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Old 07-28-2005, 12:18 AM
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Why is the Los Angeles Airport called LAX?

Okay, I get the first two letters...obviously. Los Angeles. But where does the X come from? What does it stand for? Or is there another language where X means air or airport or something like that?

Or maybe it's really, really simple and I'm just not seeing it?
Old 07-28-2005, 12:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Idle Thoughts
Okay, I get the first two letters...obviously. Los Angeles. But where does the X come from? What does it stand for? Or is there another language where X means air or airport or something like that?

Or maybe it's really, really simple and I'm just not seeing it?
The individual letters don't technically mean anything. U.S. airports are assigned three-letter identifiers. (Technically, there's a prefix letter; but it's never used in practice. I'm guessing there are prefix-plus-three identifiers for foreign airports as well. Some airports have letter-number combinations.)

Usually the identifier is similar to the city or airport name so as to make it easy to remember. For example, Lancaster, CA's William J. Fox Municipal Airport is WJF, San Diego is SAN, Las Vegas is LAS, Santa Monica is SMO, and Los Angeles International Airport is LAX. Some are a little more obscure, such as New Orleans, which is MSY (for Moisant International), or rather obscure, such as L71 for California City.

So the 'X' doesn't really stand for anything; but 'LAX' identifies Los Angeles International Airport.

3-letter FAA airport & beacon identifiers
Old 07-28-2005, 01:42 AM
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Here's the FAA page on Identifiers.
Old 07-28-2005, 01:44 AM
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Trying again...

Here's the FAA page on Identifiers.
Old 07-28-2005, 01:46 AM
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Even better...how did Toronto's airport get the code YYZ? (Yep, that's where the Rush song came from.)
Old 07-28-2005, 02:02 AM
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The fun one is why Chicago-O'Hare is ORD.
Old 07-28-2005, 02:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by silenus
The fun one is why Chicago-O'Hare is ORD.
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Old 07-28-2005, 02:25 AM
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And Sioux City Iowa is SOY. Go figure.
Old 07-28-2005, 02:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by silenus
The fun one is why Chicago-O'Hare is ORD.
Orchard Place/Douglas Field
Old 07-28-2005, 02:33 AM
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In case anyone doesn't feel like taking Johnny's word for it, the airport's site agrees with him in their FAQ:
Quote:
What does the "X" in LAX stand for?

Every airport today has a unique three-letter identifier to streamline the process of tracking the millions of items of airport data transmitted daily, including flight plans and weather reports.

Before the 1930s, existing airports used a two-letter abbreviation based on the weather station at the airports. So, at that time, LA served as the designation for Los Angeles International Airport. But, with the rapid growth in the aviation industry, the designations expanded to three letters, and LA became LAX. The letter X does not otherwise have any specific meaning in this identifier.
That's actually from the website of Los Angeles World Airports, which owns and operates the Los Angeles International, Ontario International, Palmdale Regional and Van Nuys Airports.

Isn't ORD derived from Orchard Field, or something like that (what it was called before being renamed O'Hare)? I'm relying on my memory here....
Old 07-28-2005, 02:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny L.A.
(Technically, there's a prefix letter; but it's never used in practice. I'm guessing there are prefix-plus-three identifiers for foreign airports as well. Some airports have letter-number combinations.)[/url]
Tell me more about this prefix. Couldn't seem to find any mention in the links so far.
Old 07-28-2005, 02:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dqa
Tell me more about this prefix. Couldn't seem to find any mention in the links so far.
From the FAA link:
Quote:
Section 4. International Location Identifiers

1-4-1 Use of Location Identifiers
An international location indicator is a four-letter code used in international telecommunications. The location indicator for airports in the contiguous United States is the three-letter identifier preceded by "K"...
Old 07-28-2005, 04:07 AM
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Why is the Los Angeles Airport called LAX?

Because if they changed it now they'd have to foolow it with (EX-LAX)?
Old 07-28-2005, 08:37 AM
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brad-d's link is why Portland, OR is PDX - it used to be PD. Also, N codes were originally reserved for Navy facilities, so Norfolk and Newark had to start 1 letter in with their codes.

