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A STOLport or STOLPORT is an airport designed with STOL (Short Take-Off and Landing) operations in mind, normally having a short single runway; shorter than 5,000 feet (1,524 m). The term does not appear to be in common usage as of 2008. STOLports can only accept certain types of aircraft, often only smaller propeller aircraft, often with limits on the amount of fuel that can be taken. Examples of STOL capable aircraft utilized in scheduled passenger airline operations include de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter and DHC-7 Dash 7 turboprop aircraft as well as smaller Britten-Norman Islander and Trislander prop aircraft. Another aircraft that has STOL capabilities is the British Aerospace BAe 146 jetliner although not to the extent of propeller driven STOL capable aircraft.


Several attempts were made from the late 1960s to the early 1970s to create STOLports in the United States in the New York City and Los Angeles, California areas; however, none were apparently successful. La Guardia Airport operated a 1,096 feet (334 m) STOL runway starting in 1968, which was dubbed the La Guardia STOLPORT.[1] The Victoria STOLport also failed in Montreal, Canada. Walt Disney World Resort also had a STOLport for a short period.[2] At one point in 1968 a 2,400 feet (730 m) STOLport was under consideration for a roof top in Manhattan.[3] In the early 1970s, a study was conducted to help the FAA to determine if it was necessary to create an elevated STOLport test facility.[4] The Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, with a longest runway of 3,988 feet (1,216 m), went into a period of decline in the 1980s and 1990s, but has since been revitalized as a city centre STOLport by Porter Airlines, flying DeHavilland Dash 8s.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) defines STOLports as "unique airports designed to serve airplanes that have exceptional short-field performance capabilities."[5]

STOLports in the United States[edit]

In the United States, STOLports are one of several types of facilities, they are identified with an S at the end of the site ID.[6] For example, Calvert Peak STOLport is listed as FAA site number 19448.1*S.[7] As of January 2009, around 80 facilities are coded as STOLports by the FAA in the United States.[8] According to the FAA, in 1968 twenty-five potential STOLport sites were identified in the Northeast Megalopolis.

The first US STOLport for commercial operation was commissioned August 5, 1968 at La Guardia airport and was available for VFR use only.[9] Logan International Airport opened an 1,800-foot (549 m) STOL runway September 20, 1968 for use testing Eastern's Breguet 941 shuttle on east coast routes.[10]

The first officially designated STOLport was opened October 17, 1971 at Walt Disney World in Florida. Shawnee Airlines operated scheduled passenger service between the Walt Disney World Airport (DWS, also known as the Lake Buena Vista STOLport) and Orlando McCoy Jetport (MCO, now the Orlando International Airport) and the Tampa International Airport (TPA) with de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter turboprop STOL aircraft. Information concerning the Shawnee Airlines STOL service appeared in the Eastern Airlines system timetable dated September 6, 1972 with regard to connecting service between the two airlines at either Orlando or Tampa.[11] The 2,000 foot STOL runway at this former airport is no longer in use. Prior to that date, only portions of facilities were designated STOLports. Plans at the time called for an interstate STOL transportation system. On July 26, 1972 the FAA V/STOL office was renamed to the Quiet Short-Haul Air Transportation System Office refocusing it and reflecting public concerns about noise created by smaller more numerous STOLports as opposed to larger airports. The Quiet Short-Haul Air Transportation System Office was eliminated June 11, 1974.[9]

Additionally, some STOLports were never open to public aviation and were privately owned, such as the Avon STOLPort, a 4,000-foot (1,219 m) runway located adjacent to the town of Avon, Colorado that was constructed specifically to handle ski tourism flights for the nearby ski resorts in the Vail area. The Avon STOLPort was owned and operated by Rocky Mountain Airways with this commuter air carrier also being the worldwide launch customer of the de Havilland Canada DHC-7 Dash 7 four engine turboprop STOL aircraft. Rocky Mountain selected the 50-passenger Dash 7 specifically for the purpose of transporting passengers into high mountain airports with short runways from its hub located at Denver Airport.[12][13] The airline also utilized the Dash 7 for scheduled flights into the small Steamboat Springs Airport (SBS) in Colorado. The Avon STOLport is no longer in existence.

Another privately owned STOL airfield was the Clear Lake City STOLport located in the Houston, Texas area near the NASA Johnson Space Center. This small airport which included a 2,500 foot runway, an aircraft hangar and a passenger terminal was constructed in 1969 and owned by Houston Metro Airlines which later changed its name to Metro Airlines. This commuter air carrier operated de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter turboprops in scheduled "cross-town" air service between Clear Lake City, Texas (CLC) and Houston Intercontinental Airport (IAH, now Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport) which had a dedicated STOL runway at the time. According to the February 1976 edition of the Official Airline Guide (OAG), the airline was operating 22 roundtrip flights every weekday between CLC and IAH in a passenger shuttle service. Metro Airlines eventually ceased operations due to financial challenges. The Clear Lake City STOLport was subsequently abandoned and then demolished to make way for new suburban development. There is no trace of this pioneering airfield to be found at the present time.

