View Full Version : How airports got their names.

10th Apr 2009, 07:02
Here's the first one: CHICAGO O'HARE


Many years ago, Al Capone virtually owned Chicago . Capone wasn't famous for anything heroic. He was notorious for enmeshing the windy city in everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder.

Capone had a lawyer nicknamed "Easy Eddie." He was Capone's lawyer for a good reason. Eddie was very good! In fact, Eddie's skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time.

To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well. Not only was the money big, but Eddie got special dividends, as well. For instance, he and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help and all of the conveniences of the day. The estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago City block.

Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocity that went on around him.

Eddie did have one soft spot, however. He had a son that he loved dearly. Eddie saw to it that his young son had clothes, cars, and a good education. Nothing was withheld. Price was no object.

And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong. Eddie wanted his son to be a better man than he was.

Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things he couldn't give his son; he couldn't pass on a good name or a good example.

One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Easy Eddie wanted to rectify wrongs he had done.

He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al "Scarface" Capone, clean up his tarnished name, and offer his son some semblance of integrity. To do this, he would have to testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great. So, he testified.

Within the year, Easy Eddie's life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago Street . But in his eyes, he had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer, at the greatest price he could ever pay. Police removed from his pockets a rosary, a crucifix, a religious medallion, and a poem clipped from a magazine.

The poem read:

"The clock of life is wound but once, and no man has the power to tell just when the hands will stop, at late or early hour. Now is the only time you own. Live, love, toil with a will. Place no faith in time. For the clock may soon be still."


World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O'Hare.

He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific.

One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank.

He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship.

His flight leader told him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet.

As he was returning to the mother ship, he saw something that turned his blood cold; a squadron of Japanese aircraft was speeding its way toward the American fleet.

The American fighters were gone on a sortie, and the fleet was all but defenseless. He couldn't reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet. Nor could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger. There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert them from the fleet.

Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50 caliber's blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent.

Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible, rendering them unfit to fly.

Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction.

Deeply relieved, Butch O'Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier.

Upon arrival, he reported in and related the event surrounding his return. The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch's daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had, in fact, destroyed five enemy aircraft
This took place on February 20, 1942 , and for that action Butch became the Navy's first Ace of W.W.II, and the first Naval Aviator to win the Medal of Honor.

A year later Butch was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29. His home town would not allow the memory of this WW II hero to fade, and today, O'Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man.

So, the next time you find yourself at O'Hare International, give some thought to visiting Butch's memorial displaying his statue and his Medal of Honor. It's located between Terminals 1 and 2.


Butch O'Hare was "Easy Eddie's" son.

10th Apr 2009, 08:16
snopes.com: Eddie O'Hare and Son (http://www.snopes.com/glurge/ohare.asp)

10th Apr 2009, 08:48
Heathrow was named after a village razed to the ground during it's construction.

Airey Belvoir
10th Apr 2009, 09:12
Doncaster Robin Hood Airport was named after a thieving Saxon vagabond - which might be apt seeing as it is owned by Doncaster Borough Council.

It was previously named Finiglei or "clearing in the fens" by a Saxon settler. It also had an illustrious past as RAF Finningley.

10th Apr 2009, 09:17
Goodwood in England is named in honour of the porn actor Ron Jeremy, whilst Blackbushe is named in honour of Lorraine Kelly (EGLK)


10th Apr 2009, 09:47
KJFK = Kennedy.

No mystery there

Roger Sofarover
10th Apr 2009, 10:12
Manchester Airport

Story number 1

Once upon a time there was a city called Manchester and somebody built an Airport in it, and they called it Manchester Airport.

London City Airport

Story number 2

Once upon a time there as a city called London and............

Sorry was done 10 months ago by Frosty, nice story though

10th Apr 2009, 11:27
There was an Essex village called Rochford.
It acquired a little RAF station, surprisingly called Rochford Aerodrome.
It did good service during WW2.

