Hub airport

Orlando International Airport

Orlando International Airport is a major public commercial service airport located six miles (10 km) southeast of the central business district of Orlando, a city in Orange County, Florida, United States. It is the busiest airport in Florida (by the number of passengers) owing to Orlando's popularity as a destination of tourism, conventions, and business travel.


The airport serves as a secondary hub for AirTran Airways and a focus city for both Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways. The airport hosts AirTran's corporate headquarters and operations center, though the airline maintains its main hub of operations at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia. Southwest Airlines is currently the airport's largest carrier in terms of passengers traveled; SWA carried one-fifth of all passenger traffic at MCO in 2006..

In 2007 MCO was visited by 36.48 million passengers, making it the 10th busiest airport in the United States on the basis of passenger traffic and the 20th-busiest in the World. It is the 15th busiest international gateway in the United States, behind Philadelphia International Airport; JFK International in New York City ranks first.. It is third busiest in international gateway in Florida, after Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport.

The airport code MCO stands for the airport's former name, McCoy Air Force Base, named for Colonel Michael Norman Wright McCoy, USAF, commander of the 321st Bombardment Wing at the then-Pinecastle Air Force Base. Col McCoy died in the crash of a B-47 Stratojet during the annual Strategic Air Command (SAC) Bombing and Navigation Competition that was held at the base in 1957. Pinecastle AFB was later renamed McCoy AFB in his honor the following year.

The Greater Orlando area is also served by Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB), and more indirectly by Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB) and Melbourne International Airport (MLB).

Structure and Function

Orlando International Airport has a large main terminal building, connected by an elevated tram system to four airside terminals. The main terminal building is divided into two terminals; A and B. There are passenger check-in and baggage claim facilities on the main terminal building's north side (Terminal A), and on the building's south side (Terminal B). Airsides 1 and 2 use baggage claim "A", while airsides 3 and 4 use baggage claim "B." MCO's airsides are much larger in capacity than their smaller counterparts at Tampa International Airport.

Airside 4 currently serves as the airport's primary international arrivals terminal, however Airside 1 also handles international arrivals. Arriving international passengers who require immigration and/or customs clearance are processed through those checkpoints in the airside terminal where they arrive. After clearing US immigration, passengers collect their baggage and clear US customs. After clearing customs, international passengers must ride the people mover to the main terminal. Airside 4 provides escalator access directly from the customs hall to the people mover platform. This has eliminated the requirement for arriving international passengers to go through a security inspection between the customs area and the people mover, and as a result they now have the option of bringing their checked baggage with them on the people mover. Alternatively, passengers also have the option of placing their baggage on a transfer belt in the customs hall for transport to the main terminal's baggage claim. Only those passengers who are connecting to a flight in Airside 4 and airport employees, will need to go through security upon exiting customs.

Virgin Atlantic, with their Boeing 747 service to Orlando, is currently the largest aircraft type operator at the airport. The airline offers multiple daily flights into Orlando from the UK. During peak travel seasons, up to five Virgin 747's may be at Orlando's gates at a single time. British Airways also directly competes with Virgin on the London Gatwick route currently operating up to ten flights per week on Boeing 777s.

Lufthansa opened a gate in Orlando on October 30, 2007, providing the first direct link between Orlando and a hub in continental Europe (in this case, Frankfurt, Germany) as part of a regional effort to diversify the local economy beyond tourism and meet growing demand for such route. At the moment, Lufthansa offers six flights per week between MCO and Frankfurt Airport on Airbus A330s, providing connections throughout Europe.

The Airbus A380, the world's largest airliner, landed at MCO on November 14, 2007. Orlando was one of the first airports in the world to be "Airbus A380 ready". Currently, only two MCO carriers have an Airbus A380 order: Virgin Atlantic and British Airways.. Virgin Atlantic is not taking any deliveries until 2013 and has stated that it is "way too early" for the airline to discuss on which routes they are going to be used.

