Airport’s name was changed again in July to William B. Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport, when Eastern Airlines introduced flights to Mexico and Jamaica, Atlanta's first international service. Piedmont Airlines operated Japanese-built Nihon YS-11 turboprops on short-haul routes from Atlanta. This beautiful 1972 photo was also taken from Atlanta's great observation deck. Eastern's concourse B is in the background.


In 1972 Atlanta Airport had four active runways, two parallel east-west runways (9L-27R and 9R-27L which are now known as 8R-26L and 9L-27R respectively) and two diagonal crosswind runways (15-33 and 3-21) that would soon be closed for the construction of the midfield terminal. The late 1970s were a time of rapid change and growth at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport. The passage of the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978 was followed by an influx of new airlines, the departure of United and TWA, and airlines adding and dropping routes at an unprecedented rate. Transatlantic flights began with Delta's non-stop service to London in April 1978, followed by the arrival of several European carriers.


Numerous airlines were awarded new routes to Atlanta in the months before the passage of the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978. Following deregulation, Ozark began service while both TWA and United discontinued flights to Atlanta in 1979. There were also new commuter airlines and several international carriers that began service to Atlanta during 1978-1979.

Braniff inaugurated service to Atlanta on July 28, 1977 with flights to Denver and Oklahoma City. Service was later added to Kansas City and Dallas / Ft. Worth. Frontier began 737 service to Atlanta on August 1, 1978 with non-stop flights to Wichita and one-stop service to Denver. North Central began service between Atlanta and Detroit on September 5, 1978. Ozark inaugurated service to ATL on December 1, 1978 with DC-9 flights to Des Moines, Peoria, and Moline. Atlantic Southeast Airlines began service between Atlanta and Columbus, GA on June 27, 1979 using Twin Otter equipment. N125SA is pictured at gate 40A at the end of concourse D of the old terminal. Republic Airlines was formed by the merger of Southern Airways and North Central on July 1, 1979.  Atlanta received its first nonstop service to Europe on April 30, 1978 when Delta Airlines began service to London's Gatwick airport. Nonstop flights to Frankfurt began the following year. Sabena Belgian World Airlines inaugurated flights to Brussels on June 1, 1978 using Boeing 707s and then 747s and DC-10s as traffic increased and Bahamasair started flights to Nassau on December 13, 1979.  Sabena Belgian World Airlines 747 OO-SGB at Atlanta on July 7, 1979.


The cinder block Federal Inspection Services building that was quickly added to the rotunda of Concourse E to handle the immigration, baggage and customs processes of flights arriving from Europe.

As the opening of the Midfield Terminal at Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport grew near, the old 1961 terminal was stretched to its limits and served more than double its increased design capacity. With no room for expansion, airlines found inventive ways to accommodate more aircraft by double parking at some gates, sharing gates or parking at angles that created space for one or two more planes per concourse. The withdrawal of United Airlines and TWA in 1979 opened up new gates for Eastern, Piedmont, Delta, and others, but space was still at an absolute premium. At the time of its closing in September 1980, the terminal served 15 airlines.


A  Jeppesen map of the Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport issued to Delta pilots, effective July 25, 1980, less than two months before the new terminal opened on September 21st. The old crosswind runways had been closed and removed in the mid '70s to make way for the midfield terminal.


1980 saw the arrival of additional European carriers to Atlanta. Lufthansa German Airlines inaugurated service to Frankfurt on May 1 and British Caledonian began nonstop flights from Hartsfield to London a month later. Below, a London-bound British Caledonian DC-10 heads for the taxiway in July 1980. While arriving International flights from Europe docked at the new Federal Inspection Services facility at the end of concourse E, lack of parking space meant that outbound International flights often used gates closer to the main terminal.