The fine borough of Southend, nearby, thought a municipal airport would be a nifty idea, so acquired it and expanded it. They called it Southend Municipal Airport. It was used for car ferries to France and the like. It got to be quite busy, but not quite busy enough to be given an ILS, so the only IAP was the NDB.

Gradually, the commercial flights tailed off because of the lack of an ILS (and the railway line right on the runway threshold).

Then it was put out to management, and was renamed "London Southend Airport". It's not in London, and it's not in Southend, so the name is ideally suited to it.

Recently, Eddie Stobart bought it, so it's now nicknamed Eddie Stobart International (South) - to differentiate it from Eddie Stobart International (North), formerly called Carlisle.

It's being developed to include a railway station (fast links to Liverpool Street), and a new terminal building, control tower, etc. It has an ILS, and it's a delightful place to base a PA28. France in 35 minutes!

10th Apr 2009, 12:58
KJFK = Kennedy.

No mystery there

So explain Idlewild

Roger Sofarover
10th Apr 2009, 13:08
Originally Posted by ExSp33db1rd
KJFK = Kennedy.

No mystery there

But there jolly well is a mystery. I have always thought it was JFK. How mysterious.

10th Apr 2009, 13:08
Heathrow was named after a village razed to the ground during it's construction.

...and forms part of Hounslow Heath - a renowned haunt of highwaymen........

10th Apr 2009, 13:19
It has an ILS

Correct, just the one! So if the wind is in the Northerly quadrant, do without.

It only has Primary radar too.

10th Apr 2009, 13:31
great story about O'Hare :D

Low Flier
10th Apr 2009, 13:37
Once upon a time a drug-hazed Liverpudlian penned the words:

"Imagine no possessions"

So apt to name that city's airport after that author.

10th Apr 2009, 14:57
There was a footballer who after a brief flowering of his career appeared to descend into alcoholism and debauchery. Eventually his liver got shot and he got on the transplant list somehow, promising to 'never to the deed again'. He lasted about a year after getting a brand spanking new liver before the alcohol won again. They told him he was doomed unless he gave up, he couldn't, they were right, so they renamed an airport in Ireland after him! Funny that one......why? Any bets on how long before it's renamed?

I can actually say 'Bandaranaiki Airport' straight off, without pausing or thinking.

Krystal n chips
10th Apr 2009, 15:13
Liverpool.....shortage of potential candidates plus desperation equals........

On the other hand, Warrington International ( Burtonwood as was :{ ) would have been even more dire had not fate intervened regarding the latter former US base.

10th Apr 2009, 15:15
If I think of Toronto's airport, I always call it YYZ, because I'm a fan of the band Rush, who did about the geekiest thing a band could do: the opening riff to their instrumental piece YYZ is "YYZ" in Morse Code*. They also have the geekiest fans a band could have, who can do things like this for fun:


The airport's real name was originally Malton, the town near where it was built, and it served as a test field for planes from the nearby Avro Canada plant. It was renamed Toronto International in 1960, then Lester B. Pearson International in 1984. Pearson, a former Prime Minister of Canada, won the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to defuse the Suez Crisis. Quote:
Politics is the skilled use of blunt objects.

*: -.-- -.-- --..

Ken Wells
10th Apr 2009, 16:20
Heathrow could be renamed

Jacqui Smith Airport.

It takes so long to check in and get though the Taliban Security you can claim it as a second home.

Plus everyone knows where it is but nobody wants to go there.

and it doesn't like excess baggage.

Is Terminal and is managed by a greedy disfunctional organisation.

Roger Sofarover
10th Apr 2009, 20:50

One of my favourite bands. I went to see them in Manchester in the 70's the Farewell to Kings tour. Xanadu...still play it in the car now.

10th Apr 2009, 22:21
So explain Idlewild

They got that name from a golf course that occupied the land before the airport was built. The golf course was named after the Indian word for the area, Idalwilde, meaning peaceful and savage. The original ICAO code IDL was later recycled and used for a small town airport in Mississippi.