The Kapalua Airport on the island of Maui in Hawaii was also constructed with STOL operations in mind. Although not specifically referred to as a STOLport, the runway length at this airfield is 3,000 feet. According to State of Hawaii historical records, Hawaiian Airlines built this airfield and then initiated scheduled passenger flights on March 1, 1987 between Kapalua and Honolulu International Airport (HNL) with de Havilland Canada DHC-7 Dash 7 turboprops. The airline owned and operated this private airport, which is also known as Kapalua-West Maui Airport, specifically for its own scheduled Dash 7 air services until 1993 when it was acquired by the State of Hawaii. The three letter airport code for Kapalua Airport, being JHM, stands for John Henry Magoon who was President of Hawaiian Airlines when the airfield and passenger terminal were constructed by the air carrier. The Kapalua Airport is still in existence and was being served with scheduled passenger flights operated by Island Air with de Havilland Canada DHC-8 Dash 8 turboprop aircraft. However, according to a news report on KHON-TV in Honolulu which aired on March 22, 2013, Island Air was planning to end all service to the airport effective on May 31, 2013 as the airline was reportedly eliminating the Dash 8 from its fleet and replacing this type with ATR-42 and ATR-72 regional turboprop aircraft.

One commuter airline operating scheduled passenger service in the U.S. even had the word "STOL" in its name: Stol Air Commuter, which was also known as STOL Air Commuter. This air carrier connected several cities in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as destinations in northern California with San Francisco International Airport (SFO) during the 1970s. Although Stol Air Commuter did not serve any dedicated STOLports, the airline did operate STOL capable Britten-Norman Islander and Britten-Norman Trislander aircraft. One of the Bay Area airfields served by STOL Air was Gnoss Field (also known as Marin County Airport) which has a runway that is 3,300 feet in length.

Wings Airways, a commuter airline that was based at Wings Field in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, was another operator of STOL capable aircraft including the Britten-Norman Islander, Britten-Norman Trislander and de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter. From the late 1970s to the late 1980s, Wings operated a high frequency shuttle service between Wings Field (BBX) and the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) which was a flight of less than 15 minutes. The airline operated up to 25 round trip flights on weekdays between BBX and PHL.[14] At one point, Wings also flew nonstop between Blue Bell and New York JFK Airport. Although not specifically referred to as a STOLport, the runway length at Wings Field is 3,700 feet.

STOLports in Norway[edit]

Between 1965 and 1987, approximately 30 regional airports were built in Norway, typically equipped with a 2,600-foot (792 m) long runway. They were intended to improve transportation systems and shorten down travel times to areas that were considered difficult to reach by other means.[15] In Norwegian, they are called "kortbaneflyplass" ("short runway airport"). As they were built in areas with relatively low population density and terrain that often wouldn't permit a standard length runway, it became essential to build shorter runway and use smaller airplanes. Today, the airports are frequented by airliners that have been awarded subsides from the Norwegian government. They typically fly feeder routes to larger hub airports that have direct routes to Oslo and other major cities in Norway. Though most of the routes are flown by Widerøe, other airliners do occasionally win bids on some of the routes.

Based on the Norwegian example, several short runway airport (800-900 meters) were built in Greenland, replacing heliports. The country at that time only had a few airports, built by the US defense in hidden locations far from Greenlandic settlements. Still the short runway airports (including at the capital Nuuk) can't accept flights from distant places like Denmark or UK.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Starting STOL Time. Aug. 16, 1968.
  2. ^ The short, short life of Disney World's STOLport. (Blog)
  3. ^ DECISION HELD UP ON SHIP TERMINAL; Council Unit Asks Agencies for Additional Data The New York Times. December 13, 1968
  4. ^ Elevated STOLport Test Facility Conceptual Development and Cost Study. April 1973.
  5. ^ Stolport Manual (Doc 9150) International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
  6. ^ FAA. Advisory Circular 150/5200-35. Page 6. (PDF page 8) FAA SITE NR S = Stolport
  7. ^ OR73.
  8. ^ FAA. Airport Data (5010) & Contact Information. The January 15, 2009 NFDC facility database listed 82 facilities as TYPE=STOLPORT. The NFDC runway database listed 2 runways as having "STOL" markings and 6 runways designated with an "S" meaning "STOL runway"
  9. ^ a b FAA Chronology. Accessed August 26, 2008.
  10. ^ Eastern's STOL Shuttle Trials. John Bentley. Flight International. October 17, 1968.
  11. ^, Eastern Airlines Sept. 6, 1972 system timetable, page 68
  12. ^ The History and Impact of Rocky Mountain Airways [1] AirInsight Interview with former Rocky Mountain Airways CEO. January 6, 2011.
  13. ^ [2] Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields - Avon STOLPort (WHR), Avon, CO
  14. ^ Nov. 15, 1979 & Dec. 15, 1989 editions of the Official Airline Guide (OAG), Blue Bell-Philadelphia flight schedules
  15. ^ Excerpt from history of Avinor (Norwegian). Accessed May 21, 2010.

Further reading[edit]

Audio Interviews[edit]