Commentary: It is Time to Rename America’s Airports, Part 2

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In my view, Daniel Ellsberg, Malcolm X, Pete Seeger, Susan Sontag, Pee Wee Reese, and Rosa Parks should all have had airports named after them well before John friggin’ Wayne. I would be proud to fly into Malcolm X rather than Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, and would love to see Newark Liberty renamed in honor of the great novelist Philip Roth — though his last few books have been woefully disappointing. Philadelphia International might well be renamed Paul Robeson International Airport, after the singer, actor, and social activist. In the same spirit, I believe that Seattle–Tacoma International Airport, universally truncated to the dreadful Sea-Tac, which sounds like something that would come in a spray bottle on the side of which there would be a warning not to get it into your eyes, might wish to consider rechristening itself Kurt Cobain Memorial Airport, though I can’t remember a single Nirvana song that didn’t make me wish I were deaf.

There are several airport names about which I can’t imagine anyone quibbling too zealously. The airport of the burg in which I used to hang my hat, Santa Rosa, California, is named for Charles M. Schulz, the creator of Peanuts. I’m also all for Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers World Airport and Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. I’m even all right with Bob Hope Airport, if only because it represents a major improvement on the ghastly Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport.

We pause to note that other countries don’t necessarily do a much better job than we do. The Brits have named the principal airport in Liverpool for John Lennon, true, and the Doncaster one for Robin Hood, but the Belfast one after the soccer star George Best, who drank himself to death.

Little wonder that, since 2006, the UK Civil Aviation Authority has forbidden airports to name themselves after celebrities.

When Joe DiMaggio died in 1999, his lawyer tried to get San Francisco to rename its international airport in his honor, but the city would agree to only the playground in North Beach on which young Joe once frolicked. I share the view that if SFO is to bear anyone’s name, it should be gay martyr Harvey Milk’s, though I could be talked pretty easily into Carol Doda, the breast implantation pioneer and topless dancer.

A city does itself a grave disservice when it names its airport after a politician of whom only locals have heard. Does it seem right to you, as it doesn’t to me, that the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson, in Atlanta, should be named for two former mayors of whom non-Hotlantans are wholly ignorant? Any sensible person would immediately rename it Coca-Cola International Airport, after the globally famous product that was created there, or Gone With the Wind International Airport.

Speaking of Coca-Cola, why not just get it over with and allow airports to auction off naming rights to the deepest-pocketed corporate bidder? It’s inevitable that Eppley Airfield, the biggest airport in Nebraska will one day soon be called the Monsanto Eppley Airfield. And just as Cape Canaveral felt that it had paid sufficient homage to our last assassinated president and went back to its original name, look for the country’s biggest to cease one day soon to be John F. Kennedy International Airport, and become AT&T Presents the Airport in New York City.

Read Part One.

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Comments (Showing 12 of 12)

  • Cathay Boy at 4:49am August 27, 2013

    You get in trouble with naming names because for every name there will be supporters and detractors. You may have a problem with John Wayne and preferred Malcolm X, but I’m sure there will be just as many that loved the John Wayne name. Airports should just stay true to its location, no reason to try to make any political, economical, humanities language through naming airports. Just like it was silly for Republicans to force changed Washington National Airport to “Reagan Washington National Airport” and now they want to drop Washington out all together. Jut tell me where I am going, not trying to send a message.

  • Jorgen at 6:18am August 27, 2013

    I can’t see any reason to name an airport after an unashamed hate-filled racist like Malcolm X. Mind you, I can’t see much reason to name one after a harmless actor, either.

    Nor a dead politician, whether it’s Reagan or JFK. I’ll make an exception on the “no politicians” rule for Washington National, seeing as how the town was named Washington before the airport.

  • relangford at 7:50am August 27, 2013

    As a general rule, I dislike naming ANYTHING after a living person (you never know what they may do – luckily, there is no Tiger Woods Airport). But, honoring a deceased notable person (whether or not YOU personally liked or disliked them or their politics) is not a bad thing, especially if there is a local connection. I am not thrilled with Bill and Hillery Clinton National (LIT), but I do agree that Washington National (DCA) was just fine as a name (and I am a fan of President Reagan).

