The Quirky Thing I Learned About LBB Airport

One of the cool things about my job lately has been getting to visit some interesting places I’ve never been to before.  I’m not as crazy as Paul and Dana, the brainchildren behind the North American Tech Tour.  They’re traveling around the country in an Airstream.  I prefer airplanes and hotels.  But, we’ve all ended up in some pretty cool places.

During a recent visit to Lubbock, we had the opportunity to take a quick tour of the area.  I landed at Lubbock Airport (LBB), a new dot and line for me on my map.  The terminal is a decent size.  There are 9 gates, of which just over half appear to be used on a daily basis.

We were driving around with folks from the economic development association talking about ways to bring businesses to Lubbock.  I asked if they happened to know the length of the runway.  Runway length might be a benefit/impediment for some companies thinking about relocating to an area.  I had seen a FedEx plane on the tarmac that was a decent size.  Not huge, but probably a little bigger than I would have expected given the size of Lubbock (turns out this is a hub for FedEx to feed smaller cities in the area).

I was surprised when one of the folks with us told me the longest runway was 11,500 feet!  Sure enough, Wikipedia suggests the same thing.  That’s a heck of a big runway for a small city.  To put it in perspective, that’s a longer runway than big city airports like Newark, Charlotte, Kansas City, Phoenix and Laguardia (probably unfair to include Laguardia given the constraints there).

It’s roughly the same length as the longest runway at my home airport of Washington-Dulles and just a few hundred feet short of the longest runway at the behemoth LAX Airport.  For frame of reference, 11,500 feet is generally sufficient to handle a 747 jumbo jet, with some variability for weight and altitude, etc.

The Final Two Pennies

I couldn’t find a specific answer to why a runway that long ended up in a smallish city of ~200,000 people.  I’m guessing it may have something to do with the Air Force training facility built back in the 1940s.  At any rate, that’s my AvGeek trivia of the day.

The post The Quirky Thing I Learned About LBB Airport was published first on Pizza in Motion


  1. While traveling through Lubbock 10 years ago and stopping to eat at one of their businesses, I got a BS speeding ticket at a speed trap for <10miles/hr in a construction zone that wasn't a construction zone. They were pulling people over en masse. So after that I vowed never to set foot in that armpit of a town ever again. So good luck with your economic development Lubbock, I won't be a part of it.

    1. Fortunately we were warned about that revenue source there, and we’re on the lookout. You can drive any speed you like all over West Texas, just not near Lubbock.

      1. Frank, that’s a good point. Texas highways are known for SPEED. Heck, I recall a new highway that runs from Austin to San Antonio that I think has an 80 or 85 mph speed limit. The fast way to great BBQ in Lockhart.

  2. LNK Airport in Nebraska is even smaller and has 3 runways, the longest of which is 12,901 feet. You can land anything there. Even was the backup space shuttle landing site. United does ocasionally does fly in 744’s to carry a football team to husker games. It looks ginormous next to the tiny terminal. Haha. Otherwise they just fly erj145’s which are super annoying…

  3. Long runways are great, but ILS CAT II/III approaches are what make them useful to UPS/FedEx/DHL, etc. With a CAT III-b aapproach, the decision height is effectively 0 with 150′ of runway visual range. KLBB has a HI-ILS which is mostly used by military to start an approach from a much higher altitude than normal.

  4. Sometimes it’s just a quirk of geography, or land availability when the airport was built. Birmingham AL (BHM) has a 12,000-footer, too. The airport’s been open since the 1920s and the runway aligns with the long, skinny mountain valleys common to the region.

  5. The quirky thing to me is how much the terminal building resembles a 1/3 copy any of the original terminals at DFW. It was built two years later, seems pretty clearly to be an almost direct copy, right down to the old tiles on the floor (which now have been all removed from DFW). I guess that’s one way to save on design costs.

  6. The long runway at LBB is probably to make up for density altitude–as air expands in the heat of summer, it mimics the density at higher altitudes. (LBB sits at almost 3300′; in summertime this could seem like 7000′ to an airplane’s engine.) Less dense air means longer takeoff rolls and slower climb rates.

    As for LNK, the runway length is most likely to accommodate the tankers and bombers from its early days as a military airfield. With full payload, those things need a lot of asphalt to get up to speed.

    As a side note, 747s can take off on surprisingly short runways. Delta Airlines diverted to Midway Atoll (7900′) a few years ago and the replacement 747 took off with all the passengers and enough fuel to continue on to Osaka.

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