A Bahamasair BAC 1-11 flight from Nassau heads toward the gate at concourse D on a rainy day in February 1980. Piedmont took two of United's former gates on concourse D and managed to squeeze 3 planes into the space. Eastern also took several of United's former gates on the east side of concourse D and also managed to make room for an extra aircraft by parking planes so close together that the wingtips almost touched. Ocean Airways and Southeastern Commuter Airlines took TWA's two former gates. Delta used gate 33 exclusively and the commuters used gate 35 (with up to 3 aircraft at a time) but, depending on the time of day, Delta would park at both. In this 1980 photo, two Ocean Airways Martin 404s are parked at #35 while a Delta 727 is parked at #33. Ocean Airways took over former Air South/ Florida Airlines routes to Macon and St. Simons Island on January 15, 1980 using Beechcraft B-99s, ex-Florida Martin 404s and ex-Air Sunshine Convair 440s. Republic Airlines squeezed in extra aircraft along concourse C by parking one row of planes diagonally instead of in a straight line.


The old World War II building had been relocated to the Hangar One general aviation area after the opening of the 1961 terminal and remained until construction began on the 4th parallel runway in the early 1980s.


Despite the size of the 1961 terminal at Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport, it reached its design capacity shortly after opening and had become hopelessly overcrowded by the late 1970s. Time Magazine succinctly summed things up in 1980: "The old terminal, built to handle 18 million passengers annually, last year had to accommodate 42 million. Mobs at the ticket counters, long treks to the planes and indefinite delays on the runways made Hartsfield notorious as a dispenser of Southern discomfort." The city had considered the idea of a large terminal located between the parallel runways as early as 1964 but the new complex didn't begin to take shape until the late 1970s. By 1980 it was complete and the old terminal's last day of operation was September 20, 1980, after which it sat abandoned. Over the next few years most of the building was demolished piecemeal to make way for Atlanta's fourth runway. The old tower was imploded in 1984 and the last section of the building, Concourse A, which had been converted into office space, was demolished in 1990.

After the opening of Atlanta Hartsfield's new Midfield Terminal on September 21, 1980, the old terminal sat empty although the city maintained offices in the old tower for a while. There were various proposals to convert the building to office space or even a shopping mall, but the decision to build a fourth parallel runway on the north side of the airport made it clear that the terminal would have to be demolished. The "Y" shaped concourses C and D stood directly in the path of the proposed runway and were the first to be removed in 1982. Concourse B was demolished soon after but the rest of the building remained standing for the time being.

In 1984 it was determined that Atlanta airport's old administration tower was too close to the soon to be opened 4th parallel runway and could possibly pose a hazard to aircraft. It was announced in the media that the building was to be imploded at 7am on Sunday July 1st. A large crowd was in attendance along with several TV crews and at least one live radio broadcast of the event. At 7:02am the Atlanta landmark that took over a year to build came crashing down in less than 5 seconds.

One eye witness described the implosion this way: My dad and I went to the airport to witness the demolition of the tower. The video I shot that morning on grainy VHS, showed the brick building at the beginning with the "FLY - EASTERN AIR LINES" sign, a holdover from the 1948-1961 temporary terminal can be seen from 1956. The close-up shot of the tower shows that the letters spelling Atlanta had been removed and that several windows were already broken. After a barely audible countdown and loud explosion, the building seemed to simply fall over backwards onto what was once the aircraft apron. From our perspective, directly in front of the terminal, the tower seemed to sink into the ground. The crowd quickly dispersed as the thick dust cloud drifted over the parking lot.

Although the final section of the 1961 terminal was removed in 1990, traces of it are still easy to find if you know where to look. The site is especially easy to spot in aerial photos.


The site of the 1961 terminal remained vacant for nearly 3 decades and the footprint of the facility was easily seen in aerial photos and from the nearby Renaissance Concourse hotel. A construction project began on the site in late 2013, removing the outlines of most of the old building. As of 2015, the footprints of Delta's concourse E and the Concourse F rotunda were still visible along with sections of old sidewalks and roads that once led to the 1961 terminal.


On September 21, 1980, Atlanta's enormous new passenger terminal, the largest in the world, opened for business. Dubbed "Midfield" because of its central location between the runways, the complex is still in operation today although it has been expanded through the years.

