LAX? FAE? RIX?
March 18, 2015 1:42 PM   Subscribe

Why do the three-letter codes for so many American airports end in "X"? How do you tell all the "Yxx" codes for Canadian airport codes apart? Where is SUX, again? Why are you flying into FCA? Airport Codes is a gorgeous, yet informative guide to the mysteries behind your favorite (or least favorite) airport code.
posted by heurtebise (66 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
Toronto Pearson International Airport's YYZ was named after that Rush song, right?
posted by Talez at 1:46 PM on March 18, 2015 [20 favorites]


Charlotte, NC </snicker>
posted by rustcrumb at 1:49 PM on March 18, 2015


I think it was called that because YYK was already taken?
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:50 PM on March 18, 2015


Charlotte, NC

Little Rock, AR
posted by jammer at 1:52 PM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I take continued satisfaction in informing visitors and locals alike that our airport code not only commemorates some stockyards but also a man who died in an aviation accident in said stockyards. Cows and a plane wreck. [MSY]

Who's this "Louis Armstrong" character anyway?
posted by komara at 1:52 PM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


You know what would be a good name for an airport, is: Ship Grave. --the Dutch
posted by theodolite at 1:55 PM on March 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Or, if you want to keep using IATA rather than ICAO codes:

Pensacola to Charlotte
posted by jammer at 1:56 PM on March 18, 2015 [13 favorites]


Or, if you want to keep using IATA rather than ICAO codes:

Pensacola to Charlotte
posted by jammer


Eponysterical?
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:59 PM on March 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's a pretty and interesting site, but it incorrectly says that T.F. Green is given PVD because of "its home in Providence." As the sign in the airport points out, "No matter what the flight attendant said, you've landed in Warwick."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:59 PM on March 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


San Carlos Airport, the closest airport to Oracle's headquarters, where Larry Ellison's private jet flies in and out of, is SQL. Little known fact - this is actually just a coincidence; it has been called SQL since before Oracle was founded.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 2:03 PM on March 18, 2015 [28 favorites]


Let's be honest with ourselves -- the main problem with the site is the fact that the photography makes these dens of misery and suffering look even vaguely appealing to a normal human being.

All of the photographs should be replaced with Piranesi engravings, for the sake of the Truth.
posted by aramaic at 2:05 PM on March 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


And a fun note about Sioux Gateway Airport (SUX): Sioux City officials who didn't like the code had petitioned to the FAA to get a new identifier. Amongst the list of alternatives they were given was GAY.

They're still SUX.
posted by jammer at 2:07 PM on March 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


Our local airport is a PIT.
posted by Anne Neville at 2:08 PM on March 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Your favorite airport: SUX.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 2:13 PM on March 18, 2015 [11 favorites]


Pretty and informative! I was disappointed not to find out what YYZ was about, though.

Related: http://www.tnooz.com/article/mashing-up-airport-codes-for-a-clever-expedia-ad-campaign-images/
posted by corvine at 2:18 PM on March 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've always wanted to have a uniform shirt that says "LAX Security"
posted by Kabanos at 2:22 PM on March 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


Two I use often enough HPN and CHO are not even listed.

List of airport codes
posted by 724A at 2:24 PM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


YOO WAT M8?
posted by cthuljew at 2:24 PM on March 18, 2015


Related: http://www.tnooz.com/article/mashing-up-airport-codes-for-a-clever-expedia-ad-campaign-images/

Wait, you can check baggage to Oshawa airport? What?
posted by GuyZero at 2:31 PM on March 18, 2015


GuyZero: I'm pretty sure Expedia doesn't sell tickets to Sembach Air Base, either.
posted by jackbishop at 2:35 PM on March 18, 2015


Soon I'm going to a conference in Texas, specifically on a beach that is a major spring break destination. The local airport code is, fittingly, BRO.
posted by busted_crayons at 2:36 PM on March 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


The explanations of the various Canadian Yxx codes don't quite do them justice. According to Things I've Read on the Internet, when the first Canadian transcontinental railroads and telegraph lines were built, each station had its own two letter Morse code: VR was Vancouver; TZ Toronto; QB Quebec; WG Winnipeg; SJ St. Johns; YC Calgary; OW Ottawa; EG Edmonton; etc. The Y was later added to the front to indicate an airport rather than a train station.

In the case of Toronto, YTZ was used to indicate Toronto City Airport (on the island in Lake Ontario near downtown), YYZ was selected for Toronto's Pearson International because the town of Malton station was YZ. All the airports in the Greater Toronto Area share the more logical metrocode of YTO.
posted by Kabanos at 2:38 PM on March 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


Or, maybe Americans just kept asking, "Why? Why 'Zed'?"
posted by Kabanos at 2:43 PM on March 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


I was disappointed not to find out what YYZ was about, though.

"YYZ" is about rock!
posted by kirkaracha at 2:46 PM on March 18, 2015


Once the New Zealand equivalent is launched you can enjoy a DUD trip to lovely Dunedin.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 2:47 PM on March 18, 2015


I fly through SUX once every year or two, since it's the closest airport to my parents' place, and it was the first airport I ever flew out of.