There are many small airports with 1 or even 2 digits in their 3-character codes, due to a limited supply of letters but they rarely have airline service. B19 is Biddeford, Maine, for just one example.

The standard list of major US airports with nonobvious codes:
ORD - Chicago O'Hare, used to be Orchard Field
MSY - New Orleans, former site of Moisant Stock Yards
MCO - Orlando, formerly McCoy Air Force Base (ORL is an older field nearby)
CVG - Cincinnati, nearest city is Covington, KY (CIN is a small field in Iowa, don't know why)
IAD - Washington Dulles, scrambled "International Airport Dulles". Originally DCI, but sounded too much like DCA (originally DC), Washington National
SNA - Orange County, nearest city when built was Santa Ana

A number of codes refer to the airport's name, not the city's:
BDL - Hartford, Bradley Field
SDF - Louisville, Standiford Field
TYS - Knoxville, Tyson Field
BNA - Barnes Nashville Airport
SWF - Fort Myers, South West Florida

The biggest wild card in the US has to be MCI - Kansas City International, formerly named Mid-Continent International. When they abandoned the name, Wichita grabbed it and renamed their airport, ICT, Mid-Continent International, even though the code stayed in KC.
Old 07-28-2005, 08:42 AM
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What I've always wondered is why a couple of places haven't named their airports. Most cities name their airports...Lindberg Field (SAN), JFK which used to be Idyllwild, LaGuardia, O'Hare, Lambert (St. Louis), and so on. But LAX and SFO are just LAX and SFO.
Old 07-28-2005, 09:01 AM
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Airline pilot here ...

There are actually two (and a half) independent coding systems. One is sponsored by the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Orgranization) and is the governmental designator for airports. The standard has 4 letter/numbers per airport.

All US airports start with K, all Canadian start with C. In other parts of the world, the first letter designates a region (eg M = Central America), the second letter designates the country within region (eg P = Panama) and the last 2 letter/numers designate the specific airport (MPTO = Torrillos International, the airline airport serving Panama City, Panama).

The half-system is the FAA system, which is simply the ICAO designator without the K. For Canadian airports, they drop the C. As a separate matter, most (all?) Canadian ICAO designators have a 2nd letter of Y, which represents a leftover from the system used before the current ICAO system was standardized in the 1950s.


The other system is the IATA (International Air Transportation Association) system. That is used by airlines and give a 3-letter code to all airline-served airports worldwide. IATA codes are not used for ATC purposes, but are used for all airline-to-customer and airline-to-airline purposes.

For US airports, the IATA designator is the same as the FAA designator which is the same as the last 3 letters of the ICAO identifier. So simple, so far.... But for non-US airports the IATA designator may have bear no resemblance to the ICAO.

For example, when you fly to London Heathrow, your ticket and baggage tags and whatnot say you're going to LHR. That's the IATA code. Meanwhile, up in the cockpit, we're going to EGLL, the ICAO code for Heathrow. That decodes as Europe, Great Britain, London Area, airport L.

Apparently we're about to run out of codes and they're adding a 4th character to the FAA codes, and hence a 5th character to the ICAO code.

AFAIK, the IATA is doing fine on codes for now, but they'll eventually need more, particularly in areas like China & India that only got 2 letters to work with because they weren't big players back in the 1950s when the coding scheme was laid out.


All this gets further muddied (for pilots at least) by the need to have designator systems not only for airports, but also for every radio beacon on Earth (thousands), and every pre-defined navigational fix (tens of thousands) on Earth. Fortunately for the customers, they don't have to mess with this stuff.
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Old 07-28-2005, 09:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spectre of Pithecanthropus
What I've always wondered is why a couple of places haven't named their airports. Most cities name their airports...Lindberg Field (SAN), JFK which used to be Idyllwild, LaGuardia, O'Hare, Lambert (St. Louis), and so on. But LAX and SFO are just LAX and SFO.
Because it costs a ton of money. Think about all the road signs, signs around the airport, any public transportation signs, things like that. Plus all of the FAA charts that would have to be changed. I work in the Instrument Approach branch and just for LAX we have sixty odd charts. That's only the names of the charts, that's not all the places where the airport name would show up on the chart.