  • joshwex90 at 11:25am August 27, 2013

    No clue as to why you’d be “proud” to fly into an airport named for Malcolm X. MLK? Sure. Jackie Robinson? 100%. But Malcolm X?

  • coloneltigh at 4:15pm August 27, 2013

    Naming entities where location is relevant anything but a descriptive location name is STUPID. The airport is in Detroit name it Detroit. How the hell am I supposed to know that John Wayne Airport is in Orange County by the name. STUPID.

    A company I used to work for that is now defunct extended this stupidity. Servers were named after beer names and conference rooms after planets and NASA probes. Makes it harder than it has to be to find the server or room. STUPID. When they should have a locational name like 8flrNWconfroom or NYWINQUOTE01.

    Not to mention that politicians and celebrities are the ultimate glory hounds and the last thing we should do is to feed their appetite for fame.

  • AADC10 at 6:03pm August 27, 2013

    I do not understand why Jimmy Stewart never comes up as a name for an airport. In addition to being a well known movie star (Oscar winner; star of the Sight & Sound poll all time greatest film; All American everymen Mr. Smith and George Bailey), he held a commercial pilot’s license, flew missions with the Army Air Force in WWII, and was active in the Air Force Reserves.

    He was certainly more associated with aviation than John Wayne or Bob Hope. John Wayne played an Air Force pilot in a movie. Jimmy Stewart was an actual Air Force pilot.

  • rsteinmetz70112 at 8:34pm August 27, 2013

    Charleston WV, Yeager Airport named after WV native Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager born February 13, 1923) is a retired brigadier general in the United States Air Force and noted test pilot. In 1947, he became the first pilot to travel faster than sound. He’s still alive.

  • Sarfa33 at 12:28am August 28, 2013

    Please, please don’t put that idea into anyone’s head, John! For the love of all that’s holy. We used to have Shea Stadium, but now it’s Citi Field (I know the structure itself is different). We used to to have the Meadowlands but now it’s MetLife Stadium. We used to have the Superdome but now we have the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. It’s seriously bad enough with sports arenas, so PLEASE let’s not start with airports too! Can you imagine? “Welcome to Flynt Publications International Airport in Los Angeles…”

  • pokeable at 2:21am August 28, 2013

    Detroit has had enough of a legacy of race-hatred (60s race riots, the reign of Coleman Young and the lovely divisions he helped perpetuate with the suburbs) to rename one of the few things the city has done right (the redesigned NW/Delta terminal) for someone while aspiring for more empowerment of his own race, preached hate and division.

    It’s a legacy that Detroit has already struggled with for generations. This may have been one of the most ignorant posts I’ve seen on this website (and there have been tons). Kudos!

  • TMOliver at 2:08pm August 28, 2013

    Hart’s Field? Isn’t it named for the guy who they made a movie about/? You remember. “Hart’s War”. Chuck Willis starred as Hart….

    We remember Wright, but Patterson?

    Back in the early days of aviation, military airfields belonged to the US Army Signal Corps or the US Navy. Flying was a perilous profession, and many of the military fields were named for military pilots killed in training accidents. (“Rich Field”) By the end of WWI, the list of available names grew with the addition of combat casualties. During WWII, when the US Army Air Corps/Force put airfields in most of the flat places across the US, many were named for “local boys”, aviators lost in combat during the wars early years (James Connally AFB). Of course, along with departed heroes, some military airfields were named for unaccountable reasons. Yes, the dirt is black in Central Texas. But “Blackland Army Air Force Base”?

  • johnmendelssohn at 2:44pm August 28, 2013

    Sarfa33, I fully agree. I do love your idea for LAX’s new name.

  • DCBob at 7:23pm August 28, 2013

    Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is the best name it could ever have. Terminal 1 is already named after Charles Lindbergh and Terminal 2 is named after Hubert H. Humphrey. That’s fine – but NEVER name the whole friggin’ airport after some larger than life figure.

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