As I say every time we have one of these threads, SUX is fairly apt. Then again, they done pretty good during this previously.
posted by brennen at 2:55 PM on March 18, 2015


Sioux... Citians? ...have actually come to embrace SUX quite a bit, you see shirts and such with it and there's stuff like the Winter SUX bike ride, Mud SUX mud run, and a bunch of other things using it for branding.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:55 PM on March 18, 2015


My wife is from Eugene, Oregon (EUG) and I always tell her she should join the ranks of the other west coast cities and start calling her home town by the airport identifier. Mostly because you can pronounce as one disgusted word (eugghhh) with a really nice wet, gutteral gh sound at the end.

She's not really amused by this.
posted by backseatpilot at 3:00 PM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


This a very nice design to display this interesting yet fairly simple list of 3-letter codes. The best part, though, is the About Page.
posted by chavenet at 3:17 PM on March 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


There is a place in the Ottawa airport -- to the left as you exit security, across from the book place -- where I have eaten a slice of pizza from time to time. I may be one of the few people who think of that pizza as YOWza.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:38 PM on March 18, 2015


This isn't Calgary, we don't talk like that.

Corner Gas wooo
posted by bleep at 3:45 PM on March 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


A little lighter-weight than I expected, but interesting nonetheless. Though I definitely cocked an eyebrow at "The airport code [ATL] honors Atlanta and reflects the city’s beloved nickname"-- surely this is backwards, no?
posted by threeants at 3:47 PM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


(Also, it perpetually surprises me that in an age of truly hyperbolic airflight paranoia, a major world airport in the anglosphere has been able to hold onto the code BOM.)
posted by threeants at 3:52 PM on March 18, 2015


DOH!
posted by raider at 4:11 PM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


When I was growing up in San Diego the airport was called Lindbergh Field. It charms me that the name lives on in the communications, as Lindbergh tower and Lindbergh ground.
posted by SLC Mom at 4:12 PM on March 18, 2015


Sad that EYW wasn't included for Key West. KEY was taken by Keystone in PA back in the day. It certainly is a hot destination now.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 4:14 PM on March 18, 2015


There's some nice sculptures featured in this page. When I glanced at it a few days ago, Gollum's face loomed out of the photo for a NZ airport, but it looks like I don't see it now, did I miss it?
posted by ovvl at 4:15 PM on March 18, 2015


The explanations of the various Canadian Yxx codes don't quite do them justice. According to Things I've Read on the Internet, when the first Canadian transcontinental railroads and telegraph lines were built, each station had its own two letter Morse code: VR was Vancouver; TZ Toronto; QB Quebec; WG Winnipeg; SJ St. Johns; YC Calgary; OW Ottawa; EG Edmonton; etc. The Y was later added to the front to indicate an airport rather than a train station.
In the case of Toronto, YTZ was used to indicate Toronto City Airport (on the island in Lake Ontario near downtown), YYZ was selected for Toronto's Pearson International because the town of Malton station was YZ. All the airports in the Greater Toronto Area share the more logical metrocode of YTO.


For the record the Pearson International airport (YYZ) is in Mississauga. A completely separate city (Sheridan-Homelands represent!).

Toronto is a nice nearby city you can visit when you fly into Mississauga.
posted by srboisvert at 4:20 PM on March 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Also, I learned when I flew thru YVR a few years ago, that they have that really cool Bill Reid sculpture which was featured in the previous issue of the Canadian $20 banknote.
posted by ovvl at 4:21 PM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


My infrastructure executive friend says he always feels particularly secure whenever he flies into Sharm El Sheikh.
posted by Devonian at 4:27 PM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Anyone who watches shows like "SECONDS FROM DISASTER" and "AIR CRASH INVESTIGATION" as obsessively as I do can tell you instantly what SUX stands for.
posted by tigrrrlily at 4:37 PM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


How could they skip the best airport in the world? SIN
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:59 PM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Or the cleanest airport in the world? SAN
posted by LionIndex at 5:01 PM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I spent ages being puzzled the time I booked flights to TGD. It took me a while to realise, that like LED, it was named after what the city I was flying to used to be called: Podgorica was Titograd, and St Petersburg was Leningrad.

My local airport misses out on its geographic name of Lulsgate Bottom, instead being named for the city it serves (Bristol). Still, it's not as ignominious as my hometown of Birmingham, whose mnemonic airport code went to its smaller, younger namesake.
posted by ambrosen at 5:12 PM on March 18, 2015


I have a soft spot for Cork, which ended up with ORK.
posted by Hogshead at 5:55 PM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


FCA FTW!
posted by the jam at 6:56 PM on March 18, 2015


It looks nice, but having to click on that relatively tiny X to go back to the main page is a pain.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 7:06 PM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Anne Neville: "Our local airport is a PIT."