Airport idents do not have to be three letters anymore. There are some airports that have a combination of four letters and numbers, though the majority of the ones I have seen are private airstrips though. I don't know of any with four that have come through the office, though now I'll be on the lookout for some.
Old 07-28-2005, 11:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spectre of Pithecanthropus
What I've always wondered is why a couple of places haven't named their airports. Most cities name their airports...Lindberg Field (SAN), JFK which used to be Idyllwild, LaGuardia, O'Hare, Lambert (St. Louis), and so on. But LAX and SFO are just LAX and SFO.
Naming can be a real p.i.a. Firs,t as Edward the Head pointed out, there's the expense and hassle of changing a name. Second, there's the problem of people not knowing whether they're flying to John Wayne Airport, Orange County Airport or Santa Ana.

Finally, there's inertia. There were two references in this thread To Moisant Airport in New Orleans. Actually it's now Louis Armstrong International Airport. When you got to Newark, do you think you fly in to Newark International or Liberty International? Then, when you take the shuttle to DC, are you going to Washington National or Regan National?

By the way, here in St. Louis we call our airport:

Lambert Field
Lambert Airport
Lambert St. Louis Airport
Lambert International Airport
Lambert-St. Louis International Airport
St. Louis International Airport/Lambert Field
Old 07-28-2005, 11:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny L.A.
such as New Orleans, which is MSY (for Moisant International)
Actually, the SY of MSY stands for Stock Yard, because the land on which the airport was built used to be a stockyard.
Old 07-28-2005, 11:10 AM
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Also, if LAX or SFO were to be named after a person, who should it be? There would be a huge battle over who deserved the honor. When Joe DiMaggio died, the city of San Francisco wanted to name a playground in North Beach (where he lived as a child) after him, but his lawyer thought it an insufficient honor. He wanted something like SFO or the Bay Bridge named after DiMaggio.
Old 07-28-2005, 11:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by silenus
The fun one is why Chicago-O'Hare is ORD.
Ask the Perfect Master.
Old 07-28-2005, 11:31 AM
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Once in a while, the three-letter designator is exactly what you think it should be. Oslo International Airport Gardermoen is OSL - not only logical and easy to remember, but the source of a rather cool logo

But mostly, making the designator unique will take precedence over making it understandable or obvious.
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Old 07-28-2005, 11:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Simmons
And Sioux City Iowa is SOY. Go figure.
I thought it was SUX? I know some people were wanting to change it (for obvious reasons), but SOY seems to be taken already (Stronsay, UK).

Why do I have a feeling I just got whooshed?
Old 07-28-2005, 11:45 AM
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Originally Posted by scr4
I thought it was SUX?
Fresno is FAT.
Old 07-28-2005, 11:56 AM
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[aside] FWIW, the playground, which is where he played baseball as a kid, ultimately was named for Joltin' Joe. IIRC, one of his brothers overruled the lawyer. In any event, there's now a sign on the playground. [/aside]
Old 07-28-2005, 12:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kunilou
Naming can be a real p.i.a. Firs,t as Edward the Head pointed out, there's the expense and hassle of changing a name.
As a lot of individuals, businesses, and governmental agencies (including the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority) found out when Washington National Airport's name was changed to Ronald Reagan National Airport.
Old 07-28-2005, 12:08 PM
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As far as airport renaming, I wouldn't think it would be so complicated. In Cleveland, for instance, the main airport is called Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. The three-letter designator is just CLE, no reference to Hopkins, and most of the signs on the freeway, busses, etc. just say "Airport". None of that would have to be changed if they renamed it. It might take a while for people to start using the new name, but then, when folks are talking about it, they usually just say "the airport" anyway. The only time anyone ever refers to it as "Hopkins" is when distinguishing it from Burke Lakefront, the second-largest airport in Cleveland (mostly just general aviation).
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Old 07-28-2005, 12:18 PM
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Why is Port Columbus airport in Columbus, Ohio, designated "CMH"?
Old 07-28-2005, 12:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ElvisL1ves