An airport near where we live had a perfectly serviceable name, Patrick Henry Field, until the local powers decided on the more tongue busying Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, which by the way, has no international airline arrivals nor departures. Rumors of direct to the UK flights via British Airways have remained untrue so far. Not a bad little airport, we fly one of our MD80s out of there quite often.

barry lloyd
10th Apr 2009, 23:55
Airey Belvoir

Doncaster Robin Hood Airport was named after a thieving Saxon vagabond - which might be apt seeing as it is owned by Doncaster Borough Council.

There's ever such a slight chance that Peel Holdings might disagree with that statement.

Low Flier
Once upon a time a drug-hazed Liverpudlian penned the words:

"Imagine no possessions"

So apt to name that city's airport after that author.

Never takes anyone very long on PPRuNe to get in a cheap shot about Liverpool, does it? If only we hadn't heard it so many times before. Any similar thoughts on George Best?

11th Apr 2009, 00:00
See post 15?

11th Apr 2009, 00:30

Friendship International Airport was named after nearby Friendship Church and took the BAL designator from Baltimore's Harbor Field when it opened in 1950. The state of Maryland bought the airport in 1972 and changed its name to Baltimore / Washington International Airport. It got the designator BWI in 1982. Thurgood Marshall was added to the name in 2005 to honor a former US Supreme Court justice from Baltimore.

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://tinyurl.com/zye2x)

barry lloyd
11th Apr 2009, 00:46

Roger. But my comment was specifically addressed to Low Flier, who posted his comment before you did.
Can't see it ever reverting to Belfast City though, any more than John Lennon would revert to Speke, or Liverpool International unless Peel sell it off one day...

Overall, most airports were named after the geographical location from which they evolved, until the fashion for calling them 'International' took off.
Anyway, to go back to the OP, I believe O'Hare was originally next to an orchard, (or at least a road which led to one), which is why its IATA code is ORD, and was then re-named in honour of a US Navy pilot after WWII, as mentoned in the OP.

11th Apr 2009, 00:49
In Oklahoma they are not real imaginative. The two largest airports are called Will Rogers, the airport served by the airlines and Wiley Post the largest GA airport. Hum, come to think about it, that's the only two airports we have left.

When I move here in 1962 there were six airports, the other four were closed because of political pressure, money issues and mostly NIMBY after the airports were surrounded by housing additions.

Well, we actually have three, if you count Tinker AFB.

Now to be accurate Wiley Post, the GA airport, was once served by an airline, one my father started, didn't last long, ran out of money (Wow, what a surprise!). Hard to compete against American Airlines flying between Oklahoma City and Dallas, this was before Southwest Airlines operated in Oklahoma. We flew Cessna 402s and Amercian flew 727s. :\

11th Apr 2009, 02:48
John Wayne Airport aka SNA in Santa Ana, named after a former resident of nearby Newport Beach.

Formerly Orange County Airport, named after the orange groves you can't find at the airport.

11th Apr 2009, 02:58
con pilot Wiley Post the largest GA airport.

Is that where prooner Wiley Post got their screen name?

Light dawns over Marblehead...

11th Apr 2009, 21:04
Montreal Mirabel Airport was built on land purchased from a farmer who had two daughters, Miriam and Isabel. It was named in their honour.

New York Kennedy Airport was built on land purchased from a farmer who had two sons, Ken and Neddy. It was named in their honour.

If you don't believe me, check with Snopes.

Rob Courtney
11th Apr 2009, 21:48
So where did Barcelonas "El Prat" come from then?

Rubbish bullfighter maybe?

11th Apr 2009, 23:20
The airport near Cape Town is now called Cape Town International, but for years it was called D.F. Malan Airport.

If you aren't up on South African history, you might not have heard of Malan, but you haven't missed much. A hardline Afrikaner, He became Prime Minister of South Africa in 1948, narrowly defeating the moderate but frail Jan Smuts, and that was the start of the Apartheid era. Malan and his National Party were the ones advocating official segregation between races on every level, and they set about implementing their policies in earnest.

