Walt Disney World’s Shortlived STOLport

In the early days of Walt Disney World, the area contained what was called a STOLport.  A STOLport is an airport with Short-Takeoff and Landing operations in mind.  This means that only very small planes could use the STOLport.  Travel and transportation types, in the later 60s, envisioned STOLports as a way to transport people cross-town and elevate car and bus traffic congestion.

photo courtesy of sunshine skies
photo courtesy of sunshine skies

Well, then, why did Walt Disney World have a STOLport.  Orlando wasn’t very big at the time.  It had no cross-town car traffic congestion to ease.  No, it didn’t.  But Orlando also didn’t have a major airport.  When Walt Disney World opened, what we now know as Orlando International Airport was still the Orlando JetPort at McCoy.  It was a civil-military joint operation as it shared the ground with McCoy Air Force Base.

Walt Disney World’s plans were to use the Walt Disney World STOLport as a base to transport guests to the major airports around Orlando.  There were two airlines which used the STOLport: Executive Airlines and Shawnee Airlines.   Executive Airlines did not last very long and Shawnee Airlines tried to pick up most of the slack.

photo courtesy of progress city usa
photo courtesy of progress city usa

Shawnee Airlines was able to keep operations going for about another year (1973)  before it stopped service from the STOLport as well.

What put these airlines and the STOLport “out-of-business?”  A number of factors:

  • The oil embargo of the early 70’s made flying very expensive
  • The Walt Disney World STOLport only had room for four planes and had no covered hangers.  This meant the planes were always exposed to the elements even in severe weather.
  • As attendance at Walt Disney World grew, more and more airlines starting flying into the Orlando JetPort at McCoy and eventually become Orlando International Airport (MCO – McCoy).
  • The expansion of the monorail to EPCOT made it almost impossible to fly into the STOLport – a sudden downdraft could easily push a plane on approach into the monorail track.
photo courtesy of progress city usa
photo courtesy of progress city usa

The STOLport is used today as a staging area for buses, construction equipment and other storage.  If you look closely enough, you can probably see it as you ride the monorail to and from EPCOT.

photo courtesy of airfields-freeman.com
photo courtesy of airfields-freeman.com

Thanks for joining me on another Tiggerific Trivia Tuesday.

3 thoughts on “Walt Disney World’s Shortlived STOLport”

  1. Wow! What fun trivia and Disney history all rolled into one! Wouldn’t it be kinda cool if it were still there and, instead of Magical Express, you could hop on a small plane that would take you to Disney property?

  2. What a great post, Tim! I had NO idea that this even existed! Is it true that there was a mishap and that’s how the airplane became part of both the Jungle Cruise and the Great Movie Ride? 😉 JK!

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