Public Information Statement
Issued by NWS Seattle/Tacoma, WA

Home | Current Version | Previous Version | Text Only | Print | Product List | Glossary On
Versions: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
NOUS46 KSEW 222044

Public Information Statement
National Weather Service Seattle WA
140 PM PDT MON AUG 22 2016

...What Are Those Three Letters On My Checked Luggage Tag?...

You`re on your way back to Seattle from another airport and when
your luggage is checked, the attendant attaches a bag tag that says
- SEA. That is the airport designation for SeaTac Airport. Every
airport has a 3-letter or 3-character designation. Some are obvious
like SEA for SeaTac, or SFO for San Francisco, SLC for Salt Lake
City, BOI for Boise, or TUS for Tucson.

Other airport designations do not seem to make much sense. Take ORD
for Chicago`s O`Hare Airport. Pilot Dave English wrote an excellent
explanation story for the Airline Pilots Assn journal in 1994 that
tells the story behind airport code designations. In the case of
O`Hare Airport, the area west of Chicago was originally named
Orchard Place and it had an airport with the 3-letter designation of
ORD. In the 1940s, the airport became the site of a military airport
named Orchard Field that in 1949 was renamed for WW II ace Edward
`Butch` O`Hare. It later became the commercial airport we know today
but the original designation of ORD remained.

There are other airport designations across the nation that draw
humor. Examples include Fresno (FAT), Hot Springs, Ar (HOT),
Willow, Ak (WOW), Sioux City, Ia (SUX) and Grand Rapids, Mi (GRR).

What about airport designations in Washington? Like SEA for SeaTac
some are easy to identify such as OMK for Omak, SHN for Shelton, PSC
for Pasco, or BFI for Boeing Field International - serving as
Seattle`s original commercial airport since 1928.

Other Washington airport designations are unique. For instance, the
original Port Angeles airport was named Clallam County Municipal
Landing Field with a designation of CLM, translated for Clallam
Landing Municipal. Spokane`s commercial airport is GEG - for Geiger
Field. Spokane`s other airport Felts Field (SFF) is named after
James Felts, a Washington Air National Guard pilot who died in a
crash at the field in 1927. Many pilots humorously use the Moses
Lake Airport designation of MWH as Moses Watering Hole.

Many airports in the state have history as Army airfields dating
back to WW II such as Quillayute Prairie Airport (UIL), Bellingham
(BLI), Paine Field in Everett (PAE), Walla Walla (ALW), Yakima
(YKM), and Olympia (OLM). A unique military airfield during WW II is
known today as Bremerton National. Originally the airfield was the
Puget Weapons Transfer or PWT where all B-17`s built in Washington
flew to for outfitting with weapons and equipment before heading off
to war.

Seattle`s first airfield was started in 1920 at Sand Point and
became Naval Air Station Seattle. Today, Sand Point is home to
Seattle`s Magnuson Park and the NOAA Western Regional Center where
the National Weather Service Seattle forecast office resides.

So whether you fly to an airport elsewhere in the nation or catch a
flight back to somewhere in the Evergreen state, you now know what
those letters on your checked baggage tag means.


Buehner is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.