BNA - Barnes Nashville Airport
Actually, it's Berry Field, Nashville
Old 07-28-2005, 12:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Idle Thoughts
Why is the Los Angeles Airport called LAX?
Have you seen the quality of their security?
Old 07-28-2005, 12:41 PM
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I think CMH = Columbus Municipal Hangar.
Old 07-28-2005, 12:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ElvisL1ves
CVG - Cincinnati, nearest city is Covington, KY (CIN is a small field in Iowa, don't know why)
I would presume that CIN in Iowa is near Cincinnati, Iowa. When I used to book flights to Cincinnati on Travelocity it would always ask if I wanted Ohio or Iowa. The "old" airport in Cincinnati proper is Lunken Field, but it was not expanded for bigger flights because there is little/no room and it's prone to flooding. I imagine that CVG was then used. Covington is not as close to the airport as some other towns in Kentucky, like Erlanger, but I guess CVG is nice since most people assume the C is for Cincinnati.
Old 07-28-2005, 01:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ElvisL1ves
The standard list of major US airports with nonobvious codes:
SWF - Fort Myers, South West Florida
Actually, the code for Southwest Florida International Airport is RSW, which is probably for the airport's original name, Southwest Florida Regional Airport. Page Field, the main airport for Fort Myers before RSW was built in 1983, has the code FMY.

Just FYI.
Old 07-28-2005, 02:36 PM
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The code for Albuquerque is ABQ because the code for Albany is ALB. Guess where our bags often end up if we don't keep an eye on the the clerk who tags the luggage?
Old 07-28-2005, 02:40 PM
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Even more confusing in Kansas City is that no one in town calls it MCI, they call it KCI (for Kansas City International) but that's not its name.
Old 07-28-2005, 03:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos
As far as airport renaming, I wouldn't think it would be so complicated. In Cleveland, for instance, the main airport is called Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. The three-letter designator is just CLE, no reference to Hopkins, and most of the signs on the freeway, busses, etc. just say "Airport". None of that would have to be changed if they renamed it. It might take a while for people to start using the new name, but then, when folks are talking about it, they usually just say "the airport" anyway. The only time anyone ever refers to it as "Hopkins" is when distinguishing it from Burke Lakefront, the second-largest airport in Cleveland (mostly just general aviation).
Except that wouldn't work in cities like Washington, which has three airports (Dulles, Reagan National, Baltimore-Washington International), or New York (LaGuardia, JFK, Newark).

The renaming of National Airport was a big deal, partially, because Congress mandated the change, yet provided no money to do so. Given that unfunded mandates pretty much go against the central tenets of the Republican Party, the irony was delicious. Not to mention that Reagan wouldn't have liked the airport being named after him before he died (his mind was already gone when the name change was ordered). I, myself, didn't start calling it Reagan until after his death.
Old 07-28-2005, 03:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ShibbOleth
I would presume that CIN in Iowa is near Cincinnati, Iowa.
CIN is the identifier for the Carroll, IA airport. Cinncinnati in Iowa is a town in the sourthest corner along the Missouri border. It must have a population of under 500 because the Rand-McNally road atlas doesn't list it.
Old 07-28-2005, 04:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bippy the Beardless
Quote:
Originally Posted by Idle Thoughts
Why is the Los Angeles Airport called LAX?
Have you seen the quality of their security?
I once saw an ambulance near LAX labeled "LAX EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAM" (or something like that; I don't remember the exact phrase). Truth in advertising!
Old 07-28-2005, 05:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Omphaloskeptic
I once saw an ambulance near LAX labeled "LAX EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAM" (or something like that; I don't remember the exact phrase). Truth in advertising!
They're the ones who say, "Do they really need first aid? Wouldn't second or third aid be enough?"
Old 07-28-2005, 05:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FilmGeek
Even more confusing in Kansas City is that no one in town calls it MCI, they call it KCI (for Kansas City International) but that's not its name.
Ahh... but KCI used to be called "Mid-Continent International Airport." The name change to Kansas City International Airport didn't come until 1972.
Old 07-28-2005, 05:57 PM
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I never realized there were so many confusing ones.

