Orlando International Airport is a major public airport located 6 miles (10 km) southeast of Downtown Orlando
. In 2019, it handled 50,613,072 passengers, making it the busiest airport in the state
and tenth busiest airport in the United States
. The airport code MCO stands for the airport's former name, McCoy Air Force Base
, a Strategic Air Command
(SAC) installation, that was closed in 1975 as part of a general military drawdown following the end of the Vietnam War
The airport serves as a hub
for Silver Airways
, an operating base for JetBlue
, Southwest Airlines
and Spirit Airlines
, as well as a focus city for Frontier Airlines
is the airport's largest carrier by passengers carried. The airport is also a major international gateway for the mid-Florida region, with over 850 daily flights on 44 airlines. The airport also serves 135 domestic and international destinations. At , MCO is one of the largest commercial airports in terms of land area in the United States.
In addition, the airport is home to a maintenance base for United Airlines
The airfield was originally constructed as a U.S. Army Air Forces
facility and military operations began in 1942 as Orlando Army Air Field #2, an auxiliary airfield to Orlando Army Air Base
, now known as Orlando Executive Airport
. Orlando Army Air Field #2 was renamed Pinecastle Army Airfield
in January 1943. At the end of World War II, Pinecastle was briefly used for unpowered glide tests of the Bell X-1
aircraft before the program moved to Muroc Army Airfield in California– now Edwards AFB
– for the world's first supersonic flight. With the establishment of an independent U.S. Air Force
in 1947, the airfield was briefly placed in caretaker status, until being reactivated during the Korean War
as a Strategic Air Command
(SAC) facility for B-47 Stratojet
s and KC-97 Stratofreighter
s and renamed Pinecastle AFB
In the 1950s, the base began hosting SAC's annual Bombing and Navigation Competition. A B-47 Stratojet
crashed during the 1958 competition, killing Colonel Michael Norman Wright McCoy, commander of the 321st Bombardment Wing
, which was the host wing for Pinecastle AFB. The following year the base was renamed for McCoy. The base later was home to the 306th Bombardment Wing
operating the B-52 Stratofortress
and the KC-135 Stratotanker
. It was also used by EC-121 Warning Star
early warning aircraft of the 966th Airborne Early Warning and Control Squadron
, a tenant unit at McCoy assigned to the Aerospace Defense Command
During the Cuban Missile Crisis
in October 1962, McCoy AFB became a temporary forward operating base for more than 120 F-100 Super Sabre
and F-105 Thunderchief
fighter bombers and the primary base for U-2
reconnaissance aircraft flying over Cuba. One of these U-2s was shot down by Soviet-operated SA-2 Guideline
surface-to-air missiles near Banes, Cuba. Its pilot, Major Rudolf Anderson
, Jr., USAF, was the crisis' only combat death. Following the crisis, McCoy AFB hosted a permanent U-2 operating detachment of the 100th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing
McCoy AFB was identified for closure in early 1973 as part of a post-Vietnam reduction in force. The following year, McCoy's 306th Bombardment Wing
was inactivated, its B-52D Stratofortress
and KC-135A Stratotanker
aircraft reassigned to other SAC units and most of the McCoy AFB facility turned over to the city of Orlando by the General Services Administration
(GSA) in late 1974 and early and mid 1975. USAF responsibility for the airfield's air traffic control tower was turned over to the Federal Aviation Administration
) and the airport established its own crash, fire and rescue department, initially utilizing equipment transferred by the GSA.
In the early 1960s, when jet airline flights came to Orlando, the installation became a joint civil-military facility.
Early jetliners such as the Boeing 707
, Boeing 720
, Douglas DC-8
and Convair 880
required longer and sturdier runways than the ones at Herndon Airport (now Orlando Executive Airport
). Nearby lakes and commercial and residential development made expansion impractical, so an agreement was reached between the City of Orlando
and the United States Air Force
in 1962 to use McCoy AFB under a joint arrangement. The military offered a large AGM-28 Hound Dog
missile maintenance hangar and its associated flight line ramp area in the northeast corner of the field for conversion into a civil air terminal. The city would then cover the cost of building a replacement missile maintenance hangar on the main base's western flight line. The new civil facility would be known as the Orlando Jetport at McCoy and would operate alongside McCoy AFB. This agreement became a model for other joint civil-military airports in operation today.
