The Romance of Airport Codes

LHR – JFK don’t those six letters cause some excitement to even the most seasoned traveller, there is still just a little romance left in air travel.

Romance here is the “feeling of mystery, excitement and remoteness from everyday life” as opposed to love !

For me part of the romance comes from the Airport codes themselves, those three letter IATA codes are a shortcuts to destinations known and imagined and each have a personal resonance. Many of the codes also have an antecedence that  provide a fascinating window into the early days of air travel.

LHR London HeathRow is both the starting point of most of my travels but also a link back to a childhood spent on the roof of the Queens Building watching British Airways Tridents, VC-10’s and 747 classics departing to destinations I never expected to visit in my lifetime.

Of those childhood destinations and even today New York’s JFK the airport named after president John F. Kennedy was always a destination that sparked my imagination, the destination of those Pan Am Clipper 747s and of course Concorde it was just such a  glamorous destination.  The name of course was the product of tragic history,  the original name of the airport, Idlewild also sounds wonderful but was named after a local Golf Course.

New York’s second international airport, New Jerseys’ Newark has the very functional code of EWR – NEWaRk.

LCY or to those who use if often Lucy

As an alternative to the giant that is Heathrow,  Londons CitY Airport, LCY provides a wonderful contrast harking back to the golden days of air travel when every flight began with that exciting trip up a set of stairs to the aircraft door, Jet-Bridges are just not the same.

LCY is loved by many  is often just called Lucy as a mark of familiarity.

London’s GatWick LGW, Paris Charles De Gaul CDG and of course HELsinki’s HEL are obvious in they derivation, but why is Chicago’s mega airport ORD and Los Angeles LAX ?

The use of Airport codes was originally introduced in the United States for Meteorological reporting  with airports making use of the existing two character city codes developed by the National Weather Service, Los Angeles was LA for example.
It was clear that this system was not going to work with the massive increase in Air Travel after the Second World War so in 1947 a three letter code system was introduced and to pad the existing codes a letter X was often introduced so Los Angeles became LAX, and PortlanD PDX .

A similar approach was taken in Canada where the two letter codes used by Canadian Railways were given a Y prefix so VancouveR’s code VR became YVR, and  QueBec’s code QB YQB.

Most interesting of course are the codes which don’t seem to make sense,  DCA Washington’s District of Columbia Airport  is perhaps not obvious but makes sense but why is the larger international airport in Washington IAD ?  Originally the Dulles International Airport DIA was too similar to DCA so it was simply reversed DIA becoming IAD !

Other codes which don’t seem to make sense are often the result of name changes as Airports have grown or cities have themselves changed name, so CMH the airport serving Columbus Ohio was once just the Columbus Municipal Hanger and of course Mumbai was a city once called BOMbay.

My personal favourite is Chicago’s ORD, very few peoples top airport, we might not feel so negative if it had retained it’s original name ORcharD Field !

 

Earth Engine Workshop – London

Register here to attend a free workshop on Google Earth Engine at  Google’s London Office on the 15th November.

Earth Engine is Google’s cloud-based platform for planetary-scale geospatial analysis that brings Google’s computational capabilities to bear on a variety of high-impact societal issues such as deforestation, drought, disaster, disease, food security, water management, climate monitoring and environmental protection.

 

The Last Concorde

Back in June of last year I visited the now disused Aerodrome at Filton to visit Concorde 216 G-BOAF as part of my quest to visit all the Concordes in a year. Then Alpha Foxtrot was a rather sad sight parked in a remote corner of the airfield visible only from a Car Showrooms car park…

Todays visit find conditions somewhat improved.

Alpha Foxtrot is now the centrepiece of the Aerospace Bristol visitors centre and museum which opened last week the result of a £19 million investment, in addition to a building specifically built to hold the Concorde there are three beautifully restored aircraft sheds  holding other notably exhibits including some Bristol helicopters and the nose section of a Bristol Britannia.

Alpha Foxtrot looks in very good condition and is displayed using some clever 3D projectors including this one which explains how the innovative variable geometry intake made sure that Concorde’s Olympus 593 engines always received subsonic air despite travelling at Mach 2.

There is also a small display of Concorde artifacts including test pilot’s Brian Trumshaws Overalls !

Alpha Foxtrot is now up there with East Fortune’s Alpha Alpha as the best presented Concorde and Aerospace Bristol is well worth the visit.

If you can’t link to it… does it exist ?

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

So goes the well-known philosophical thought experiment,  however rather than a discourse on observation and perception I’d like to hijack the experiment for an argument I have been making on and off for the last couple of years and which was  well summarised in a tweet summarising my point last month..

Does information published on the web which is not easily linkable actually exist ?

Well of course if I chose to publish my large spatial database of whatever using a Web Feature Service or some other application server the data actually exists, but as far as users of the web does it exist if I cannot find it using web search or more importantly as far as the way the web works cannot link to it?

This issue of making the so-called Deep Web more discoverable is still challenging , efforts such as the sitemap protocol have had only limited impact.

I would argue for the geospatial community in particular we need to take a more fundamental look at how we make information accessible and linkable on the web.  We need to start from the basic use case, common if you think about it but radical it would appear in the GIS world..

I need to let people link to each record in my spatial database and to share that link..

This actually requires perhaps a much more granular approach to making spatial data available, something that nearly got started with OS Mastermap but which for many issues was never fully implemented.

Rather than publishing online a database of railway station locations in the Netherlands and expecting a user to then query the database for  “Amsterdam Centraal Station”,  publish the database giving each record a URI so for example Amsterdam Centraal Station becomes;

https://brt.basisregistraties.overheid.nl/top10nl/id/gebouw/102625209 

Now this is something I can paste into an email, tweet or even share on Facebook !

Kudos to the Dutch Kadaster for taking this approach and providing this example, Ordnance Survey you could do the same ?

This approach also results in such data becoming part of the “mainstream” web indexable and searchable, but I argue the key benefit is the “linkability”

The Spatial Data on the Web best practice document, something of course I recommend you taking a longer look at provides many excellent practical pointers to taking this type of approach.

Maybe really this is just an issue of semantics rather than publishing spatial data should we be talking about sharing spatial data ?

 

The sign of the times..

You might notice a redesign of my site today, nothing major really a little less clutter hopefully, but the reason for the change is really behind the scenes. This site is now using the encrypted version of the web protocol https. Once only a requirement for sites taking payments and banking increasingly all types of websites are now making use of encryption and in the near future the chrome browser will label sites not using https as “Not Secure”.

Personally I think this might be overkill for a site such as this, but I can easily imagine people becoming concerned with such warnings.

A sign of the times…