Walt Disney World Airport
|Owner||Walt Disney Company|
|Location||Bay Lake, Florida|
Walt Disney World Airport, also known as Lake Buena Vista Airport and Lake Buena Vista STOLport, (IATA:
DWS) is a former small airfield owned by the Walt Disney Company, located within Walt Disney World, just east of the former Walt Disney World Speedway, in Bay Lake in Orange County, Florida, United States. When it was active it accommodated smaller commuter airliners such as the de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter turboprop which had STOL ("Short Take Off and Landing") capabilities and could operate from airfields with short runways with such airports being known as STOLports. It is no longer registered as an active airport by the FAA, ICAO and IATA and as of December 2017 serves Walt Disney World as a parking and storage lot.
Lake Buena Vista Airport was built in 1971 to serve as a STOL airfield for Walt Disney World guests and employees, with scheduled passenger airline service to Orlando Jetport at McCoy (now Orlando International Airport, MCO) and Tampa International Airport (TPA) provided by Shawnee Airlines, using de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft which were STOL capable. This Shawnee Airlines service is mentioned in the "Air Commuter Service" section of the Sept. 6, 1972 Eastern Air Lines system timetable as a connecting service to and from Eastern flights at Orlando and Tampa. Another commuter air carrier which operated scheduled DHC-6 Twin Otter passenger service into the airport was Executive Airlines.
The airport was never large, with only enough ramp space at the passenger terminal to accommodate four aircraft at a time; no hangar space was ever built. This STOL airfield was intended as a proof-of-concept for a planned, but was ultimately rejected in favor of a vision for a larger, full-service airport within Walt Disney World itself. All passenger service was discontinued by the 1980s, largely due to extensions of the Walt Disney World Monorail System on either side. As of 2009, flight operations are prohibited by a no-fly zone in place since 2003; however, the runway is fully intact and may be visible to motorists traveling along World Drive toward the Transportation and Ticket Center, as well as by passengers on the monorail.
There has been no scheduled or unscheduled commercial service to this airport since the early 1980s. The next nearest airport, Kissimmee Gateway Airport, briefly offered passenger service through the now defunct DayJet; currently, most Walt Disney World guests arrive through Orlando International Airport and Orlando Sanford International Airport.
Originally used to surprise the airplane passengers, the runway featured a set of grooves, like those on the side of a highway, that played "When You Wish Upon a Star" when driven over at roughly 45 miles per hour.