Melbourne Tullamarine Airport.
What a place. And I don't mean wow what a place, but more like, what a place sigh.
No one who arrives, departs, or waits at MEL Tullamarine Airport seems to enjoy the experience, not only is getting there difficult via public transport (and sometimes, any transport), it's severely lacking in natural light, comfort, amenity, style, and friendliness.
MEL airport needs a lot of love and investment and not just to the car-parks which bring in the revenue. No one enjoys going to the airport, and I'm yet to meet anyone that is proud of Melbourne Airport.
Well, I have a very simple proposal to revive some pride not just in our airport but in our history as pioneers in aviation and women's contribution to the field.
Let's change its name and let's change its name to honour a remarkable woman amongst us. And, no Tullamarine is not its name, that's just the suburb it is located in.
I've done some very basic desktop research and I've found the following:
- There are about 43,000 airports in the world with an IATA/ICAO code (like MEL, LAX, SYD, MAD, etc).
- There are roughly ten airports named after women (that I could find). Out of those ten, two have closed or renamed and one is named after a husband and wife duo. They are:
Benazir Bhutto (Islamabad)
(Bill and ) Hillary Clinton (Little Rock)
Maharani Holktar (Indore)
Indira Gandhi (New Delhi)
Juana Azurduy de Padilla (Bolivia) - Now closed
Juliana of the Netherlands (Sint Marteen)
Queen Alia of Jordan (Jordan)
Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands (Aruba)
Queen Sofia of Spain (Tenerife) - Airport has been renamed so now it's just Tenerife Airport.
Mother Teresa (Tirana - Albania)
That's not a glowing endorsement of the contribution that women have played in politics, art, science, music, innovation, technology, engineering, the humanities, and of course aviation.
Out of all the capital airports in Australia, only one is named after a person (that I could find), that would be Charles Kingsford-Smith airport and even then, it's only named Charles Kingsford-Smith airport officially; all the branding and signage just refers to Sydney Airport. So it's doable, and it's doable at a very low cost.
Symbolic? Yeah, maybe but symbols is how we share who we are and what we are about. The flag is also a symbol, so are the colours green and gold, so is the national anthem, I could go on but you hopefully see my point.
Is it tokenistic, no, but it is a small token of acknowledgment of women's contribution to society that we have glossed over at least 43,000 times not because there were no worthy women but because we default to prioritising the contribution of men.
Is this important? Absolutely. Not only is an airport as a facility the first contact an overseas visitor has with your country, with this country, it is also a crucial, vital, indispensable bit of infrastructure.
In many ways, they are the 21st century's cathedrals, large meeting spaces for people from all walks of life to remind those who enter about the things that are important to us or remind us about ourselves. They're also meant to be welcoming spaces, for all of us.
So, where to from here?
I've made contact with people with power, influence, or interest in the issue and I'll post their replies as they start to come in. I for one would like to see this airport renamed in honour of a female pioneer of Australian aviation.
If you know of any other airports named after women then get in touch, I'd love to add them to my list.
If this is the country of mateship, the fair-go, of boundless plains to share, if this is a country which has had a female head of state for over 50 years, if this is the country that invented both WiFi and the Hills Hoist, then we are adult enough, and mature enough to have an airport named after a woman.