You can see why the ANC government changed the name in the 1990s ... :oh:

11th Apr 2009, 23:55
Hard to see how the airport in Orlando, Florida could be linked to the famous Africa explorer Henry Morton Stanley...but it is.

The Orlando Sanford International Airport is named after the town of Sanford, Florida, which was founded by one Henry Shelton Stanford. "General" Sanford was a wealthy Yankee businessman, friend of Lincoln, and ambassador to Belgium (among other postings).

Along the way Sanford met the good Roi Leopold, King of the Belgians, who at the time was looking for a bit of the world to colonize. "Petit gens, petit pays" Leopold said of his subjects and Belgium, to justify the hunt for a bit more real estate.

Since all the choice real estate was taken, Leopold turned to central Africa, which was, at the time, virtually unexplored.

Along comes Henry Morton Stanley, a Welsh orphan, a veteran of the U.S. Civil War (having served both sides) and a traveling adventurer and journalist. Stanley had just found Dr. Livingstone, and was back in Europe enjoying a bit of celebrity. But as much as Stanley tried to convince the British that the Congo was worth exploring in more detail, his offers were rejected.

Stanley was stung by this rejection. He always felt insecure, having come from such humble beginnings in class-conscious Britain. He retained an American accent and affectations, and the jealousy of the other British explorers was hard to overcome.

Stanley had to look elsewhere for a sponsor, and was introduced to our (future) Orlando airport namesake General Sanford in Brussels.

Sanford made the connections to King Leopold and shortly Stanley was on his way back to the Congo. His mission for King Leopold was to map the Congo, establish trading stations on the river, and bring "commerce, Christianity, and civilization" to the poor people of the Congo. In fact, Leopold was using Stanley to map out his personal African kingdom...a colony owned by the King himself.

After some fascinating adventures where Stanley nearly died several times over, his mission was complete. Leopold had his poorly-named "Congo Free State" ... but he still needed international recognition.

Back into the picture comes General Sanford, who convinces a befuddled U.S. Congress and hapless President Arthur to recognize Leopold's new colony (for some choice business concessions). The United States was the first country to recognize the Congo Free State, setting the stage for the other great powers to follow.

The rest of Congo history is a sad tale of horror and greed, best chronicled in "The Heart of Darkness." Back in the U.S., General Sanford turned out to be a poor businessman. His Congo ventures failed (as did Leopold's), and the large parcel of land he bought in malaria-infested Florida produced few of the promised oranges. He continued with real estate ventures in Florida, much to the dismay of his wife who wanted nothing of the hot, humid climate.

The town of Sanford, Florida slowly receded in importance as a new town, Orlando, grew. Soon Disney would put it on the international map, and the legacy of Sanford remains on the town and airport. The terrible scars Leopold's Congo adventure have yet to heal.

Henry Morton Stanley went on to other African adventures, finishing his career as an MP in the British Parliament. His grave remains today in Pirbright, Surrey.

12th Apr 2009, 02:21
But there jolly well is a mystery. I have always thought it was JFK. How mysterious

K is the first letter of the ICAO code for most mainland U.S.A. airports i.e.
KJFK KLAX KSFO and P starts the Pacific airfields, like PHNL for Honolulu. or PANC for Anchorage.

No mistery, except .........

Before Pontius was a Pilate the World was divided into irregular sections that were given an alphabetical Charcacter that had nothing to do with their location, or any logic that I have ever discovered, or really care about, so E covers the UK and some of Europe and L, for instance, covers other parts of Europe.

The second letter helps identify the Country, and the last two have some relevance to the airport location - sometimes. So....... EGLL ..... E is meaningless, but G means Great britain and LL means Heathrow and EDDF.....D means Deutschland ( not G for Germany ) and DF means Frankfurt, EHAM doesn't mean Hamburg, but E plus Holland ( not N for Nederlands ) plus AMsterdam, and LFPO ...... L is meaningless but F means France and PO means Paris Orly and PG Paris de Gaulle. Or L Hungary BudaPest ( LHBP ) Simple. A mixture of English pronunciations of local names, and local names i.e. what Countries call themselves.