The terminal was built around a simple functional design: two symmetrical landside terminals connected to 4 remote parallel concourses via an underground "transportation mall" featuring moving sidewalks and a futuristic shuttle system. This modular design also allowed the airport to extend the underground mall to the east and add more concourses as traffic increased over the years. By 1980 standards, the facility was nothing short of revolutionary. 37 years later, it is still the largest passenger transfer hub in the world.

The concourses are connected by an underground train system that once featured a robot voice (Known as “Hal” by most airline employees) that would state "This vehicle is leaving the station. Please hold on. The color-coded maps and signs in this vehicle match the station colors. Please move to the center of the vehicle and away from the doors."

The colors the robot voice referred to:

  • Terminal stations : orange (International concourse T served Delta, Eastern, British Caledonian, Lufthansa, KLM,   and Sabena)
  • Concourse A: red (Delta)
  • Concourse B: purple (Delta, Eastern)
  • Concourse C: blue (Eastern, Lockheed Air Terminal, commuters)
  • Concourse D: green (Northwest, Braniff, Piedmont, Frontier, Ozark, Republic, Bahamasair)

Here's an excerpt from an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article as well as an interesting comparison between the old and new terminals.

The October 1980 issue of Delta Digest also featured these before and after comparisons of the old "Jet Age" and new "Midfield" terminals. Ironically, they juxtaposed some of the best features of the old terminal (the spacious modern architecture and areas full of natural light) with some of the worst features of the new terminal (the claustrophobic windowless gates and the overall sterile, generic look).

A stunning 1981 view of Delta's operation at the Midfield terminal is a perfect illustration of why Atlanta has long been the largest connecting hub on the planet. Dozens of aircraft arrive and depart within minutes of each other, allowing passengers to connect to flights to and from virtually anywhere in the world. In the early 1980s Delta parked their aircraft in "zones" according to type. The large L-1011s and DC-8s were typically parked near the center of the concourses while the smaller 727s and DC-9s were parked near the ends. This reduced walking distances for the majority of passengers and created less congestion inside the concourses.

MARTA (Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) rail station was incorporated into the original terminal design although the MARTA line did not reach the airport until 1988.

While the Midfield terminal was enormous, futuristic and a masterpiece of function, it had about as much architectural pizzazz as your average strip mall or county government building; consequently, many early pictures emphasize the flagpoles out front (symbolizing Atlanta's growing role as an international gateway) instead of the terminal itself.

1980s And Early 1990s Was A Strange Robot Voice

One of the most striking features of Atlanta Hartsfield Airport during the 1980s and early 1990s was a strange robot voice that herded passengers on and off the futuristic underground shuttle trains. Sounding almost identical to the Cylon robots from the 1970's TV show Battlestar Galactica, the voice became affectionately known to riders as Hal, a reference to the computer voice in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Hal was not the original voice on the underground trains. That distinction goes to Kelly McCoy, known to Atlantans as a popular radio personality at WQXI "Quixie" and B98.5. Kelly was kind enough to send this story. "I was the "original voice" of the "new" Atlanta Airport. Hal came in after it was decided my voice was "too friendly," and people weren't paying close attention. Hal definitely got your attention. Once we were awarded the Olympics, rumor has it that Hal may have been too frightening to the visitors from all over the world. My friend, Bill Murray (not the actor) was the kinder voice after that, if memory serves correctly."

"I was working at WQXI "Quixie" at the time.  It was sometime in 1980. I got a call from a friend who was manager of a rock and roll band I'd done commercials for in the late 70s.  He had a studio in Hapeville. Westinghouse, who was providing the sounds for the train, airport, etc., called and said a problem had developed with the train voice. The airport hadn't officially opened yet, and President Jimmy Carter was about to get a tour. They asked John, the studio manager, if he knew of a voice person who could do a quick turnaround. He called me.


After I got off the air, I went to the studio and recorded all of the needed elements. It was creepy to record the emergency elements in case there were problems. Anyway, that's how I was the voice of the airport for quite a while.  It was cool hearing me on a train when my wife and I would fly somewhere. She'd embarrass me by pointing to me and saying "that's him" to fellow train travelers. All they did was look at us with a weird expression."

