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?!