Airline flights to the Orlando Jetport began shortly after an agreement was signed by the city and USAF in October 1961. Over the next few years airline flights shifted from the old Herndon Airport (renamed in 1982 as the Orlando Executive Airport
). In 1971 scheduled airlines were Delta Air Lines
, Eastern Air Lines
, National Airlines
and Southern Airways
When McCoy AFB closed in 1975, part of the facility stayed under military control to support Naval Training Center Orlando and several tenant commands.
There are only a few enclaves on the original McCoy AFB site that the military still uses such as the 164th Air Defense Artillery Brigade
from the Florida Army National Guard
in the former McCoy AFB Officers Club complex, an Army Reserve
intelligence unit in the former SAC Alert Facility, the 1st Lieutenant David R. Wilson Armed Forces Reserve Center supporting multiple units of the Army Reserve
, Navy Reserve
and Marine Corps Reserve
that was constructed in 2002, and a large Navy Exchange
for active, reserve and retired military personnel and their dependents.
In 1975, the final Air Force contingent departed McCoy AFB and the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority
(GOAA) was established as a state-chartered local governmental agency and an enterprise fund of the city of Orlando. GOAA's mission was to operate, manage and oversee construction of expansions and improvements to both the Orlando International Airport and the Orlando Executive Airport. The airport gained its current name and international airport status a year later in 1976, but retained its old IATA airport code MCO and ICAO airport code
The airport became a U.S. Customs Service Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) in 1978, said zone being designated as FTZ #42. In 1979, the facility was also designated as a large hub airport by the FAA based on flight operations and passenger traffic.
In 1978, construction of the current Landside Terminal and Airsides 1 and 3 began, opening in 1981. In 1983 a small chapel was opened memorializing Michael Galvin who died during the construction of the airport's expansion. The original International Concourse was housed in Airside 1 and opened in 1984. Funding to commence developing the east side of the airport was bonded in 1986, with Runway 17/35 (now 17R/35L) completed in 1989. Airside 4 opened in 1990 and also contains an International Concourse for the processing of international flights. Airside 2, which filled out what will become known as the North Terminal complex, was completed in 2000, with the last additional gates added in 2006. Runway 17L/35R was opened in 2003, providing the airport with a total of four runways.
In 1978, the airport handled 5 million passenger
s. By 2018, that number had risen to 47 million. Today it covers 51 square kilometers (19.7 sq mi) and is the fifth-largest airport in the United States by land area after Denver International Airport
which covers 136 square kilometers (52.4 sq mi), Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport
which covers 70 square kilometers (26.9 sq mi), Southwest Florida International Airport
which covers 55 square kilometers (21.2 sq mi), and Washington Dulles International Airport
which covers 53 square kilometers (20.3 sq mi). MCO has North America's fourth tallest control tower
at 345 feet, replacing two earlier Air Force and FAA control towers.
Orlando was a designated Space Shuttle
emergency landing site. The west-side runways, Runway 18L/36R and Runway 18R/36L, were designed for B-52 Stratofortress
bombers and due to their proximity to NASA
's John F. Kennedy Space Center
, were an obvious choice for an emergency landing should an emergency return to launch site (RTLS) attempt to land at KSC have fallen short. The runway was also an emergency divert site for NASA's Boeing 747
Shuttle Transport Aircraft when relocating orbiters from either west coast modification work or divert recoveries at Edwards AFB
, California or the White Sands Missile Range
, New Mexico.
Eastern Air Lines
used Orlando as a hub during the 1970s and early 1980s, and became "the official airline of Walt Disney World
." Following Eastern's demise, Delta Air Lines
assumed this role, although it later pulled much of its large aircraft hub operations from Orlando and focused its service there on regional jet
flights, before pulling down the hub entirely in the mid-2000's.
