View from the right seat

  Jeneal McKinleySep 21, 2016  

We don’t think much about it, the change from Fort Collins – Loveland Airport to Northern Colorado Reginal Airport. Fifty years from now the conversation will be something like this.

“FNL? Why is NoCo call letters FNL?” The same way we question why Los Angeles is LAX? Or Chicago O’Hare, ORD?

Years ago when the Wright brothers started this whole crazy thing we now know as aviation, there was no need for airport identification. It was just the best open field available.

In the 1930’s the field exploded and as a way to identify the cities that had airports, it was decided to follow the National Weather Service who had already begun to assign a two letter code to those cities that reported weather. Eventually the cities with airports outnumbered those reporting the weather. With the growing number of airports, the decision was made to add a third letter. Those that were already in existence just added an X. That explains how LAX was born. And Portland became PDX and Phoenix is PHX. The exception to that was SFO who requested to add an O instead of the traditional X.

The Military claimed the letters N and A for their codes. Radio stations were assigned either the letter W or K depending on which side of the Mississippi they were. W was east and K was west. The radio call letters all stemmed from telegrams. In 1912 several countries attended a conference centered on “International Radiotelegraphs”. One of the biggest things to come out of that meeting was to assign certain letters to certain countries. America was given W, K, N, and A. Canada got C and Mexico got X.

So how did some of the names come to be? ORD was Orchard, so named for the military airport named Orchard Field. In 1949 it was officially changed to O’Hare for WWII ace Edward Henry “Butch” O’Hare. Orlando is MCO for McCoy Air Force Base.

New Orleans is MSY for Moisant Stock Yards. Kitty Hawk is FFA for First Flight Airport.

Kahului in Maui is OGG , named for Hawaiian Airlines Capt. Bertram James Hogg.

A few are from history. Knoxville, Tennessee is TYS. That comes from the donation of land for an airport from the Tyson family who lost a son in WWI.

The one airport that has tried to change its call letters is Sioux City’s Gateway Airport. Their call letters are SUX. They have tried with no luck to change the letters since 1998. They finally gave up and now embrace the call letters. You can buy hats, cups, shirts and the like all promoting their new tag line…FLY SUX.

Makes FNL sound a bit more sane doesn’t it.