A Brief History of Presidential Airports

There are over two-dozen airports named for 15 different U.S. presidents totaling more than 250,000 feet of runway

dwighteisenhower10.jpgChicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel raised eyebrows last week when he suggested that the city might name an airport after Barack Obama.

The notion that an airport might one day be named after Obama – in Illinois or elsewhere – is hardly farfetched.

Of the 12 former presidents to serve since Franklin Roosevelt, only two do not yet have an airport named after them – Richard Nixon, who left office in disgrace, and George W. Bush who has only been retired for a shade over six years.

The official naming of another presidential airport took place in the Midwest earlier this year, with Wichita Mid-Continent Airport renamed as Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport in an official ceremony on January 26th (though recognized by the FAA as such in late 2014).

Though born in Texas, Eisenhower was mostly raised in Kansas, is buried there, and Kansas is also home to his presidential library in Abilene where the petition campaign for renaming the Wichita airport began.

However, Wichita does not have the first airport named after the nation’s 34th president – in fact, it wasn’t even the first in Kansas: in Leavenworth one can find the Dwight Eisenhower VA Medical Center Airport.

So just how many such presidential airports are there?

A Smart Politics review of world airport codes finds that 15 presidents have had a total of 26 airports named in their honor across 15 states and in one foreign municipality.

Not surprisingly, all but four of these presidents served in the 20th Century.

Many, however, are not national or international airports but rather smaller airports or those attached to hospital or military facilities with runaways as short as 35 to 50 feet.

Six presidents have more than one airport named after them: Harry Truman and Eisenhower with four, John Kennedy with three, and Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter with two each.

Lincoln: Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield, Illinois (airport code SPI) and Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital Airport in Lincoln, Illinois (38IL).

Roosevelt: Roosevelt Memorial Airport in Warm Springs, Georgia (K5A9) and F.D. Roosevelt Airport in Sint Eustatius, Carribean Netherlands (EUX).

Truman: Harry S. Truman Regional Airport in Bates City, Missouri (2M1), Harry S. Truman Dam & Reservoir Seaplane Base Airport in Warsaw, Missouri (75U), and Truman Medical Center East (7MO0) and West (MO05) Airports in Kansas City, Missouri.

Eisenhower: Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport in Wichita, Kansas (ICT), Eisenhower Medical Center Airport in Rancho Mirage, California (7CA8), Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center Airport in Augusta, Georgia (8GA2), and Dwight Eisenhower VA Medical Center Airport in Leavenworth, Kansas (SN01).

Kennedy: John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, New York (JFK), John F. Kennedy Memorial Airport in Ashland, Wisconsin (ASX), and John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital Airport in Indio, California (42CA).

Carter: Jimmy Carter Regional Airport in Americus, Georgia (ACJ) and Jimmy Carter Boulevard Precinct Airport in Norcross, Georgia (5GA8).

Additional national and international airports named for U.S. Presidents are Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan (GRR), Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia (DCA), George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas (IAH), and Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, Arkansas (LIT).

Other airports named after presidents include George Washington Bridge Airport in Fort Lee, New Jersey (NJ54), Thomas Jefferson University Hospital Airport in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (9PA8), Fort Benjamin Harrison Hospital Airport in Indianapolis, Indiana (27II), Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport in Dickinson, North Dakota (DIK), and Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital Airport in Houston, Texas (38TX).

Not surprisingly, many of these two-dozen plus airports are located in the home states of the respective presidents, though not all.

In fact, not all presidents even carried the states in which their airports are located in their various electoral bids.

● Jefferson failed to capture one of Pennsylvania’s 15 Electoral votes in 1796 and seven in 1800
● Harrison narrowly lost Indiana in 1892 (won it in 1888)
● Roosevelt lost North Dakota in 1912 (though won it in 1904)
● Eisenhower lost Georgia in 1952 and 1956
● Kennedy narrowly lost both California and Wisconsin in 1960

Overall, these 26 presidential airports have 45 runways tallying more than 253,000 feet.

The longest presidential airport runway at 15,000 feet is at the Harry S. Truman Dam & Reservoir Seaplane Base Airport – though that is a water runway.

The longest presidential airport runway on land is Runway 4 at JFK International Airport in New York at 14,572 feet. JFK also has runways of 11,351 feet (Runway 1), 8,400 feet (Runway 2), and 10,000 feet (Runway 3).

The only other presidential airport runways to reach 10,000 feet are at Houston’s George Bush International Airport Runway 2 (10,000 feet) and Runway 3 (12,001 feet), Grand Rapids’ Gerald R. Ford International Airport Runway 2 (10,000 feet), and Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport Runway 1 (10,301 feet).

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3 Comments on "A Brief History of Presidential Airports"

  1. One small correction. DCA is located in the Commonwealth of Virginia, not the District of Columbia, even though for convenience the USPS gives it a “DC” address. http://www.metwashairports.com/reagan/210.htm

  2. The long runway at Kennedy is 31L/13R not “4” of which there are two… 4L and 4R

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