By the early 1990s, many considered Hal's robot voice to be somewhat silly and dated. In September 1994 Hal was replaced by a more traditional human voice but public outcry prompted airport officials to quickly resurrect him. The Atlanta Journal Constitution wrote "The strange, faceless robot voice that bosses everyone onto and off the shuttle trains at Hartsfield International Airport is as much a part of this gleaming, futuristic city's identity as, well . . . MARTA."

They heralded Hal's return as a "triumph of technology over humanity." On May 1, 1996 an ominous headline appeared on the front page of the Journal-Constitution: "Airport's `Hal' May Be Silenced". Testing began on one of the airport trains using a friendlier human male voice. Sadly, Hal was permanently decommissioned shortly before the 1996 Summer Olympics partly because city officials decided "foreigners can't understand it". Oh well. Hal may be long gone, but he has secured a place in history as one of the more memorable odd and colorful footnotes in Atlanta and aviation history.

Many thanks to Nathan Lesueur and Kelly McCoy for their contributions to this story!

In July 2003, former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin announced a new terminal to be named for Maynard H. Jackson, Jr. The new International terminal would be built on the east side of the airport near International Concourse E, on a site that had been occupied by air cargo facilities and the midfield control tower. It has added twelve new gates able to hold wide-body jets, which can be converted to sixteen narrow-body gates, as well as check-in desks and a baggage claim area solely for International carriers.

Additionally, the International terminal has its own parking lot just for International passengers with over 1,100 spaces. Arriving International passengers whose final destination is Atlanta can keep their luggage as they proceed to exit the airport. The new terminal is connected to Concourse E by the tram and also has ground transportation access via
I-75. The new terminal was slated to open in 2006; however, time and cost overruns led former Airport General Manager, Ben DeCosta, to cancel the design contract in August 2005. The next day, the architect sued the airport claiming "fraud" and "bad faith", blaming the airport authority for the problems. In early 2007, the General Manager awarded a new design contract on the new International terminal to Atlanta Gateway Designers (AGD). Construction began in the summer of 2008. Estimates place the terminal's cost at $1.4 billion and it opened on May 16, 2012. The first departure was Delta Flight #295 to Tokyo–Narita, with the first arrival being Delta Flight #177 from Dublin. Accommodating the Airbus A380

In addition to Terminal F that allowed expanded International operations, sections of some Midfield taxiways have been widened from 145 feet to 162 feet and a section of Runway 27R has been widened from 220 feet to 250 feet to accommodate Airbus A380 operations at the airport. Air France is considering whether they will commence A380 service from Atlanta, and Korean Air began daily service from Atlanta to Seoul on September 1, 2013. Additionally, two adjacent gates on Concourse E, Gates E1 and E3, have been retrofitted to allow lower-level boarding from one gate and upper-level boarding from the other, allowing for quick boarding and the facilitation of passengers to connecting flights around the airport.

Modernization of Concourse D

On June 6, 2011, Atlanta City Council awarded a contract to the joint venture of Holder/Moody/Bryson to renovate and expand Concourse D. The plans called for 60,000 square feet of space added, two new escalators between the main level and the Transportation Mall, three new elevators between the second and third levels, and expanded food, beverage and retail outlets. The project budget was not to exceed $37 million and it was set for completion by spring 2014. The expansion was completed in July 2013 at a final cost of $47 million, with a total of 91,000 square feet of space added.

E-Mail From Our Eastern Airlines Member, George Delalla

The name was Atlanta airport, then it changed to Atlanta Hartsfield. Now it is Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson.

I met Maynard Jackson at The Home Depot one sunny day in the parking lot. I worked for Home Depot then.

Mr. Jackson was retired.

As I called out to him, he greeted me with a smile and a friendly "hello." We shook hands and I said "you have done a lot for this City". He humbly said "thank you".


I worked for Eastern before I went to work at Home Depot. I told him, "one day they're going to name something big and great with your name on it". Little did we know it was going to be the airport - well deserved.