On February 22, 2005, the airport became the first airport in Florida to accept E-Pass
toll transponders as a form of payment for parking. The system allows drivers to enter and exit a parking garage without pulling a ticket or stopping to pay the parking fee. The two toll roads that serve the airport, SR 528 (Beachline Expressway)
and SR 417 (Central Florida GreeneWay)
, use these systems for automatic toll collection
The original terminal building, a converted hangar, was described as inadequate for the task at hand even when it was first opened as Orlando Jetport. After its closure in 1981, it passed through several tenants, the last of which was UPS
. It was demolished in May 2006.
On February 1, 2010, Allegiant Air
began operations at the airport. The company moved one half of its Orlando Sanford International Airport
(SFB) schedule to Orlando to test revenue at the higher cost airport. After evaluating the routes out of Orlando, the carrier decided to consolidate and return its Orlando area operations to Sanford citing an inability to achieve a fare premium at Orlando as anticipated, passenger preference for Orlando Sanford International Airport, higher costs at Orlando than expected and a more efficient operating environment at Sanford.
In March 2015, Emirates announced that they would begin daily service to the airport from Dubai International Airport
beginning September 1, 2015. The airport had tried to attract Emirates for five years before the service was announced.
Orlando International was the first airport in Florida served by Emirates. The airline expects three major markets for the flights: leisure and corporate travelers along with locals of Asian heritage traveling to Asia, which is well-served by the airline. Greater Orlando Aviation Association Chair Frank Kruppenbacher called the new service "without question the biggest, most significant move forward for our airport"
and estimates that the local economic impact of the new service will be up to $100 million annually. The inaugural flight was made with an Airbus A380
. Regularly scheduled flights operate with Boeing 777-300ER
s. Gate 90 was updated in the summer of 2018 with 3 jetways to be able to properly handle the A380, 3 years after the airplane first arrived at Orlando, docking at Gate 84.
On May 18, 2016, the airport launched its own radio station, FlyMCO 105.1 HD2, an FM HD Radio
subchannel of WOMX-FM
. With the goal of "keeping passengers informed, entertained and aware" FlyMCO 105.1 HD2 provides quick access to up-to-date airport information, local weather, and adult contemporary / top-40 pop music. The radio station can be heard across 11 Central Florida counties (Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Volusia, Brevard, Lake, Marion, Flagler, Polk, Sumter and Putnam), and through WOMX's owner Entercom
via the Radio.com
website/app outside of central Florida.
In 2017, the airport reached 44.6 million passengers, surpassing Miami International Airport
to be become the busiest airport in the state of Florida.
The Orlando International Airport Intermodal Terminal
is currently under construction approximately one mile due south of the main airport terminal. The new station, which is partially being funded by the Florida Department of Transportation, will serve as the Orlando station for the Brightline higher speed
regional rail service to South Florida,
possibly Sunrail, and a link to International Drive
. The station, which will be connected to the main terminal via an automated people mover (APM)
system, is mostly reusing plans from the original Florida High Speed Rail
Orlando Airport station, which would have been northern terminus of the initial Orlando-Tampa route along the Interstate 4 corridor, a project that was killed. As part of the estimated $684 million price tag for the intermodal terminal complex,
the airport authority is building a new 2,500 space parking garage.
A future connection to the SunRail
commuter rail service is also being explored. The route to the current SunRail line would travel along an Orlando Utilities Commission
rail spur, before either branching off to the intermodal station, or have an intermediate transfer point on to light rail to complete the journey to this station.
Multiple options are being considered for the link to I-Drive
, either an elevated maglev train system
built by American Maglev Technology, connecting the airport to the Orange County Convention Center
, the Florida Mall
, and the Sand Lake Road SunRail station
, or a light rail link running along a similar route as the maglev alternative between the airport and International Drive.
