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The Little-Known Airport On Walt Disney World Property

by SharonKurheg

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:

Short
Take
Off &
Landing

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.

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:

This video has footage of what the area looks like nowadays (well, circa 2018, anyway)

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.

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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.

I was also part of a large singing group that did a performance for a group at the Contemporary Resort Hotel Convention center in late 2019. There were well over 100 of us involved, so they had us park at the STOLport and bused us to the convention center, so we didn’t take up a bunch of guest parking spots at the hotel.

Were you aware of it?

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

4 comments

Joe November 12, 2019 - 5:06 pm

It actually closed because the Epcot monorail would’ve interfered with the runway

Reply
SharonKurheg November 12, 2019 - 5:41 pm

Thanks for writing. It undoubtedly closed for several reasons. Unfortunately, Disney has never announced what they were, so I erred on the more vague side.

Reply
Doug April 16, 2022 - 5:36 pm

Walt used it to fly in… supposedly, his plane is still there on the back lot.

Reply
SharonKurheg April 16, 2022 - 5:41 pm

His plane was on the back lot studio tour, when there was such a thing. It stayed there for years, but has since been refurbished and is being transported to Anaheim.

Reply

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