Terminals and Destinations

Airside 1

Airside 1 has 27 Gates: 1-17, 20-28

Airside 2

Airside 2 has 16 Gates: 101-106, 110-112, 120-126

Note: JetBlue Airways' international arrivals are handled in Airside 4

  • JetBlue Airways (Aguadilla (PR), Austin, Boston, Bogota [begins Janurary 29], Buffalo, Burlington (VT), Cancún, New York-JFK, New York-LaGuardia, Newark, Newburgh, Ponce (PR), Portland (ME), Richmond [begins November 2], Rochester (NY) [seasonal], San Juan (PR), Santo Domingo (DR), Syracuse, Washington-Dulles, White Plains)
  • Southwest Airlines (Albany, Albuquerque, Austin, Baltimore/Washington, Birmingham (AL), Buffalo, Chicago-Midway, Cleveland, Columbus (OH), Denver, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Hartford, Houston-Hobby, Indianapolis, Jackson (MS), Kansas City, Las Vegas, Long Island/Islip, Louisville, Manchester (NH), Nashville, New Orleans, Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Providence, Raleigh/Durham, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Tulsa, Washington-Dulles)

Airside 3

Airside 3 has 29 Gates: 30-48, 50-59

Airside 4

Airside 4 has 26 Gates: 60, 70-78, 80-87, 90-97

  • Aeroméxico (Mexico City)
  • AirTran Airways (Akron/Canton, Atlanta, Baltimore/Washington, Bloomington, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago-Midway, Columbus (OH) [begins November 6], Dallas/Fort Worth, Dayton, Detroit, Flint, Harrisburg [begins November 20], Indianapolis, Kansas City, Memphis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Moline/Quad Cities, New York-LaGuardia, Newport News/Williamsburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland (ME), Richmond, Rochester (NY), San Juan (PR), Washington-Dulles, White Plains)
  • British Airways (London-Gatwick)
  • Copa Airlines (Panama City)
  • Delta Air Lines (Atlanta, Boston, Cancún, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky, Hartford/Springfield, Los Angeles, Mexico City, New York-JFK, New York-LaGuardia, Salt Lake City)
  • Frontier Airlines (Denver)
  • Lufthansa (Frankfurt)
  • TAM Airlines (São Paulo-Guarulhos) [begins November 21]
  • Virgin Atlantic (Glasgow-International [seasonal], London-Gatwick, Manchester (UK))

NOTE: Checkin and Baggage Claim for Virgin Atlantic has been relocated to Terminal A, boarding areas are still located in Airside 4. NOTE: If you get on the Tram to go to Airside 4, you will have to go through security even though they are covered by the same checkpoint due to international arrivals.

Airline lounges

Terminal expansions and renovations

Airsides 1 and 3, the terminals originally built in the early 1980s, are currently undergoing major renovations. The new terminal design will incorporate a new modern architecture and feature new skylights and expanded concession areas. In addition, the terminal will be re-installed with new mechanical and electrical systems. The project is expected to be complete in both terminals by 2010.

New terminal

A fifth terminal has been in the planning, however, plans to build the South Terminal complex, which initially would be dedicated to international traffic, and possibly more runways on the south side of the property, were placed on hold during the recession immediately following the September 11, 2001 attacks. However, the plans are still being considered by airport officials as soon as passenger traffic surpasses current terminal capacities. Airport officials have made it clear they will continue to expand and re-structure the existing terminals to postpone the necessity of having to build the expensive new terminal facility in the immediate future.

The large land area immediately south of the existing main terminal has been designated as the proposed new terminal area. The majority of the land is already cleared.


Before 1974, the land the airport now sits on was largely owned by the United States Air Force, which operated an air force base there. The facility was originally constructed during World War II as Pinecastle Army Airfield, an auxiliary airfield to the then-Orlando Army Air Base, now known as Orlando Executive Airport. At the end of the war, Pinecastle was briefly used for unpowered glide tests of the Bell X-1 from B-29 aircraft before being relocated to Muroc Army Airfield, now Edwards AFB, California for the world's first supersonic flight. Briefly placed in caretaker status, the base was reactivated during the Korean War for development as a Strategic Air Command (SAC) facility for B-47 Stratojet and KC-97 Stratotanker aircraft. Renamed Pinecastle AFB, the base was later known as McCoy Air Force Base, operating B-52 Stratofortress bomber, KC-135 Stratotanker air refueling and EC-121 Warning Star airborne early warning aircraft.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, McCoy became the primary forward operating base for both the U-2, as well as a forward operating base for over 120 F-100 Super Sabre and F-105 Thunderchief fighter bombers. Following the crisis, McCoy continued to host a permanent U-2 operating detachment until 1973.

