Most visitors to Walt Disney World (WDW) fly to Central Florida and land at Orlando International Airport (although some fly into Sanford or even Melbourne). From there they take ground transportation, either via rental car, ride-sharing, bus, shuttle, or, not yet but maybe one of these days, maybe even train. It’s been that way for decades but did you know that for the first few years that WDW had been open, there was another option?
There was an airport right on WDW property.
Well, not an actual airport. The original plans were for it to eventually become an airport but it never got further than being an airstrip, which was how it was originally built.
It was called Walt Disney World Airport, Lake Buena Vista Airport and/or Lake Buena Vista STOLport (IATA:
DWS). STOL stands for
and the only planes that could fly into/out of it were small commuter turboprop planes that could carry up to 2 or 3 dozen people.
It was mainly used for small, private planes, although the now-defunct Florida-based Shawnee airlines offered scheduled passenger airline service from McCoy (now Orlando Int’l Airport/MCO) and Tampa International Airport (TPA) for a relatively short period of time (little more than a year).
Passenger service, including private planes, was discontinued by the 1980s and flight operations ended entirely after the no-fly zone over WDW that was enacted after 9/11. Here’s more info about it:
FUN (possible) FACT! According to Wikipedia, the runway featured a set of grooves, like those on the side of a highway, that played “When You Wish Upon a Star” when driven over at roughly 45 miles per hour.
Here’s some more info about the STOLport that includes some more original footage of it:
And this page has a bit more in-depth information, as well as photos.
After the STOLport was decommissioned, it was paved over with concrete and used for storage and parking. Those are its two primary purposes to this very day.
I know the STOLport was there because I saw small planes there during my first visit to WDW in 1979. By my second visit in 1983, I didn’t see any more planes there.
Were you aware of it?
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary