Did you know that there’s a huge runway in the middle of the Everglades, and at one point the plan was for the world’s largest airport to be built there? This is quite literally the most interesting piece of aviation history that I’ve ever learned.
Okay, in fairness, OMAAT readers may know about this, because I wrote about it back in April 2021. However, today I was on a flight from Tampa to Miami and finally saw this airport out the window, so I can’t help but share some pictures. First let’s recap the basics of the airport.
The story of the Everglades Jetport
CNN has the story about how in 1968 there were plans to build the Everglades Jetport:
- This was supposed to be the world’s largest airport, as the Dade County Port Authority purchased 39 square miles to build this; the airport would have been five times the size of JFK
- The airport was supposed to be located 36 miles west of Miami, with six runways, and just six miles from Everglades National Park
- Since this would be in between Florida coasts, there was a plan to build a 1,000-foot-wide road and high-speed rail connecting the airport to both coasts (the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico)
- This plan was developed shortly before the Concorde was launched and at a time when we thought supersonic travel would be the future, with the Boeing 2707 also under development, which would have been a much larger supersonic aircraft
- The airport’s location would allow planes to come in over the ocean and avoid inhabited areas, which was a priority due to the “sonic boom”
So, what went wrong?
Construction on the airport started shortly after the 1968 plan was revealed, and a 10,000+ foot runway was quickly built. However, within a couple of years the plans for the airport were completely called off for two reasons:
- By 1969 a report was released stating that this airport would “destroy the South Florida ecosystem and thus the Everglades National Park,” at which point residents and activists came out against the concept (how was this research not done beforehand?!)
- The Boeing 2707 program was called off, and without widespread supersonic travel, the need for an airport like this decreased
The airport still exists, though!
While the airport was never developed as planned, it’s still open as a general aviation airport, and it’s known as Dade-Collier Training and Transition Airport. It’s operated by the Miami-Dade Aviation Department.
Decades ago the airport was largely used for training of Pan Am and Eastern Airlines pilots, given that the long runway could accommodate Boeing 747s, and the airport was equipped with a new instrument landing system. The airport’s isolated location allowed it to be used 24/7 for training, which was a huge benefit for these purposes.
Nowadays such training isn’t as common due to how sophisticated flight simulators have become, so the airport is now primarily used by general aviation aircraft. Even with that it doesn’t get much traffic — in 2015, the airport saw an average of a dozen takeoffs and landings per day. In some cases the runway has even been used for car races.
Due to limited demand, the airport is currently only open daily from 8AM until 5:30PM. For context, below is where the airport is located on a map.
How did I not know this?!?
As I mentioned above, this is arguably the most interesting aviation fact I’ve ever learned. That’s not even factoring in that I live in Miami, and went all these years without knowing. I’ve been focused on so many other aspects of aviation in Miami, from our 64 year old cargo planes, to suspicious Swift deportation flights, to Ethiopian Airlines cruise charters.
All the times I’ve gone into the Everglades for an airboat ride, I could have instead gone to what would have almost been the world’s largest airport. Okay, admittedly there’s not a whole lot to see, but I am absolutely going to this airport at some point, even if it’s just to drive up to the perimeter fence.
Now I’m wondering what other secrets are out there (but, like, not to the point of joining some questionable cult).
I finally saw the Everglades Airport with my own eyes!
Ever since I first wrote about this story, I’ve been looking out the window to try to see this airport when taking flights to & from Miami. To be honest, I’ve only flown to Miami a few times since April, and I wasn’t seated on the right side, or it was dark outside, so I couldn’t see the airport… until today.
I flew from Tampa to Miami today and selected a seat on the left side of the plane. My eyes were glued out the window for most of the flight, and I was tracking our flight using Flightradar24. Sure enough, we passed just south of the airport!
I managed to snap some pictures of the runway.
Okay, in all honesty, it was kind of anti-climactic. It looked like… a runway in the middle of nowhere. But still, for a moment I was downright giddy. I couldn’t help but spend a minute thinking about what could’ve been with this airport if things just worked out differently.
Little did I know that in 1968 there were plans for the world’s biggest airport to be built in the Everglades. This was at a time when the consensus was that supersonic travel was the future, and the airport’s location presented a unique opportunity to avoid inhabited areas.
The concept ended up being aborted due to environmental concerns and the Boeing 2707 program being canceled, though a 10,000+ foot runway continues to exist in the Everglades, and is open to general aviation aircraft. Now I can say that I’ve seen the airport with my own eyes.
Am I the only one who didn’t know about this, and finds it endlessly fascinating?!
51 years ago I had strep throat and missed a week of school. There was a TV show ( National Geographic?) about the construction of this airport. Just a few years removed from Gentle Ben, a show about a boy and his pet bear cruising around the Everglades on an airboat, I thought How? Why? I’m glad the Everglades were saved.
Lets keep eyes on for future development. Im not a tree hugger but I think we should leave something for our fellow travelers - gators, panthers, etal.
Also I think one has to have a special clearance to land there.
How come you have never considered getting a PPL? So much more fun flying to an airport like this then Kurt seeing it from high above.
ANd then there is the Naval Station and very large runway in key west sitting there empty(at TAXPAYERS $$$$)while we all fly into the little KW one==where you cannot land if it is windy or have a heavy plane...
The abandoned Naval base and runway could be an international airport???
My eyes were glued out the window for most of the flight
I was downright giddy
This passion is what sets you apart from other bloggers.
I am an airline pilot and I live in Palm Beach. I also used to teach flying out of Lantana Airport. If you ever want to ride down to TNT to do some touch and go's feel free to reach out.
Somehow I missed this post back in April, but my first thought was about a similar plan to build a large international airport about 40 miles north of Montreal. And unlike the proposed everglades airport, Mirabel was built but used only lightly. Apparently none of the big airlines wanted to move from Dorval (YUL) to Mirabel so the airport basically fizzled away.
Did my DC-8 bounces there in ‘93.
When I was still active duty Coast Guard, we would go out there at night and practice raft drops. Since, as the radioman/radar operator, I was superfluous to this drill, they would land and toss me out the door with a flashlight and some flares. My job was to mark the drop zone and retrieve the practice gear.
Mighty lonely out there in the dark...
Ha!! "Mighty lonely out there in the dark".
I've read too many Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey novels to EVER want to be out in the Everglades at night!! My hat's off to you and thank you for your service.
I fly here all the time on a C172 to practice TO/landings and approaches. Its massive, you can literally land and TO twice or more. Maybe I'm exaggerating. I did not know all the facts mentioned on the article. On my last commercial flight we flew over it and my foreflight was connected since I had a window seat and I could track going over it on my way to MIA. Sooo cool. Another cool nearby airport is Everglades (X01), check it out on a map.
Thank you for sharing this interesting story on Everglades Jetport; reminds me of tales of other abandoned airports such as the Montreal's Mirabel or Kampong Chhnang’s airport or Gbadolite airport
Used to shoot training flight touch and go landings in Eastern's 727s there back in 1980. Usually late at night.
High speed rail was planned to connect TNT to MIA so passengers could be quickly shuttled between the two giant airports seamlessly.
What a cool piece of information! I’ve been several times to the Shark Valley visitor center on Tamiami Trail and this airstrip is literally just 20 minutes from it.
Imagine all the gator food options, super fresh. Maybe won't need a coast to coast rail connect in 50-100 years if the climate sea level rises.
What about bug splatter? At certain times of the year, just driving across Alligator Alley renders my windshield nearly opaque, I would imagine a jet's windshield in that area would be so covered with bug splatter that the pilots wouldn't be able to navigate to the gate!
Flying out of Tampa, I took my 727 bounces there (1986). That big 'ole piece of concrete sure looked lonely sitting in the middle of a swamp.
@Pushslice - X01 Everglades City is where all the drugs came in, not TNT. Everglades City was so bad, the entire town got arrested. they eventually cleaned it all up, today it is a seafood/stone crab hot spot.
@Jim—The airport in central NJ in the Great Swamp was designed in 1959 to be the largest international airport in the world, with four 12,000 foot runways (at a time when the longest runway at Idlewood (renamed JFK) was 9600 feet). It would have replaced Newark Airport and been built by the Port Authority of NY and NJ. Fascinating story, and if it had been built, it have almost been in my back yard!
dee - curious as to what airport you flew over and when, since, as mentioned, Boca Chica is still very much in use
the one I saw was empty
@dee - If you are referring to Boca Chica, it is still an active base. DOD website shows it currently hosts 6 Command tenants - one of which is Coast Guard.
Interesting.. I have flown over the very large and long runways of the KW defunct naval base..What a waste of space for nothing but a few guards..They should make it the KW airport because of the longer runway so commercial flights would not have to deal with weight and baggage restrictions.. Government in action wasting taxpayers $$$$$
Was born in 52, lived grew up near Chicago, I was well aware of this airport even though I wasn’t an air freak.
We had family in Naples and Miami, so during summer vacation dad would drive between the 2 cities on the 2 lane Tamiami Trail(41 ), that drive was scary at night, so I was looking forward to the airport bringing a better road.
This was of course before Alligator Alley.
We went on a slogging hike tour off that training road a couple of years ago. I had no idea the runway was just further up the road there, we never saw any other cars. Amazing area with the bromeliads and birds.
I went to one of the automotive events there about 12 years ago. Got to drive on the runway. Pretty cool experience! Another interesting tidbit: There's some oil wells just north of the facility.
Thank you, Ben! I haven't thought about this since I was a kid. I remember my dad helping me research the planned airport at the library (via card catalog and microfiche, even!). What a great trip down memory lane for me.
I didn't know about the Boeing 2707 projects so thanks for that Wikipedia rabbit hole ; )
I saw the airstrip in December flying EYW-FLL. I couldn't convince myself anyone would build an airport there, so I decided I must have seen Miccosuckee, a tiny strip of a town along 41.
All I'm picturing is the "Top Gear"/"Grand Tour" crew doing a drag race there in some ridiculously altered fan-boats or duck-boats.
Although it never got even beyond the planning stages, there was also at one point plans to build a huge regional airport in the New Jersey Pinelands, which would have served the NYC/PHL metropolitan area.
Just imagine how much of America’s cocaine must have landed there surreptitiously over the past decades..
Lol, yes, BOTH the people that read travelbuzzblog or whatever it is may know about it lol. Thanks for the educational post Ben, really enjoy hearing about these "ghost" runways
I remember the controversy over the Everglades airport when I was a kid and we'd visit south Florida. It was really madness to have such a huge development next to a national park. Environmentalists had considerably more power in those days. Recall this was in the same era as when DFW was being built. Not long after we moved to New Orleans and there was a similarity huge airport proposal, which never got off the...
I remember the controversy over the Everglades airport when I was a kid and we'd visit south Florida. It was really madness to have such a huge development next to a national park. Environmentalists had considerably more power in those days. Recall this was in the same era as when DFW was being built. Not long after we moved to New Orleans and there was a similarity huge airport proposal, which never got off the drawing board.
Probably a more impressive failed airport is Mirabel near Montreal. It was to be eastern Canada's international airport and equally huge. It operated for 20+ years. Air Transat was based there, but few others moved from Dorval. What killed it was accessibility; there was supposed to be rail service from Ottawa and central Montreal which never happened. Quebec separatism also played a role as corporate HQs abandoned Montreal for Toronto. Today YUL is a rather unpleasant experience.
I’m old enough to remember the fight to stop this airport (though I was a child at the time.) One of the major battles to preserve the ecosystem of the Everglades and South Florida.
Heck, stunning that at this times they where already existant those autoporoclamated Eco-activists!
@Kevin Any CVS or Walgreens?
It may have been the largest planned airport at the time, but DEN is just over 54 square miles.
The Everglades are better off without a massive airport
I’ve been there before. It’s not down alligator alley... it’s on Tamiami Trail close to the border of the everglades national park and big cypress National preserve... you’ll know you’re by the entrance because you’ll see a bunch of Miccosukee tribal police cars parked in what looks like a road to nowhere that goes off Tamiami trail (with a few easy to miss signs identifying the airport). If you’re looking for outdoor activities in that...
I’ve been there before. It’s not down alligator alley... it’s on Tamiami Trail close to the border of the everglades national park and big cypress National preserve... you’ll know you’re by the entrance because you’ll see a bunch of Miccosukee tribal police cars parked in what looks like a road to nowhere that goes off Tamiami trail (with a few easy to miss signs identifying the airport). If you’re looking for outdoor activities in that area, there’s a lot of hiking trails and until heavy rain season starts again (probably another month or two) is the best time to go on hikes
Not related to this topic. Where can I get a rapid PCR covid test in Miami that accept insurance? Thank you.
In the "old days" Dulles (IAD) was little used by the airlines so it was used for touch and go training for the majors flying "heavies" I had the pleasure of doing this in the mid to late 70's the same for TNT.
>>>>>Am I the only one who didn’t know about this, and finds it endlessly fascinating?!
Of course not, all the readers who read Travel Blogger Buzz knew this since November 27, 2020 when I posted about it.
I looked on my Google Earth and there is a "Corn Dance Hammock" nearby... I may go when they open Tippy's Outpost up again.
I guess you could at least do a takeoff and landing use a Cessna at this air port.
You should look at satellite images of the site to get a sense of how remote, and big, it is.
I visited the site a couple of years ago on a day trip out of Marco. The scale is truly amazing. Technically it's a secure site, but I checked in with the folks onsite and asked permission to wander around for 30 minutes or so and they said OK. I think I read somewhere that they have used the site recently to practice water bombing.
Pretty interesting to view on Google Earth.
I used to take students there all the time. You have to register your tail number before you go but it’s free to use.
When you go, take many pictures. Also see why there are driveways close to the report. Google Maps show there are houses??? Please write it up afterwards.
I never knew that existed. Not sure anyone would want to land in the Everglades anyways since the Eastern 401 crash in 72 and the associated ghosts and ValueJet in 96. I have driven from Naples to Miami before.