MTM Cincinnati: Why Is Cincinnati Airport In Kentucky?

One of the most confusing things to travelers coming to the Queen City is the airport.  Cincinnati Airport is in Northern Kentucky, specifically Hebron, Kentucky.  Once you accept that Cincinnati sits on a state border and the airport is actually in a reasonable distance from the city center, one other mystery remains.

Why is the airport called CVG?

To answer this, you have to look back at the airport’s history.  Back in the 1930’s, the entire Mississippi basin, which includes the Ohio and Missouri Rivers, flooded.  Had satellite imagery been around back then, the Mississippi would have appeared to be a large inland sea from central Illinois all the way to the Delta region in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Cincinnati was not spared, and its airport, Lunken Field, sat along a bend in the Little Miami River near where it empties into the Ohio River.  Frequent flooding forced the rerouting of the Little Miami and the construction of the Beechmont Levee system.

That was not enough for local officials.  They wanted the city’s airport moved someplace away from the Ohio and Little and Great Miami Rivers.  Blue Ash, north of the city (and a stone’s throw away from your humble narrator’s home), was considered, but city officials there didn’t want DC-9’s roaring over their nice quiet suburb.  Enter the US Army.

During World War II, the US had to build up its military rapidly in the face of war with Germany and Japan.  It needed to train pilots.  FDR approved funds to build an airfield in Hebron, an undeveloped section of Boone County in Northern Kentucky.  Officials from the area jumped on the chance and requested the base be turned over to civilian control after the war.  The government agreed, and Cincinnati’s replacement from Lunken Airport as Cincinnati’s primary airport was born.

The new airport opened as a commercial airport in 1947.  Its official name was and is Greater Cincinnati – Northern Kentucky International Airport.  The obvious airport code would have been “CIN.”  Except there was already a CIN somewhere else.  So the next choice would be HEB for Hebron, Kentucky.  That was also already taken.  NKY came next on the list, but it could not be used.  Radio stations begin with the letters “W” and “K,” but a third letter, “N,” is used for ham radio and aircraft call signs.  Officials settled on the nearest large city (next to Cincinnati), which would be Covington, directly across from downtown Cincinnati.  So the airport code became CVG.

And that’s why Cincinnati Airport is in another state and coded for a city other than where its located.

More at the My Town Monday blog.

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4 thoughts on “MTM Cincinnati: Why Is Cincinnati Airport In Kentucky?

  1. Kenton had the money and no space. Boone had the space but not the money. Win-win.

    FYI, the blog is Edged in Blue. MTM is short for “My Town Monday,” which is a multiblog effort.

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