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March 31, 2004

Airport Identifier Codes

The Journal of the Air Line Pilots Association explains those three-letter airport codes from ABE to ZRH. Neat! And we even find a clue to Toronto's peculiar YYZ designation (via ***Dave).

When the Wright brothers first took to the air in 1903, there was no need for coding airports since an airport was literally any convenient field with a strong wind. However, the National Weather Service did tabulate data from cities around the country using a two-letter identification system. Early airlines simply copied this system, but as airline service exploded in the 1930's, towns without weather station codes needed identification. A bureaucrat had a brainstorm, and the three-letter system was born, giving a seemingly endless 17,576 different combinations. To ease the transition, existing airports placed an X after the weather station code. The Los Angeles tag became LAX. Incidentally at the historic sand dune in Kitty Hawk, the U.S. National Parks Service maintains a tiny airstrip called FFA - First Flight Airport.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at March 31, 2004 06:36 AM