Watching the area from far above, by using Google Maps, at first it appears like a whitish spot (a ghost, maybe?) amid the vast green-brown of the Everglades, in southern Florida. By zooming in, a runway with high-speed exits, a taxiway and a small apron can be distinguished. Further enlarging, the site is identified as Dade-Collier Training and Transition Airport. The IATA identifies it as TNT and, indeed, when it was conceived, it was intended to be an ‘explosive’ place, with supersonic commercial jets landing-in and taking-off.
It was the first half of the 1960s, when what was then known as the Everglades Jetport took shape some 36 miles (58km) west of Miami, along the highway that connects the city to Naples on the Gulf of Mexico. At the time, the supersonic Boeing 2707 (a larger rival to Concorde) was being developed. It was an age when air travel was synonymous to speed, and the faster (jet), the better. In this context, the Everglades region was viewed as the ideal location for an airport that could host such type of aircraft without noise-related restrictions.
The Jetport was expected to be one of the largest airports in the world, covering 39sq miles (101sq km), five times the size of New York John F Kennedy, and was to have six runways. An expressway and a monorail line were planned to connect it to both central Miami and the cities on the Gulf of Mexico. In 1968 the Dade County Port Authority floated a USD 52mln bond and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) contributed USD 500,000 in order to start construction of the jetport.
Unfortunately, the ‘bigger’ and ‘faster’ utopia in air travel faded at the beginning of the 1970s, when fuel prices soared almost out of control. This, together with an upsurge in environmentalism, meant the Boeing 2707 programme was terminated as the US House of Representatives cancelled funding of the project on May 20, 1971. A decision which was the final blow to Everglades Jetport, where construction was halted on the same year, following completion of the first runway and a parallel taxiway.
Over the intervening years, the remoteness of TNT has done little to encourage its use. Though, it was an ideal location for Pan American World Airways and Eastern Airlines (both with hubs at Miami International Airport), to use it for training newly hired pilots: the 10,499ft (3,200m)-long runway was perfect for executing touch-and-goes at any time of day or night and during the 1970s and 1980s it was common to see Douglas DC-9s, Lockheed Tristars, DC-10s and Boeing 747s coming and going. That was when the airport took its present (and more appropriate) name.
As Pan Am and Eastern shut down at the start of the 1990s, TNT was abandoned by large jets. But infrastructure upgrades by the Miami Dade Aviation Department continued, including a runway overlay and lighting upgrade in 1992 and a taxiway rejuvenation in 1996. Today, the field still has no terminal, no hangars, no ATC tower, no aircraft tie-downs and no fuel tanks. But it does have LED lights along the 09/27 runway and taxiway, a Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI), a beacon and a tornado shelter (while the runway 09 ILS has been removed). The single-storey office building next to the small apron houses an Automated Weather Observation Station (AWOS) and a radio.
Enough for the airport to beckon a regular traffic of single-engine aircraft, mostly Cessna 152s, 172s and 210s and Piper PA 28s from the many southern Florida flight schools. A total of 3,662 movements were registered at TNT in 2019, down to 2,891 in 2020, mainly because of the Covid pandemic.
Should the industry invest in supersonic commercial travel again, in your opinion? Let the Guru know!