(WUSA) -- Dulles International Airport celebrates its 50th anniversary of service on Saturday. The airport, which was built to be the United State's first facility to handle commercial jetliners, opened on Nov. 17, 1962. President John F. Kennedy stood outside the Airport Traffic Control Tower for the official dedication. say airport authorities.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower picked the location for the airport in 1958 and construction began in September of that year. Architect Eero Saarinen designed the original 600-by-200-foot structure, which featured two parallel runways and one crosswind runway. Room was left for more runways to be added in the future.
Airport authorities say the idea of a "mobile lounge," which takes passengers from the terminal to their plane and reduces walking distance for passengers, was introduced at Dulles Airport.
In the 1980s, more than 10 million passengers were using the airport and a midfield terminal was built to accommodate the growth. Officials say that growth continued to accelerate when Dulles was transferred from the federal government to the new Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. MWAA used $1.5 billion to expand the main terminal, build midfield concourses, add cargo facilities and other features.
By 2000, more than 20 million passengers were served at Dulles. MWAA took on additional projects including adding two new daily parking garages, underground connectors with moving walkways, a fourth runway, new gates in the Main Terminal and Concourse B and a new airport traffic control tower. In 2011, the airport served more than 23 million passengers.
This weekend, hundreds of public officials, aviation industry leaders and airport employees will mark the 50th anniversary of Washington Dulles International Airport. On Friday night, a gala will take place in the Main Terminal to commemorate the airport's evolution.