With the arrival of the first generation commercial jetliners, the length and weight-bearing capability of the runways of the former Orlando Army Air Base, now Orlando's Herndon Airport, were inadequate for continuation of commercial airline service. With Herndon Airport hemmed in by lakes and commercial and residential development, further expansion was impractical, and an agreement was reached between the City of Orlando and the U.S. Air Force in 1962 for the use of McCoy AFB under a joint civil-military airport arrangement. The military would offer a large AGM-28 Hound Dog missile maintenance hangar and its associated flight line ramp area in the northeast corner of the installation for conversion into a civilian air terminal for the city. The city would then cover the cost of building a replacement missile maintenance hangar on the main base. Once executed, the new civilian facility would be known as the Orlando Jetport at McCoy and would operate alongside McCoy AFB. This agreement became a model for other joint civil-military airports in operation today.

Commercial airline service to the new Orlando Jetport at McCoy began in 1962, per the city and USAF agreement, as commercial flights were migrated from the old Herndon Airport, now the Orlando Executive Airport (ICAO Code KORL/FAA Code ORL). By 1971, regular scheduled airline operations were conducted by Delta Air Lines, and the former Eastern Air Lines, National Airlines and Southern Airways.

McCoy AFB was identified for closure in early 1973 as part of a post-Vietnam reduction in force. The following year, McCoy's 306th Bombardment Wing was inactivated, its B-52D Stratofortress and KC-135A Stratotanker aircraft reassigned to other SAC units and most of the McCoy facility turned over to the City of Orlando by the General Services Administration (GSA) in late 1974 and early 1975. A portion of the facility was retained under military control to support Naval Training Center Orlando and several Reserve and National Guard units.

In 1975, the final Air Force contingent departed McCoy and the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA) was established as a state-chartered governmental agency and an enterprise fund of the City of Orlando. GOAA's mission was to operate, manage and oversee construction of expansions and improvements to both the Orlando International Airport and the Orlando Executive Airport. The airport gained its current name and international airport status a year later in 1976, but retained its old IATA airport code MCO and ICAO airport code KMCO.

The airport became a U.S. Customs Service Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) in 1978, said zone being designated as FTZ #42. In 1979, the facility was also designated as a large hub airport by the FAA based on flight operations and passenger traffic. However, actual air carrier hub operations are minimal and the airport remains primarily and "Origination & Destination" (O&D) facility versus a hub facility like Miami or Atlanta.

In 1978, construction of the current Landside Terminal and Airsides 1 and 3 began, opening in 1981. The original International Concourse was housed in Airside 1 and opened in 1984. Funding to commence developing the east side of the airport was bonded in 1986, with Runway 17/35 (now 17R/35L) completed in 1989. Airside 4 opened in 1990 and also contains an International Concourse for the processing of international flights. Airside 3, which filled out what will become known as the North Terminal complex, was completed in 2000, with the last additional gates added in 2006. Runway 17L/35R was opened in 2003, providing the airport with a total of four runways.

In 1978, MCO handled 5 million passengers. By 2000, that number had soared to 30 million. Today, MCO covers 23 square miles (60 km²), and is the third-largest airport in the United States by area (after Denver and Dallas). MCO also has North America's second tallest control tower, replacing two earlier Air Force and FAA control towers.

MCO is a designated Space Shuttle emergency landing site. The west-side runways, also known as Runway 18L/36R and Runway 18R/36L, were designed to accommodate B-52 Stratofortress bombers and due to their proximity to NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center, were an obvious choice for an emergency landing should an emergency "return to launch site (RTLS) attempt to land at KSC fall short. The runway is also an emergency divert site for NASA's Boeing 747 Shuttle Transport Aircraft when relocating orbiters from either west coast modification work or divert recoveries at Edwards AFB, California or the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

Eastern Air Lines used Orlando as a hub during the 1970s and early 1980s, and became "the official airline of Walt Disney World." Following Eastern's demise, Delta Air Lines assumed this role, although it later pulled much of its large aircraft operations from Orlando, and focused its service there on regional jet flights, specifically with Atlantic Southeast Airlines, Comair and Chautauqua Airlines - all part of the Delta Connection system. All Delta Connection service ended September 30, 2008.

