Did you know that LAX has a hit song? Five facts you might not know about the airport

The Theme Building at LAX
According to LAX, the song “LA International Airport” climbed to No. 9 on the U.S. country music chart and No. 54 on the pop chart in the early 1970s.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
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There’s more than meets the eye at Los Angeles International Airport.

A reader recently asked us, “Why is LAX far from the center of L.A.?” I was intrigued by this question and started digging into the airport’s history, going back nearly a century to a time when LAX was a barley and bean field and flying was a rare — and sometimes terrifying — privilege for the very few.

I came across many surprising details about air travel’s development in the L.A. area. For example, I never knew that in midcentury Los Angeles, a “superport” in Palmdale was proposed to reduce congestion at Los Angeles International Airport.

That’s right — if history had played out differently, you could be headed to Palmdale for your next flight.


As is often the case with stories, lots of interesting facts about LAX and L.A. air travel didn’t make it into the final draft.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Did you know that LAX has its own hit song?

“LA International Airport,” a roughly three-minute-long song written by Leanne Scott was first recorded in 1970. A year later, country artist Susan Raye recorded it in Bakersfield, after which it became a crossover success.

According to LAX, it hit No. 9 on the U.S. country chart and No. 54 on the pop chart.

In 2003, Raye performed “LA International Airport” with a Bakersfield band in celebration of LAX’s 75th anniversary. Give it a listen here.

Here’s some news you can use: When is the most crowded and least crowded time at the airport?

The busier days are Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday — and Thursday is the busiest, according to Heath Montgomery, LAX director of public relations. The busiest time for departures is between 7 and 10 a.m. and the busiest time for arrivals is between 8 and 11 p.m.

If possible, plan accordingly.

Cars and buses navigate traffic at Los Angeles International Airport amid the Thanksgiving holiday rush in Los Angeles
Thursday is the busiest day at Los Angeles International Airport.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Small birds can create big problems for airports. “LAX contracts with the USDA for two full-time wildlife biologists to mitigate wildlife on and around the airfield,” Montgomery said. “Additionally, the Airport Operations staff that are monitoring the airfield 24/7 are trained to use pyrotechnics to disperse birds when they are observed near the runways.”

Speaking of wildlife, one of the few populations of the El Segundo blue butterfly lives beside LAX.

An endangered El Segundo blue butterfly
The El Segundo blue butterfly makes its home beside LAX.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)


Since 2020, multiple sightings of what resembled a person flying through the air with a jet pack have been reported by pilots in the area surrounding LAX.

The first sighting was radioed in by an American Airlines pilot on Aug. 30, 2020. “Tower, American 1997. We just passed a guy in a jet pack,” the pilot said. Shortly after this initial call, a Jet Blue pilot reported: “We just saw the guy pass us by in the jet pack.”

For a brief moment, let’s step into the multiverse of California air travel.

July 14, 2022

Since then, a handful of other sightings have been reported, including one in late June.

“The FBI has worked closely with the FAA to investigate reported jet pack sightings in the Los Angeles area, none of which have been verified,” read an FBI statement released in 2021. “One working theory is that pilots might have seen balloons.”

Lastly, a quick reminder to look up and appreciate the LAX Theme Building next time you’re traveling to and from the airport.

The space-age Theme Building — which bears a resemblance to typical depictions of UFOs — is considered “a true Modern icon,” according to the Los Angeles Conservancy. It was completed in 1961 by the architectural firm Pereira and Luckman.


The Theme Building’s restaurant area and observation deck were open to the public at various points over the past decade but are now closed to the general public. The USO currently occupies part of the building.

In a roundup of beloved L.A. landmarks, L.A. Times journalists wrote that the building is “the place where so many L.A. dreams begin, and it at once summons nostalgia for the past and hope for the future.”

A masked traveler and the Theme Building are reflected in a window in a sparsely populated Terminal 4 at LAX
The next time you’re at LAX, take a look at the Theme Building and appreciate its iconic space age design.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)