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Aviation: What's in a name?

Airports have been named in honour of politicians, musicians, explorers, aviators and even footballers. But Louisville Standiford Field (SDF) is now taking the name of one of the city's most famous former residents, a boxer. The decision came when the board approved a change to Louisville Muhammad Ali International on January 16, 2019.

Ali, once known as "the greatest", was born named Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky on January 17, 1942. He became an amateur boxer aged 12 and after taking a gold medal in 1960 Olympics he won the world heavyweight title four years later. He was one of the most successful boxers of the 20th century and the only one to be champion of the heavyweight division three times. He passed away on June 3, 2016, by when he was one of the most recognised celebrities in the sport. He also played a roll in the American civil rights movement and converted to Islam. Ali courted controversy by dodging the draft and was stripped of his boxing licence for more than three years. He also had a well-known saying... Presumably aircraft flying into Louisville will now "float like a butterfly" - but will they also "sting like a bee"?

Louisville Sandiford Field will henceforth be known as Louisville Muhammad Ali International. (redlegsfan21)

Louisville is currently served by Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines. Its passenger traffic has remained fairly static over the last decade, with annual totals ranging between 3.2m and 3.8m. However, freight it where SDF really excels; it is home to the United Parcel Service (UPS) 'Worldport', the third busiest cargo gateway in the USA and seventh busiest in the world.

Celebrity names

Ironically Ali was known to be scared of flying, but changing airport names to honour a local celebrity has become quite a fashion of late. In an era when internet searches direct much of our thinking, it's not a bad thing if a supplementary name helps establish a link between a region and the airport that serves it, and helps build a stronger local identity. When the news that SDF was jumping on the celebrity bandwagon arose, The Aviation Oracle started thinking about other famous names adopted by facilities across the globe.