Dallas/Fort Worth(less) International is DFW. Easy enough, everyone refers to this region as DFW.

And Dallas Love Field is, I believe, LUV. Pretty easy there too.
Old 07-28-2005, 06:00 PM
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Quote:
The renaming of National Airport was a big deal, partially, because Congress mandated the change, yet provided no money to do so. Given that unfunded mandates pretty much go against the central tenets of the Republican Party, the irony was delicious. Not to mention that Reagan wouldn't have liked the airport being named after him before he died (his mind was already gone when the name change was ordered). I, myself, didn't start calling it Reagan until after his death.
And if I recall, wasn't the great irony of it all that Reagan slammed down his ironfist during some airport strike during his administration?

I don't remember the details, but I remember hearing this. I was just a wee lad during the Reagan administration, being born in '81.
Old 07-28-2005, 06:04 PM
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Originally Posted by MAGunter
And Dallas Love Field is, I believe, LUV. Pretty easy there too.
Even easier than that. It's DAL
Old 07-28-2005, 06:06 PM
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Originally Posted by MAGunter
And if I recall, wasn't the great irony of it all that Reagan slammed down his ironfist during some airport strike during his administration?

I don't remember the details, but I remember hearing this. I was just a wee lad during the Reagan administration, being born in '81.
I remember this well -- I was a teen-ager. My summer vacation plans were shot by the strike. The iron fist that Reagan slammed was to fire all the air traffic controllers who went on strike. There is still some question whether this might have been a cause of increases in airplane accidents over the next decade.

Another irony is that the Environmental Protection Agency is now housed in a building named after Reagan.
Old 07-28-2005, 09:17 PM
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Originally Posted by FilmGeek
Even more confusing in Kansas City is that no one in town calls it MCI, they call it KCI (for Kansas City International) but that's not its name.
I made the mistake once of typing in "KCI" instead of "MCI" when looking for flights online, and almost wound up booking a trip to Indonesia!
Old 07-28-2005, 09:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ElvisL1ves
brad-d's

MSY - New Orleans, former site of Moisant Stock Yards
well that is the first I had heard of that! I suspect that name was created well after Lt. Moisant became famous.

There were stockyards out there at one time though. But Lt. Moisant (IIRC a barnstormer after WWI) wasn't involved in them. Certainly the airport wasn't named for them.

From their website:
" The proposed new airport was named for John Moisant, an early aviation pioneer, in 1940. The Kenner site was approved by the City and 648 acres was purchased."

see:
http://flymsy.com/
Old 07-28-2005, 09:54 PM
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There was a proposal to name rename LAX in honor of James Stewart, however there already is a Stewart International Airport in New Windsor, NY, so that idea had to be dropped.

I suppose those of us in the LA area just can't agree on any one particular person to name something after. The international terminal at LAX is the Tom Bradley Terminal, named after the former mayor.

The problem Los Angeles has is that there has been too much aeronautical history in the area. There have been numerous aviation companies in the area and it may be hard to settle on one there.

The former Burbank Airport, which started out as a test area for Lockheed and then became Hollywood-Burbank and then became Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena is now Bob Hope, whose home was relatively close to the aiport.

I guess Los Angeles is just short on beloved figures.
Old 07-28-2005, 11:53 PM
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That's right, LUV is Southwest Airlines stock symbol.
Old 07-29-2005, 12:38 AM
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...And now, for extra credit:

What is Amtrak's three-letter code for Union Station, in downtown L.A.?

Correct, it's LAX. No kidding. Nope, I can't say for sure, but I really suspect that the airfield codes came first.


...Long Beach Muncipal Airport is pretty straightforward, LGB, and it's just as well they didn't try to set it up with the original name of the place, Daugherty Field.
Old 07-29-2005, 01:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ElvisL1ves
Also, N codes were originally reserved for Navy facilities, so Norfolk and Newark had to start 1 letter in with their codes.
So is this why Northwest Arkansas Regional is XNA?
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