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Maine Mystery: Why Does Maine’s Busiest Airport Insist on Calling Itself a Jetport?

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Google Streetview

When you travel by air in this country, most of the time your plane will take off and land at something called an ‘airport.’ In Maine, our busiest one is called a jetport. What’s the difference?

First, let’s start with the history of the Portland International Jetport, which incidentally you can’t fly internationally from, but one oddity at a time here.

The jetport was originally called the Portland-Westbrook Municipal Airport which is why it’s code to this day is PWM. Commercial jet service arrived in 1968, which in the 50’s and 60’s was highly touted as the new and fast way to travel by air. Now Portland had it so the name was changed to the Portland International Jetport which has stuck now for almost 50 years.

Google Earth
Google Earth

Merriam-Webster defines a jetport as “An airport designed to handle jet airplanes,” which is painfully obvious. But in 2017, every major commercial airport is designed to handle jet airplanes. The need to push this new mode of travel was pretty much over by the end of the 1970s.

PWM however doesn’t want to change it. In fact, someone is so adamant about it being called a jetport that about 10 years ago all the signs on the highways giving directions that read “airport” were changed to “jetport.” If you look closely you’ll even see where “jetport” covers up “airport” on signs that haven’t been replaced since the change.

Google Streetview
Google Streetview

So it makes us wonder, do people visiting Portland get confused when they see “jetport” a term a quick Google search shows that only two other airports in the country use? I know we like to do things differently here in Maine, but why does our airport insist on holding on to this dated term? For now, it remains a Maine mystery.

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