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Why all the funny airport codes?

If you travel often enough, you will run into airport codes that make sense:

DVO = Davao International Airport (shameless plug for the hometown)

SFO = San Francisco Airport

SJC = San Jose Airport

The “O” in these codes were still mysterious, but at least the first two letters matched up with the host city. Then you have codes that that just come out of nowhere:

YOW = Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport

SNA = John Wayne Airport (Orange County)

ORD = Chicago O’Hare Airport

Shouldn’t Chicago be  “COH” or something?

I had just gotten back from a trip to Chicago, so its ORD was top of mind when I did a casual search of the answer. It was a fortunate choice, because it was one of the samples in the following 1994 Airline Pilot’s Association magazine article. The rest of the article is available here. The relevant portion has been reproduced below, in accordance with fair use principles.

Oh, still wondering about the world’s busiest airport, O’Hare International, and its ORD code? Well once upon a time, before the editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune, Colonel Robert McCormick suggested a name change as tribute to pilot Lt. Cmdr. Edward “Butch” O’Hare, United States Navy, there was an airstrip well to the northwest of Chicago with a quaint, peaceful name—Orchard Field

Now to find out what “MPH” means.

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