In May 2015, the Board of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA) voted unanimously to approve construction of the $1.8 billion South Terminal Complex (STC), which will be located directly south of the existing terminal. The STC will be built adjacent to the South Airport Intermodal Terminal, which was completed in early 2018, and both will be connected to the existing terminal via a new Automated People Mover (APM)
. Phase I (which will be known as "Terminal C") will encompass approximately and will include new aircraft taxiways and aprons, a terminal building with 16-24 gates, and a 6-story 5,000 space parking garage. Construction of the STC began in 2017, and it is expected to be operational by 2021.
In June 2018 GOAA approved the expansion of Phase 1, known as Phase 1X, which will add another six gates to the South. The construction firms building the new South Terminal are Hensel Phelps (airside), and Turner-Kiewit Joint Venture (landside). Vanderlande Industries will be providing the new high-tech ICS baggage handling system.
The Orlando International Airport has a hub-and-spoke
layout with a large main terminal building and four airside concourses accessible via elevated people mover
s, with a total of 129 gates. The main terminal building is divided into two terminals; Terminal A (on the building's north side) and Terminal B (on the building's south side). There are passenger check-in and baggage claim facilities in both terminals, which also share two security checkpoints, one in the West Hall leading to Airsides 1 & 3, and another in the East Atrium, leading to Airsides 2 & 4. Unlike the similar setup used in Tampa
, passengers are required to go through security before accessing the people movers.
Airsides 1 and 3, and later Airside 4, were designed by KBJ Architects
, while Airside 2 was designed by Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum
, Helman Hurley Charvat Peacock Architects, and Rhodes + Brito Architects. C.T. Hsu + Associates and Rhodes + Brito Architects designed renovations that were made to Airsides 1 and 3, which were completed by April 2010.
Terminal A consists of the northern half of the main terminal, with tramway systems to Airside 1 and Airside 2. Airlines operating check-in and baggage facilities within Terminal A generally operate out of Airside 1 and Airside 2, but that is not always the case.
Airside 1 contains gates 1–29 and houses the airport's secondary international arrivals facility (gates 20, 22-28 are capable of handling international arrivals).
This concourse houses a Club at MCO.
It functions as the operating base for JetBlue
and Frontier Airlines at MCO.
Airside 2 contains gates 100–112, 120-129 and is the operating base for Southwest
Terminal B consists of the southern half of the main terminal, with tramway systems to Airside 3 and Airside 4. Airlines operating check-in and baggage facilities within Terminal B generally operate out of Airside 3 and Airside 4, but that is not always the case. Airside 4 also houses the primary international arrivals concourse used by many European airlines.
Airside 3 contains gates 30–59 and is the operating base for Spirit Airlines
It contains an American Airlines Admirals Club
as well as a United Club
Airside 4 contains gates 70–99 and houses the airport's primary international arrivals facility.
Gates 80-87 are capable of handling international arrivals, and gates 92, 94, and 96 are nearing completion to be used as "swing" gates. Gate 90 was updated in the summer of 2018 to be able to handle the Airbus A380
, having two airbridges for the lower deck (gates 90A and 90B), and one airbridge for the upper deck (gate 90C). The concourse contains a Club at MCO as well as a Delta Sky Club
The airport features an on-site Hyatt Regency
hotel within the main terminal structure. The hotel is located on the East Atrium side of the terminal with a fourth floor lobby level and guest rooms beginning on level five and above. The airport features an expansive lobby area for guests awaiting flights, convention space, several bars, and two restaurants including a signature restaurant on the top level of the terminal building overlooking the airport facility and runways below.
Airlines and destinations
Airline market share
*B-52 Memorial Park
*Florida World War II Army Airfields
*List of busiest airports by passenger traffic
Category:Transportation in Orlando, Florida
Category:Airports in Florida
Category:Buildings and structures in Orlando, Florida
Category:Transportation buildings and structures in Orange County, Florida
Category:Airports established in 1940
Category:1940 establishments in Florida
Category:Space Shuttle Emergency Landing Sites