by Jeff Hill Sr.


In the early days of aviation, airport identifier codes had a lot to do with radio station identifiers and teletype addresses. (Anybody remember teletypes?) Three letter codes were descriptive, like MDW = Midway, MKE = Milwaukee, RFD = Rockford.

As our airways structure developed, more airports, navigation aids, weather reporting stations, and weather radar sites needed identifiers. As three letter combinations ran short, they began to come up with dillies like, CGX (huh?) = Chicago Meigs, IGQ (what?) = Lansing, Ml and AVP (who?) = Wilkes-Barre-Scranton, PA. Before they were reduced to using combinations such as XYZ, which doesn’t signify much, they began using letters and digits which greatly expanded the number of possible combinations, even though it made for such gems as, well, let’s say 10C.

Do you know why Washington, DC is DCA instead of maybe WDC, and why Kansas City, MO is MKC, not KCM? It is because IDs starting with W and K are reserved for commercial broadcast stations, W for stations east of the Mississippi River, and K for those on the west side (with just a very few exceptions.)
*Why Nashville is BNA, instead of, say, NAS? It’s because “N” is reserved for Naval Air Stations.
*Why Madison, Wi. is MSN instead of MAD? Madrid, Spain already got it.
*Why Galt isn’t GAL or maybe GLT? Because GAL is Galena, AK, and GLT is Gladstone, Australia. Besides, Galt isn’t in the international database.
Nowadays there are duplications of three letter codes worldwide, but not in the same country. For this reason, all ICAO flight plans and international weather reports use four letter (no digits) indents. US stations are their same three letter code prefixed with the letter K, thus ORD becomes KORD and MKE, KMKE. Canadian stations use the prefix C, so Toronto, YYZ, becomes CYYZ, etc. There are not enough letters for every country, so smaller countries are grouped in regions. For instance, Spain and France are in region L.. They use the region code, a country code, then a two letter city code. Madrid Spain is LEMD; region L, country E. (Espania) and the city code MD. Paris Charles De Gaulle is LFPG; region L, country F (France) city P (Paris) airport G (De Gaulle). (Paris Orly is LFPO.)
So, is Galt K10C? Nope. It’s not in the inter¬national data base. You’ll just have to file to KMKE or KRFD next time you return from abroad. Change your destination to 10C once back in U.S. airspace.

Now go to jail — you forgot to clear customs.