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Squawks & HeadlinesWhere are you going? Breaking the airport codes

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Where are you going? Breaking the airport codes

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Laura Daily explains the history and selection of airport codes. (www.dallasnews.com) More...

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tyketto
Interesting on how she only went through IATA codes, but didn't touch on ICAO codes. That would have been a good comparison topic to also get into.
jkudlick
The ICAO codes in the contiguous United States and in Canada are boring - just add a K or a C to the front. Otherwise, it can be really confusing to most people how the ICAO codes are generated (it makes sense to me, since it's kind of like a grid system).
tyketto
Not entirely true. Those in the pacific region start with a P. PANC=ANC for anchorage, yet PAFA=FAI for Fairbanks. PGUM for GUM.

N is for the south Pacific, where NTSU is for American Samoa. Finally, T for the Caribbean, where TJSJ=SJU for San Juan, Puerto Rico. All of those in the US.

There is a lot more that ICAO codes offer than slapping a P or C in front of the IATA code, especially like when what is used when.
jkudlick
Like I said - the contiguous US (aka - the "Lower 48") and Canada get a K or C slapped on the front. All others are based on a sort of grid system with the first letter designating the region, the second letter designating a smaller area within that region, and the last two designating the airport. Most people would not understand it.
leonacj3
It is not always the case that the ICAO identifier in the continental US is the IATA code with a K in front. Hilton Head, SC is an example. The IATA code for Hilton Head is HHH. The ICAO code is KHXD.
tyketto
But you never stated the contiguous US, so how were we to know exactly what you were saying?

Anyway, you're right. Most people would not understand it, which goes to prove my point that the author could/should have gone through ICAO codes to explain how they are used, where they are used, when they are used, and how they compare to what the IATA uses. Thank you for proving my point so easily.
tyketto
my fault. you did say contiguous US. but you still prove my point about ICAO vs. IATA and needing a good comparison.
jkudlick
Jeremy Kudlick 14
I have a friend who tried to arrange a non-stop flight from Fukuoka, Japan, to Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. He just wanted to have a boarding pass that said FUK-YOO! :D
zcolescott
My Airport, BGF for Boiling Fork.
martyj19
Marty Jack 3
Another unusual situation is the weather station on New Hampshire's Mount Washington, which reports METAR as code KMWN, although there is no airport at the summit. That is the only reporting station I know of that is not collocated with an airport.

