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"What's a 3-letter word that means Sioux City?"
Friday, March 29, 2002
What's a 3-letter word that means Sioux City?
By Bob Greene
The Chicago (IL) Tribune
With all the serious aviation-related problems the federal government is
facing, this would seem to be a small one.
But not for the people of Sioux City, Iowa. As the war on terror
continues, the Federal Aviation Administration is consumed with planning
better security systems, with trying to minimize flight delays, with
making certain the skies stay safe.
As this is going on, Sioux City is approaching the FAA with a request
that is very important to the town.
It doesn't have to do with air safety. It has to do with the Sioux City
airport's three-letter identifier.
You know what an identifier is. It's the three capital letters that form
the code for each airport - the three letters that appear on baggage
tags, in printed flight guides, on tickets. The three-letter identifier
is the calling card for a town, as far as air travel is concerned.
Chicago's O'Hare International Airport is ORD; Los Angeles International
is LAX; John F. Kennedy in New York is JFK.
Which brings us to Sioux City. Its airport identifier is:
You see the problem. In an era in which every town in the United States
is doing everything it can to portray itself in a good and welcoming
light, the men and women who run things in Sioux City - as well as the
everyday citizens of the town - would prefer that every visitor heading
there did not look at his or her baggage-claim tag, and see, in big
capital letters: SUX.
It just gives the impression that Sioux City. . . .
Well, you know.
"This city has had that airport code for as long as anyone can
remember," said Glenn Januska, the director of Sioux City's airport. "I
assume it was because those three letters were a shorter way to say
"But maybe back then, the word didn't have the bad meaning it does now."
Paul Eckert, city manager of Sioux City - which is in northwestern Iowa,
and has a population of 85,013 - agreed that in the days of his parents
and grandparents, those three letters did not convey the same meaning
they do now: "I think it wasn't until the '70s and '80s that people
began using that word in a way that isn't so nice," he said.
Sioux City's government and business leaders are all supporting the
effort to ask the FAA to change the three-letter code. "This is a very
community-oriented town, with good, strong, traditional Midwestern
values," Eckert said. "We have great pride in our city, and in our
quality of life. So when people fly in here, and the first thing they
see about the town is. . . ."
Well. You know.
At the FAA, officials said they are willing to take a look at Sioux
City's request, but that changes in three-letter identifiers for
airports are extremely rare, because such changes can be confusing for
pilots - and expensive for airlines, which have to revise printed
matter. "But we are open to talking with Sioux City," FAA spokeswoman
Elizabeth Isham Cory said.
In Sioux City, officials are not completely optimistic about their
chances. "I have been told the only reason the FAA ever accepts for
changing an airport code is if it's a safety issue," airport director
Januska said. "I'm not sure how a three-letter identifier can be a
safety issue - unless pilots are laughing so loud when they hear it that
it distracts them from doing their jobs."
This is not the first time Sioux City has tried to get rid of the SUX
designator. In the '80s, the city asked the FAA to change the code,
Januska said, and it almost happened. But Sioux City was not
overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the replacement options the FAA gave
it, and decided to stay with what it had.
"One option the FAA gave Sioux City in the '80s was to change the
identifier to GAY," Januska said, without comment.
A big reason that Sioux City wants to change the identifier now is that
the airport has added the name of a highly decorated living war hero to
its title - the airport is now officially called Sioux Gateway
Airport/Col. Bud Day Field. Eckert said:
"We just think that, especially with the airport honoring Col. Day, it's
not the best thing to have people look at their baggage-claim tags and
think that the city. . . ."
This week, Sioux City's civic leaders are preparing their written
request to the FAA. They know that, in a time of nervous travel and
America at war, this is not the biggest issue the FAA has to deal with.
Still, they'd really like their code to be changed. "It's like a burr
under your saddle," Januska said. "It just hangs around and hangs
City manager Eckert said that the current identifier is not much of a
help in attracting new businesses to Sioux City.
"We do everything we can to show our best side," he said. "But that's
difficult when the first thing people see when they're coming here is. .
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