The sytem falls apart all over the place, Canada uses CY plus 2 characters for the airport, and in the Far East where A is used for Australia and NZ for New Zealand, which is logical. Singapore Changi airport is WSSS

Don't shoot me, I didn't invent the system, but once you know it, it has a sort of logic that helps International Airline pilots read met. reports and Notams that cover a large area that they operate in.

This has nothing to do with the IATA code for passenger labels, where London is not EGLL but LHR. And SIN is Singapore, and MEL is Melbourne, which is why an australian baggage loader saw a lot of bags labelled POM - for Port Moresby, and put them on the BA flight to London.

It's all as logical as Met. reports giving windspeed in Knots, cloud base in Feet, and visibility in Kilometres. Simple.

12th Apr 2009, 03:15
Does the "E" in "EGLL" reference the region, i.e. Northern Europe? The "L" in "LFPO" would then be Southern Europe/Israel.

I'm just asking because my curiosity got the better of me (OK, I'm bored, I admit it) and as I looked at what the codes for different airports were I noticed a pattern developing with the airport codes starting with the same letter being in a certain area, or region.

12th Apr 2009, 04:38
With regard to George Best/Belfast City/Habour I can not for the life of me understand why it was renamed after an alcoholic even if he was an incredible footballer briefly, especially when we have the likes of Joey who was an absolute gentleman and a fine ambassador for N I and risked his life on a regular basis doing what he did best. Lets face it the only risks George took was falling of a bar stool. Thats the Irish for you.
Apparently some of the controllers seem to get slightly upset if you call Harbour approach but old habits die hard!!!!!!!

12th Apr 2009, 04:45
I was always curious about Dallas' Love Field. It was named after pioneer aviator Moss Lee Love.

What a cruel irony.


12th Apr 2009, 04:55
Why the image of JFK ? He didn't die at Love Field? :confused:

12th Apr 2009, 06:03
.........I noticed a pattern developing with the airport codes starting with the same letter being in a certain area, or region.

hellsbrink ............ I agree, but I don't think there was any clever logic, why would E stand for Northern Europe and L for Southern Europe ?

I have a recollection of once seeing a World map divided into squares, each square being given a letter, like square E covered bits of Northern Europe, so every airport in that square started with E, then the second letter denoted the Country etc. but then I guess some States started messing about with it, like Canada probably demanded CY, and Australia A, which makes sense, but I don't know how the present system finally evolved, some airports are easily identified, and others a total mystery.

Lon More
12th Apr 2009, 11:02
Hellsbrink Here's an explanation of the ICAO Airport Codes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICAO_airport_code)

12th Apr 2009, 11:29
Why the image of JFK ? He didn't die at Love Field?

He landed there shortly before he was assassinated.

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12th Apr 2009, 12:15
Australia was A but it is now Y.
YSSY = Sydney.

12th Apr 2009, 12:36
I always used t get mixed up between EGPF (GLA) and EGPH (EDI) until someone recently explained to me
PF= Poor F s
PH= Posh Houses

Quite clear now!

12th Apr 2009, 16:20
And then of course there's EGGW which is - obviously enough... Luton.:ugh:
(The place you might reasonably have thought it was is EGKK). Reminds me a bit of the fake phonetic alphabet I saw somewhere on the web a few years ago which had things like E=emergency, M=mayday, C=crash, F=fire.

n5296s (from KPAO)

12th Apr 2009, 17:27
Henri Coanda International Airport (IATA: OTP, Until May 2004, its official name was Bucharest Otopeni International Airport).

It is named after Romanian flight pioneer Henri Coanda the builder of the world's first jet powered aircraft.:ok:

Born in Bucharest, Coandă was the second child of a large family. His father was General Constantin Coanda a mathematics professor at the National School of Bridges and Roads. His mother, Aida Danet, was the daughter of French physician Gustave Danet, and was born in Brittany.