This is an amusing station to check for all of the exceptional cases like "cloud base below observing elevation", especially in the winter. It holds the world record for observed wind speed of 231mph.
chris13
Chris Bryant 3
My joy of the wonderful mess was me going to SLC while my bags went to SJC.
You'd think, with the advent of barcodes, they could come up with a way to prevent bags from going to the wrong city.
Bwillie22
Bwillie22 3
How about KHMS for the Hanford Meteroligical Station at the Hanford site near Richland, WA. It also reports weather and is not an airport. This METAR has a remark at the end RSNK but only the locals know what it means. Then there is KSXT which is at Sexton Mountain near Grants Pass, OR another mountain reporting station with no airport.
devsfan
ken young 1
Actually there are several DSR-88 radar units no located at airports.
These are full NOAA weather observation stations and thus have their own identifier..
For example, the Boston ,MA radar site is KBOX..The one for the Morehead City, NC station is KMHX....The one for the Raleigh. NC station is KRAX. And finally the one for New York City is KOKX
splashdown
Bob Ash 1
I suppose that is why they have no airfield!
Bwillie22
Bwillie22 1
I don't think any of the stations you mention report METARS. The point Marty was making was there are aviation METARS reported at locations where there is no airport.
AlfWilbert
The advent of Bar-codes? Actually, the most up-to-date technology are RF-ID tags - Bar-codes are considered a legacy system now!
sstuff
sstuff 2
And who would know (other than local residents and aeronautical types) that the location of PFN was the (now-closed) Panama City, Florida, airport, so coded in honor of that city’s former mayor, Harry Gunn Fannin?
RustyMetz
Rusty Metz 2
Don't forget MSY, New Orleans, originating from Moisant Stock Yards which predates the airport at the same location.
gearup328
Peter Steitz 2
KCAK for the Canton/Akron Ohio airport. However, it is commonly referred to as the Akron/Canton Airport. It's a city rivalry. The actual field is about half way between the two cities. How about KMCO for Orlando? McCoy Field, named after the famous aviator. Key West should really be KKEY but isn't--KEYW is close enough. KCVG? That's Covington, Kentucky. The Cincinnati airport is actually in Kentucky.
Smuveplaya
Smuve Playa 2
EAT > FAT > BED / Wenatchee, Washington > Fresno, Ca > Bedford, Mass
mpradel
Marcus Pradel 2
left out SGN -> Ho Chi Min City, formerly known as Saigon..
matthewcheetham
I heard of an English expat working in Canada who booked a flight home to Manchester who was pleasantly surprised by how inexpensive the flight was and even more surprised when the transatlantic flight only took a couple of hours and the plane landed in Manchester, New Hampshire!
patt46
paul patten 2
Back in the early 80s an obscure oversized suitcase, which originated in HOU, sat unclaimed
for months in the baggage area of RUT (Rutland VT). No one could even decipher the owners
name and address from the chicken scratch writing on the name tag until one sharp agent
actually looked at the bag tag only to discover that the bag was destined for RUH (Riyadh
Saudi Arabia) not even close.
whip5209
Ken McIntyre 2
My favorite in the Pacific northwest...
MWH Moses Watering Hole, Moses Lake, WA.
whip5209
Ken McIntyre 2
I just remembered another odd one...EAT Wenatchee, Washington
gearup328
Peter Steitz 1
Good one, Ken. Let's go to EAT. Or, when are we going to EAT. Maybe, I don't want to EAT today.
ggv
Add MAD for Madrid
bryceanelson
Bryce Nelson 1
Moisant Stock Yards, named after John Moisant, early aviation pioneer who crashed on the location before the airport was constructed.
49erca
Rick Hundley 1
Very informative.
genethemarine
Gene spanos 1
I like the new one for ORD - OU812
rh77
KCI is MCI, but why? The article mentions "Mid-Continent Intl", but another factor was the Double starting "K" rule. Then, MKC had already been taken by the original, "downtown" airport. So, after the triple semi-circle design was built, TWA couldn't pull their 74's or other larger aircraft between the terminals. Doh! At least you can nearly park at your gate and stroll on in. Then Wichita took the Mid-Continent nickname and we never really got the primary hub. St. Louis took the role. Another misnomer -- it's not in Kansas. I'm often welcomed to Kansas at MCI by FAs -- did I fall asleep and end up at KGBD?
OhanaUnited
Andrew Leung 1
So does anyone know why Canada got "Y" (and also some "Z"? And who's idea was it to come up with YYZ for Toronto? It's so perplexing!
psseshadri
Very useful information, especially the comments.
selby50c
selby50c 1
Blame the Feds for that...
slgordon3
slgordon3 1
I just learned that ORD comes from "Orchard Field." I had been wondering about that one for decades.
jkudlick
Orchard Field used to be a military airfield. In 1949, Chicago renamed it in honor of LCDR Edward O'Hare, the Navy's first flying ace and the first Navy recipient of the Medal of Honor during WWII. A replica of the F4F-3 Wildcat he flew on the mission where he received the Medal of Honor is on display at the airport. O'Hare also received the Navy Cross and two Distinguished Flying Crosses.
gearup328
Peter Steitz 1
I always thought ORD was for orchard but the others are good too.
slgordon3
slgordon3 1
Good stuff, thanks for the info.
jbermo
I had thought that ORD came from Ormon Richard Daily - Chicago's original big boss mayor - much like LGA-New York's popular 1940's Mayor Fierello La Guardia (sp?).
rcabell
Ryan Cabell 1
I had always heard ORD was from "ORDinance" since it used to be an Army Ordinance Depot.
rcabell
Ryan Cabell 1
I had always heard ORD was from "ORDinance" since it used to be an Army Ordinance Depot.
newburyport
How about GUS for Grissom Air Base (perhaps now Air Reserve Base) named after Hoosier Hero Astronaut Gus Grissom. GUS is just northwest of another favorite OKK for good old Kokomo, Indiana