In 2004, Hurricane Charley caused minor damage to the airport when it struck on the evening of August 13, mostly in the form of shattered terminal windows. The damage did not halt normal service, which resumed as soon as the weather cleared.

On February 22, 2005, MCO became the first airport in Florida to accept E-Pass and SunPass toll transponders as a form of payment for parking. The system allows drivers to enter and exit a parking garage without pulling a ticket or stopping to pay the parking fee. The two toll roads that serve the airport, SR 528 (Beachline Expressway) and SR 417 (Central Florida GreeneWay), use these systems for automatic toll collection.

In October 2006, MCO opened a 100-space Cell Phone Parking Lot for drivers to use while waiting for passengers to arrive. The lot is set-up as a free Wi-Fi Hotspot enabling drivers to use their mobile devices to access the Internet, check e-mail, and monitor flight status. Around the same time MCO opened an Express Pickup service at each terminal allowing drivers to park their vehicles temporarily at a secure location just outside of baggage claim and meet their arriving party in person. A fee is charged for this service and is only available to E-Pass and SunPass users.

In late 2007, German-based Lufthansa airlines expanded to include new routes to Frankfurt, Germany from Orlando International Airport. The new Orlando-Frankfurt route was celebrated by airport and airline officials as a major breakthrough in International travel for Orlando International. Lufthansa's Frankfurt hub provides key connections to destinations across Europe and the Eastern hemisphere.

On March 19, 2008, JetBlue announced the addition of Orlando, Florida as a new focus city. Orlando will now serve as a key connecting city to international destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America. New international routes from Orlando International Airport include Cancun, Mexico, Bogotá, Colombia, and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. In addition to new routes, the airline will also continue significant expansion of operations at Orlando International Airport including 292-room lodge that will house trainees attending the adjacent "JetBlue University" training facility. Since the announcement, however, the crew lodge has been canceled and plans for a flight to Bogotá are in jeopardy.

During early 2008 the airport lost international service from Condor Airlines (Frankfurt) and Martinair. (Amsterdam)

Incidents and mishaps involving MCO

  • On April 2, 1994, Continental Airlines Flight 1447, a Boeing 727-243, N59412, flying from Newark International Airport to Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, diverted to Orlando when it was unable to extend its left main landing gear. After burning down to minimum fuel, the aircraft executed a partial gear up landing on Runway 18R. The subsequent National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation revealed fatigue cracking in the left main landing gear door rib attachment fitting, the failure of which prevented the left main landing gear from extending. None of the 9 person crew or 141 passengers were injured in the mishap.
  • On March 31, 1972, a 306th Bombardment Wing B-52D Stratofortress, Air Force Serial Number 56-0625, sustained multiple engine failures and an engine fire shortly after takeoff from McCoy AFB on a routine training mission. The aircraft was not carrying any weapons. The aircraft immediately attempted to return to the base, but crashed just short of Runway 18R in a residential area north of the airfield, destroying or damaging eight homes. The flight crew of 7 airmen and 1 civilian on the ground were killed.
  • On October 27, 1962, a 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing U-2 aircraft, Air Force Serial Number 56-6676, piloted by Major Rudolph Anderson departed McCoy AFB on a Cuban overflight photo reconnaissance mission during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Major Anderson's aircraft was subsequently engaged by a Soviet-manned SA-2 surface-to-air missile (SAM) site in the vicinity of Banes, Cuba. Hit by two of three missiles fired, the U-2 was shot down over Cuba, killing Major Anderson. A week following the shootdown, Major Anderson's remains were turned over to a United Nations representative and returned to the United States. Major Anderson became the first recipient of the Air Force Cross, the Air Force's second highest decoration for valor, which was awarded to him posthumously.

See also


External links

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