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SeaTac Airport History


The Port of Seattle built Seattle–Tacoma Airport in the early 1940's. The airport, which is now in the city of SeaTac but was originally in unincorporated King County land, is a top-ten busiest airport in the U.S.

The airport is located twelve miles south of Seattle, and twenty miles north of Tacoma. The area has grown rapidly over the years.

In 1990, SeaTac was incorporated as a city. The city does not have a hyphen in its name, which distinguishes it subtly from the airport.

Seattle is the gateway to the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, the Pacific Rim, and beyond. Airlines can also use northern routes to get to Europe.

Sea-Tac Tower View

Following World War II, the first scheduled commercial flights out of the airport occurred in 1947.

In 1949, International was added to the airport's name as Northwest Airlines began offering direct service from Sea–Tac to Tokyo. Local residents commonly refer to the airport as "Sea-Tac".

The Growth of Air Travel in the Northwest

Sea–Tac's runways were expanded in the late 1950's and early 1960's to accommodate jets and for increased traffic due to the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle.

In 1966, SAS Airline began offering non–stop service from Seattle to Europe.

In the early 1970's, Sea-Tac underwent major expansion in which a second runway was added, a parking garage was built, and two satellite terminals were added, along with other improvements.

Seatac American


There have been less than ten significant accidents or incidents involving airplanes taking off or landing at Sea–Tac.

The last fatal accident was in 1956, when a Northwest Orient Flight headed to Portland, Oregon experienced reduced power and extreme buffeting shortly after take-off.

The pilot was forced to make a water landing in Puget Sound east of Maury Island. The plane sank within fifteen minutes of landing, killing five of the thirty eight on board.

A Brief Name Change

In 1983, following the death of U.S. Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson, the Seattle Port Commission voted to change the name of airport to Henry M. Jackson International Airport.

The city of Tacoma fought to restore their name to the airport and the name reverted back to Sea-Tac in 1984.

In the early 1990's, planning began on the construction of a third runway to increase capacity at Sea–Tac. There was great opposition to the plan from local residents on the grounds of noise and environmental concerns.

The airport eventually prevailed and the third runway opened in November 2008, with a construction cost of over one billion dollars.

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