Oh, it's not that bad, really.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:12 PM on March 18, 2015


It amuses me that the photo behind PDX is of the (inexplicably famous) airport carpet. Which is in the process of being replaced. How will anyone know where they are if they don't have The Carpet any more?
posted by That's Numberwang! at 7:15 PM on March 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


John Wayne (SNA) is crazy. Most air routes call it (correctly) Orange County. It used to be called Santa Ana, hence the code, but that designation is very loose gerrymandering -- the airport really straddles Irvine and Costa Mesa. Oh, and John Wayne wasn't born in OC, and never lived in Irvine, Santa Ana or Costa Mesa. He lived in Newport Beach, a city whose only connection to the airport is the endless complaints about the noise of the jets flying overhead, resulting in rocket-ship "noise abatement" take offs.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:22 PM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]




GYD: Heydar Aliyev International Airport : Baku ∙ Azerbaijan

In 2004, Baku’s airport was renamed and changed its airport code from BAK to GYD in honor of former Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev, sometimes spelled GaYDar Aliev.
____<insert joke about their air traffic control system here>____
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 8:06 PM on March 18, 2015


I like the fact that FinnAir has a flight number 666 to HEL. If I'm ever in Copenhagen on a Friday the 13th, I'd be sorely tempted.
posted by dmt at 2:57 AM on March 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


The subject matter doesn't do much for me, but the site is indeed gorgeous.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:31 AM on March 19, 2015


This is really neat, I've always wondered about the codes and the site is beautiful. However, it's really annoying that it jumps back to the top of the page when I hit the X, so I have to scroll back down to where I was in the alphabet. Is it doing that for anyone else? (I'm on Firefox, on a Windows computer.)
posted by capricorn at 10:18 AM on March 19, 2015


So...does anyone know why "Y" was chosen for Canadian airports? This site just notes that it is so, and on Googling no obvious answer emerges.
posted by yoink at 10:28 AM on March 19, 2015


Ah, O'Hare is "ORcharD Field Airport".
ORD is shorter than HELL, true.
posted by doctornemo at 10:30 AM on March 19, 2015


So the "Y" prefix thing... I had heard that every country was assigned a prefix letter but American and big international codes pre-dated them and were grandfathered in or were simply ignored.

Canada simply followed the rules and gave all their airports the weird codes.

But I can't find any citations for that at all, so it's probably not true.
posted by GuyZero at 10:32 AM on March 19, 2015


Ah, just realized that using the back button instead of the X will save my place on the page.
posted by capricorn at 10:35 AM on March 19, 2015


So the "Y" prefix thing... I had heard that every country was assigned a prefix letter but American and big international codes pre-dated them and were grandfathered in or were simply ignored.

Are there any other countries most of whose airports begin with the same letter?
posted by yoink at 11:07 AM on March 19, 2015


Ah, O'Hare is "ORcharD Field Airport".

I think this is widely believed, but it's my understanding that the original name was "Orchard Douglas Field", as it was the location of the Douglas (as in McDonnell-Douglas, the successor company, although it's now part of Boeing) manufacturing facility:

[Bureaucratic delay lasting years, as with modern airports] was not the case in 1942 when the U.S. was mobilizing after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the government was looking for places far from America's coasts to build military aircraft. The selection of the O'Hare site took only a couple months in 1942, as compared to more than a decade for Peotone.

Yes, there was opposition to O'Hare. But the protests were quelles with a simply reminder that the nation was at war and that the Douglas Aircraft Co. needed a safe place to build four-engine C-54 transports.

So Orchard Place was rezoned from farm to industrial use for the Douglas plant....

The logical choice [among Chicagoland sites] was northwest suburban Orchard Place. It had plenty of available land, good drainage and nearby railroads for transportation. It also was far removed from any other airport. Nearby at Devon and Touhy Avenues was a small field called American Airport, but it presented no problem.

The airport adjoining the C-54 assembly plant was originally called Orchard Douglas Field, which survives as the ORD designation on airline tickets and luggage tags.


More at the Northwest Chicago Historical Society, including photos.
posted by dhartung at 12:28 PM on March 19, 2015


You can play bingo and see if you can find a row where you've flown to all three. (I've been to PHX, PIT, and PRG - but not sure if it counts, as PHX was only a connection, albeit a frequent enough one that I knew where to find a decent burrito there.)

Also, it somehow seems appropriate that the capital of Georgia has TBS.
posted by madcaptenor at 4:56 PM on March 19, 2015


The picture for Denver should have been Blucifier since it's definitely the part of the airport you will never forget, even (especially) in your nightmares.
posted by sideshow at 6:41 PM on March 19, 2015


So it took its code from its original name, Sacramento Metropolitan Field.

Nonsense: we all know it stands for "Sacramento, Motherfuckers" (or at least that's whats I tells 'em).
posted by Ogre Lawless at 9:03 PM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Another odd bit of trivia is that O'Hare is named after the son of one of Capone's accountants that may have gotten into the air force after his dad turned rat on Caopone (Dad was subsequently gunned down). O'Hare was a WWII fighter ace who died in the pacific.
posted by srboisvert at 2:29 PM on March 20, 2015


Speaking of the PDX Carpet: there was announcement today that it will be the Grand Marshal of this year's Starlight Parade. (Yes, they dressed it up in googly eyes and a hat.)
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 6:30 PM on March 20, 2015


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