b'58 AZAOPERATIONSFrom Military Base to BoomtownAdvanced Flying School outside Phoenix in July 1941, just months before the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor thrust the United States into World War II. With wartime demand for pilots skyrocketing almost overnight, activity at the nascent airfield quickly took off. The site was named Williams Field in February 1942 to posthumously honor Charles L. Williams, an Arizona-born military pilot. Post-war it was again renamed, this time as Williams Air Force Base in 1948. From wartime through its 1993 closure, more than 26,500 military fliers completed their pilot training there. In 1994, the facility began its second life as a public airportinitially as Williams Gateway, and later as Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport when commercial service was added in 2007. The following year, AZA opened a 10,000-square-foot modular terminal to temporarily house four commercial gates. Permanent gate facilities arrived in 2010, 2012 and 2014. A new control tower is just the tip of the iceberg at Phoenix- Today, the growing airport has 10 ramp-loaded gates. Mesa Gateway Airport (AZA). Other significant improvements include a new $28 million terminal concourse that just startedAZA served just 237,039 passengers during its first construction and a flurry of private development backed by12 months of commercial operation, but a surge in traffic notable aviation giants.developed along with terminal additions as Phoenix-area residents and visitors responded to the conveniences of the Like many U.S. airports, AZA started off as a mid-centurysmall commercial airport. Annual traffic has grown steadily military installation. The U.S. Army Air Corps opened anin recent years, thanks to a mix of low-cost domestic flights from Allegiant Air, Sun Country Airlines and, for a time, Frontier and Spirit airlinescoupled with a steady stream of snowbird-filled Canadian routes from Flair Airlines, Swoop and WestJet. In calendar year 2022, AZA exceeded 1.9 million passengers its best annual total to date. Airport officials project similar volume for 2023. While COVID-19 brought new challenges and temporarily slowed the airports ascent, the pandemic also fueled opportunities for expansion. Rigid social distancing requirements forced AZA to use only two of the modular terminal buildings four gates during parts of 2020 and 2021. But once growth resumed in earnest, airport leadership moved quickly to address AZAs spatial shortcomings with a $14.8 million federal grant awarded under the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.That funding was a catalyst for a new 30,000-foot, five-gate terminal modernization project that recently broke ground to replace the airports original four-gate modular terminal. The $28 million project is expected to be finished in first quarter 2024, and will mark the end of capital improvements on January | February 2023AirportImprovement.com'