In 1934 he was granted a French patent related to the Coanda Effect. In 1935, he used the same principle as the basis for a hovercraft called " Aerodina Lenticulara", which was very similar in shape to the flying saucers later developed by Avro Canada before being bought by the US Air Force and becoming a classified project.:eek:

Sir George Cayley
12th Apr 2009, 21:33
So, once Europe is considered a contigious continent can we expect EASA to ask ICA for an E prefic plus the IATA 3 letter airport code? Or is that too obvious?

E 034 ???

and maybe a European reg for a/c

EG 1234 AA
EF 4567 BB
EH 7890 CC etc?

Nah It'll never catch on

Sir George Cayley

13th Apr 2009, 00:16
I doubt that you will a Europe-wide aircraft ID. They are in fact the radio call letters, aren't they? So changing the registrations would seem to imply ignoring the radio call letter blocks assigned to each country.

See, there is a bureaucratic answer for everything.

From Wiki:
The first use of aircraft registrations was based on the radio callsigns allocated at the London International Radiotelegraphic Conference in 1913. This was modified by agreement by the International Bureau at Berne and published on April 23, 1913. Although initial allocations were not specifically for aircraft but for any radio user, the International Air Navigation Convention held in Paris in 1919 made allocations specifically for aircraft registrations based on the 1913 callsign list. The agreement stipulated that the nationality marks were to be followed by a hyphen then a group of four letters that must include a vowel (and for the convention Y was considered to be a vowel).

1903 Berlin Radio Telegraphic Conference Protocols (http://earlyradiohistory.us/1903conv.htm)

Call letter blocks were assigned to various countries in the 1912 London Radiotelegraphic Conference, entended in 1913.
Radio Call Letters: May 9, 1913 (http://earlyradiohistory.us/1913call.htm)

13th Apr 2009, 21:41
barry lloyd,
I thik thet the "ORD" in Chicago stood for "ORDnance Field", [the Bears play at Soldier Field]....not an airfield, I know, but a tentative connection

13th Apr 2009, 21:55
Sorry chiglet, but ORD comes from this, Orchard Place Airport/Douglas Field. Orchard Field was originally built by Douglas as a manufacturing plant and after the Second World War it was bought by the city and turned into the primary international airport serving Chicago. Midway airport was the primary airport for Chicago until that time.

You were close though. :ok:

14th Apr 2009, 00:34
Manchester Airport

Story number 1

Once upon a time there was a city called Manchester and somebody built an Airport in it, and they called it Manchester Airport.

Er, Ringway!:=

14th Apr 2009, 16:46
Thanks Con,
We got that tale from an AAL Captain inbound to MAN from ORD :confused:

14th Apr 2009, 18:34
Never mind that..why isn't there a Ringo STAR :}

14th Apr 2009, 20:12
In 2005 a Cessna Citation CJ2 went off the end of the runway at Bader Field. in Atlantic City NJ. The field was not rated for jets at all, with the longest runway just over 3,000 ft, so it was a Bad Idea all the way down. (PPRuNe Discussion of the incident, with link to video, here (http://www.pprune.org/biz-jets-ag-flying-ga-etc/175012-bizjet-off-runway-atlantic-city.html).) Bader Field is now closed, and is to be sold off as prime Atlantic City real estate.

Where did it get its name? According to this page (http://www.airfields-freeman.com/NJ/Airfields_NJ_AtlanticCity.html), it picked up the name in the early '20s from some nearby athletic fields, which were named after the mayor, Edward L Bader. It was reportedly (http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/news/newjersey/story/6787513p-6655816c.html) the first airport to be called an "airport", in 1919. It must have been spectacular to fly in there over all the casinos and waterways.

14th Apr 2009, 20:52
TURIN. Of course it could have been Barton! but even that wasn't technically in Manchester at the time. I believe the City of Manchester pioneered Lebensraum. :ok: