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 !


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…

Swimming against the tide and a tale of cookies 

This must be what a salmon feels like.. A urge to swim against them stream in my case to support Brexit when it seems all of my family and friends are very much in the remain camp.

It’s very easy to understand why, in fact with a campaign hijacked by zeonophobic, lunatic rasists supporting the brexit campaign why would anybody not support remain. Well for me immigration has never really been an issue, I see mostly positives in controlled immigration from wherever, Britian has always been a great melting pot of cultures and has historically benefed from immigration.

Really how can anyone support a position supported by Nigel Farrage, with friends like that…

For me the arguement is perhaps a little more abstract and reflects personal experience working with the European Establishment in Brussels.  I love Europe but I hate (and no that is not over using the term) the institution that is the European Union. You really need to spend a few hours walking around the “European District” of Brussels to understand the scope and aspiration of this purely political institution that is to its very core undemocratic.

To make the point clear I am voting tomorrow not against geography, the UK is and will always be part of the continent of Europe, I am voting against the institution.  Unlike parliamentary democracies new laws are introduced within the European Union by the European Commision an unelected body of beurocrates unaccountable to the electorate of any European nation.  The zeitgeist of the European Commision is clear to create a federal European Super State based on political and economic integration.

The Commision creates directives which are then largely rubber stamped by the other insisituions of the EU, the Council of ministers and the European Parliament who collectively seem to fulfill the role of the UK’s House of Lords. Crucially for the perspective of the democratic process there is no process or mechanism to repeal legislation, which brings me to cookies..

I admit this is a perhaps a trivial example, but it proves a point in May 2011 a directive developed by the European Commision was introduced (Do you remember the discussion or this anywhere.. No ?) which required website publishers to ask users permission to store limited data about their use of website in small files on their computers known as cookies. Now it seems every website you visit pops up an annoying dialogue box asking you if it’s OK with you to store a cookie on your computer. It’s open to arguement if this directive actually prospects users privacy or not, but what’s important is this..

If you wanted to repeal this directive as you believed it was a waste of time and resources, how could you do it ?

In the UK I could talk to my local MP who might begin a campaign is parliament to repeal the legislation, after all the Parliment is the elected legislative instrument of government, within the European Union there is no such mechanism.

At the most fundamental level democracy and national sovereignty is based on the principle that laws should not be made nor taxes raised except by our elected representatives – no taxation without representation. Being able to get rid of our lawmakers is a fundamental democratic right, but one not recognised by the European Union.

If you know me I hope you recognis that I am not a “little englander” and I am certainly not a racist, but I will as a matter or principle be voting to leave tomorrow as is my democratic right.

Workshop on Spatial Data on the Web 2016 at GIScience 2016

I am helping to organise a  Workshop on Spatial Data on the Web 2016 at the 9th International Conference on Geographic Information Science  Montreal, Canada – September 27-30. 2016.

Workshop Description and Scope

In their first joint collaboration, the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) have established the Spatial Data on the Web Working Group. The group aims at investigating and providing guidance for the following challenges (1) how can spatial information best be integrated with other data on the Web; (2) how can machines and people discover that different facts in different datasets relate to the same place or feature, especially when this place is expressed or represented in different ways and at different levels of granularity; (3) and what are existing methods and tools to publish, discover, reuse, and meaningfully integrate spatial data. The group is presently surveying the landscape of existing theories, methods, tools, and standards and is creating a set of best practices for their use.

The GIScience community has a long standing interest and expertise in many of the issues outlined above. In fact, work on geospatial semantics, geographic information retrieval, data integration, and spatial data infrastructures, has been part of the GIScience research agenda for many years. Therefore, this workshop aims at bringing researchers together to (1) discuss typical challenges in publishing spatial data on the Web,

(2) identify best practices,

(3) point out conceptual and theoretical foundations that need to be strengthened or established,

(4) identify common quality issues for existing data and lessons learned,

(5) improve and develop existing geo-ontologies for the semantic annotation of spatial data, and

(6) discuss interface and services that will further improve data linking, sharing, and retrieval across communities.
Topics of interest include (but are not limited to):

  • Semantic Enablement of Spatial Data Infrastructures
  • Quality issues in geo-ontologies and Linked Spatiotemporal Data
  • Experience reports on scalability, discoverability, and so forth
  • Coreference resolution and data linkage
  • New perspectives on semantic interoperability
  • Publishing, retrieving, and accessing sensor data
  • Modeling measurement types
  • Ontologies for space and time
  • Event conceptualization and representation
  • Long term preservation of spatial data
  • Provenance and the publication of scientific workflows
  • Trust and information credibility frameworks
  • Coverages as Linked Data
  • GeoSPARQL in the wild
  • Geo-Data in JSON-LD
  • Geo-data specific user interfaces for Linked Data and beyond
  • RESTful services and Linked Data services
  • Use Cases and Requirements for spatial data on the Web
  • Best practice for publishing spatial data on the Web

Workshop Format

The workshop will focus on intensive discussions and experience reports to identify common challenges and best practice for publishing spatial data on the Web. The workshop will accept two kinds of contributions, full research papers (6-8 pages) presenting new work, surveys, and major findings in the areas indicated above, as well as statements of interest (2-4 pages). While full papers will be selected based on the review results adhering to classical scientific quality criteria, the statements of interest should raise questions, present visions, and point to existing gaps. However, statements of interest will also be reviewed to ensure quality and clarity of the presented ideas. The presentation time per speaker will be restricted to 10 minutes for statements of interest and 15 minutes for full papers. This ensures that there is enough time for discussions, interactions, and breakout group leading to a typical workshop setting instead of a mini-conference. Papers should be formatted according to the Latex or Doc LNCS template.

Submissions shall be made through easychair at

To register for the workshop, please visit
Important Dates

Submission due: 20 May 2016
Acceptance Notification: 17 June 2016
Camera-ready Copies: 25 June 2016
Workshop: 27 September 2016


Krzysztof Janowicz, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
Joshua Lieberman, Center for Geographic Analysis, Harvard University, USA
Kerry Taylor, Australian National University, AU
Grant McKenzie, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
Simon Cox, CSIRO, AU
Ed Parsons, Google, UK

Programme Committee
Werner Kuhn – University of California, Santa Barbara, US
Adila A. Krisnadhi – Wright State University, US
Tomi Kauppinen – Aalto University School of Science, FI
Payam Barnaghi – University of Surrey, UK
Carsten Keßler – Hunter College, City University of New York, US
Oscar Corcho – Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, ES
Sven Schade – European Commission – DG Joint Research Centre, IT
Christoph Stasch – 52º North Initiative for Geospatial Open Source Software GmbH, DE

IoT Technology Research Award Pilot

There is understandable interest in the Internet of Things fral all people involved with Geospatial Technology,  as after all location is a foundational component for many IoT applications. I still love the fact that my central heating is controlled by a Nest thermostat monitoring the location of my smartphone, making sure my home is not heated unnecessarily, while turning on the heating when I am 30 minutes from home.

Yesterday Google Research announced the Google Internet of Things (IoT) Technology Research Award Pilot,  a programme to provide Research with IoT technology to carry out short term experiments.

Technology available include;

  • OnHub Router, Chrome Boxes.
  • The Google beacon and Physical web platform.
  • Google Cloud Platform IoT Solutions

Submit your proposal by February 29th in order to be considered for a award. We are  looking for projects that offer impact and interesting ideas so priority will be given to research that can make immediate use of the todays technologies.