The mysterious case of ‘Sydney West Airport’

Having previous dealt with the perils of auto-generated website content in my post about the former township of ‘Sue City’, my recent random Google Maps wanderings around the greater Sydney area have found another mysterious location: ‘Sydney West Airport‘. So what gives?

'Sydney West Airport' on Google Maps

When you plug ‘Sydney West Airport’ into Google the results aren’t of much use. Giving advice to the non-existent travellers who visited Sydney West Airport? Reading up on and departure and arrival times for a paddock? Driving directions to the middle of nowhere?

Google search results for 'Sydney West Airport'

The answer to the question comes when you zoom out of the Google Map: ‘Sydney West Airport’ is located in the suburb of Badgery’s Creek, which has long been the preferred site of the construction of a second Sydney Airport. The history of the entire saga can be found in the background paper “Second Sydney Airport – A Chronology” produced in 1998 for the Federal Parliament:

In every post-war decade, governments have studied the airport needs of Sydney and possible locations for the second airport. Priorities and locations have been identified. These plans however, have been scuttled or delayed for a variety of reasons including changes of government and funding shortfalls.

From the nineteen sites that have been considered over these years, two remained in discussion in the 90s, namely Badgery’s Creek and Holsworthy. As campaigns against each of these continued to be mounted, discussion continued on a ‘Sydney-West’ second airport.

The above paper suggests that the first usage of the ‘Sydney West Airport’ name was in 1994 during planning work for the Badgerys Creek airport, with a body named the ‘Sydney West Airport Development Corporation’ to be established to drive the project. Another official usage of the term was in the ‘Airports Act 1996′ – an act that enabled the privatisation of the previously Federal Government administered airports of Australia.

So why did an entire forest of useless links like ‘Sydney West Airport Car Rental’ and ‘Sydney West Airport Hotels’ appear? For this we can blame companies who take a list of IATA airport codes and convert it into a farm of web pages without any human intervention. The list they appear to be using IATA ‘Fuel Code Directory’, you can find the 2010 edition here in Excel format, where ‘Sydney West Airport’ has the code SWZ.

IATA code for Sydney West Airport

Another mystery solved!

Further reading

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5 Responses to “The mysterious case of ‘Sydney West Airport’”

  1. Ophir says:

    Hi Marcus,

    I couldn’t help but smile when I read this blog. It is something we grapple with on a daily basis for our website. I got to your blog by searching for “Sydney West Airport”. You may be interested in a recent blog post I put up for the exact same reasons. http://goscopia.com/#!info.blog,34 All the best, Ophir

    • Marcus says:

      Thanks for that Ophir – keeping datasets up to date used to only be something cartographers used to grapple with, but today it is something every location-based websites needs to keep in mind.

  2. Ophir says:

    I just realized you replied. I thought I would get some sort of email notification. In any event, I quite honestly think that in today’s world of automatic data aggregation, very few online services actually take the time to check the data. I run into samples like this on a daily basis.

    An example of this is our ports database. We have over 80,000 ports but the problem is their location coordinates are specified only as far as the minutes and not the seconds, which means the ports will appear on the map quite far from the actual location. We therefore check them one by one to be absolutely sure. That way, when someone checks for hotels near the port of Venice or the Xian Airport, they’ll most likely see the correct hotels.

    Stop by our Twitter feed sometime if you’re interested. Our updates are posted there for new nodes we enter or for data corrections.

    I enjoy your blog. Keep up the excellent work. Ophir

  3. mich says:

    I often google the name of long-vanished hamlets which had 3 residents in 1895, and today, none.

    Lo and behold the Google search comes up with website with information for florists, real-estate agents and a whole bunch of other non-information about these places. It is obviously an automated process.

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