Two Questions About Airports

  1. Cecil did a find job of explaining why Chicago O’Hare is coded as ORD (sorry, don’t know the link). Now can someone explain why Orlando is coded as MCO? What about other seemingly nonsensical airport codes?

  2. Who is the Lambert for whom the Lambert - St. Louis International Airport is named?

The Orlando airport used to be McCoy Air Force Base. The Lambert in St. Louis was Maj. Alfred (or maybe Albert) Lambert, an early aviation pioneer and booster in the area.

Generally cities get nonsensical airport codes because the sensible ones have already been used (for instance, Newark got stuck with EWR instead of NEW) or because, like ORD and MCO, the airport name has changed but the code didn’t.

(Possible bad info warning, since I can’t quote a source.)

Something I read somewhere sometime said that at one time, airports had only two-letter codes.

Then, as more and more airports were being added, a third letter was needed.

If a third letter could be added that would be meaningful and unique, it was–if not, anything was added.

Here in Columbia, SC the airport code is CAE. Many many years ago, the code was just CA, which actually stood for Congaree Airlines (Congaree is the river that flows thru town).

The “E” was added later, and signifies nothing.

The Spokane airport code is GEG because it was once known as Geiger Field. As was pointed out above, sometimes the seemingly unrelated airport codes just reflect past history and probably made perfect sense when they were assigned.

If man was meant to fly faster than the speed of sound he would have been born with 50,000 pounds of thrust.

I believe cities have always had three letter codes. Airlines started with two letter codes. They’re running out of letters of the alphabet and are using numbers now. I don’t know if airline codes have had to move to three letters yet, though.

I assume that the more logical code was already taken, otherwise they would have renamed the code, too. (It has been done – JFK used to be IDL when it was Idlewild)

It wasn’t asked, but I 'splain it in advance. The Greater Cincinnati International Airport is coded “CVG” because it’s in Covington, Kentucky.

We here in Cincinnati are proud to claim an international airport, but we really prefer to keep the noise pollution out. Thus we claim the name, but Kentucky gets the noise. :slight_smile:

Lambert-St. Louis’s code is KSTL. A lot of major airports have K’s in front of what is normally considered their code, for instance KLAX, KBOS, KDEN, etc.


You know, doing what is right is easy. The problem is knowing what is right.

–Lyndon B. Johnson

Knoxville is TYS. New Orleans is MSY. Nashville is BNA. Kansas City is MCI.
I don’t know why.

The Master has answered this one:
http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a1_384.html

Basically, it used to be known as Orchard Field (or Place). Chicago being the progressive place it is (and Federal bureaucracy being what it is), we never got around to changing.

Oops! I see I didn’t read the original post closely enough! Mea culpa!

(Of course, I still think some folks may enjoy the link, as I sulk off and hide my shame…)

The Kansas City airport is coded as MCI because originally it was known as “Mid Continent International”. That was when we in KC had delusions of grandeur of being one of the major airline hubs before TWA defected to St. Louis.

We still beat them in the World Series, though…

(Possible exposition of ignorance)
Kansas City International airport is (now at least) called KCI - at least thats how my ticket was printed a year ago. I’ve never seen a ‘K’ in front of STL for St. Louis either. I fly through both of these airports regularly because I live in Wichita, which boasts ‘ICT’ an international airport which flys no further than Denver (I think).

To Rysdad, HelloKitty, & Kooper - I was just at travelocity.com and Kansas City came back as “MKC,” presumably for Missouri Kansas City (at least, that makes the most sense, IMHO). The locals may say, “I’m flying out of KCI…” when they mean “I’m flying out of Kansas City International [airport],” but it doesn’t seem like this has anything to do with its code.

Cooper, the reason you see only STL instead of KSTL is because airline ticket systems, baggage systems, etc. do not use the code, but the real aviation codes have the K_ _ _ codes. My source on this is the 13,000 object Microsoft Flight Simulator 98 airport/navigation database.


You know, doing what is right is easy. The problem is knowing what is right.

–Lyndon B. Johnson

The New Orleans International Airport (which is actually in Kenner, Louisiana) is also called Moisant Field, hence the airport code MSY.

Whether or not the airport is still actually called Moisant or if that’s just a vestige, I can’t say. Most sources hedge their bet and call it New Orleans International Airport (Moisant Field). I’ll have to read the signs carefully next time I’m at the airport.

Why Moisant? John Moisant was an early aviation pioneer. But he wasn’t from New Orleans. He didn’t even live here. He died here! In December, 1910, his aircraft went down during an airshow. They renamed the field for him. Some years later they built a new airport and the old name traveled to it. The original Moisant airfield is now the New Orleans Lakefront Airport.

You think you guys have got it bad… Pearson International Airport (named for a former Prime Minister Lester B.) in Toronto is coded YYZ - eat that :slight_smile:


“C’mon, it’s not even tomorrow yet…” - Rupert

If you need a graphic solution, http:\ alk.to\Piglet

*BigRoryG: You think you guys have got it bad… Pearson International Airport (named for a former Prime Minister Lester B.) in Toronto is coded YYZ - eat that :slight_smile: *

Is that where the rock group Rush got the title for their instrumental on Moving Pictures?

That would certainly explain the “S42” for Silverdale, Washington.


“Age is mind over matter; if you don’t mind, it don’t matter.” -Leroy “Satchel” Paige

All Canadian airports start with a “Y”. Apparently, that’s what the Canadian government wanted.

If you want to learn the history of airport codes, try http://www.iata.org