You know it simply as the shuttle.
But had things turned out differently, you might know the first-of-its-kind trams that take travelers from Tampa International Airport’s main terminal to the airsides as the Zip-Trip, Aero-Transit, Rapidride or TripClipper.
For nearly a year, beginning in August 1968, airport officials, marketing experts and Westinghouse, the makers of the “ride device,” debated what to call the system so the name could be trademarked and maximize its marketing potential for the airport.
“The HCAA should see to it that a lot of national, international and regional publicity is devoted to identifying Tampa as the pace setter in this ride concept,” wrote Leigh Fisher, who developed the revolutionary Landside-Airside Concept for Tampa International Airport, on Nov. 26, 1968 to then airport CEO George Bean.
When Westinghouse developed the people mover system for Tampa International Airport, it was something that had never been seen before – a design that minimized walking, and used automated transport to focus on passenger convenience.
In the 1969 black-and-white film titled “Easy Come, Easy Go,” the narrator explained the new airport concept and describes the people mover as “a series of sideways elevators” designed to move passengers back and forth between buildings.
Paul MacAlester, the airport’s Director of Information, proposed either hiring a “Madison Avenue” firm or conducting a nation-wide contest to help find a name for the system.
“By conducting the contest in a nation-wide basis, we should get at least one good suggestion,” he wrote to Bean.
Westinghouse manager George Prytula weighed in on Jan. 2, 1969, sending Bean a list of over 600 names for consideration.
Before agreeing to a contest, Bean sent the list around to airport staff and tenants to see if any of the names caught on.
“Attached is a ‘think’ sheet of possible names that could be used for the passenger transfer system,” he wrote on Jan. 7, 1969. “Will you please check off the five names that appeal to you the most and return the list to me.”
Some names received multiple votes, including the Zip-Trip, Sky Bus and Jet Ride. Others, such as the Levelator, Sky-Vator, TPA-a-go-go, Air Whiz and Magic Carpet, were quickly dismissed. Additional names were suggested: Tampa Terminal Jetway, Pacemaker, and Instant Concourse.
The list was whittled to 17.
“There wasn’t anything even resembling consensus,” Bean wrote to Westinghouse on Feb. 24, 1969. “Quite frankly, I didn’t get very excited about any of these names nor do I think that anyone else does. Our graphics consultants say that in our day to day operations the system should be simply referred to as the ‘Shuttle’ which does seem to be the best description of what the system does.”
“Your conclusions in that letter were also ours. This is, none of the names clicked,” agreed Westinghouse a letter of May 8, 1969. “We all seem to agree here that people will simply call it what it is, a shuttle.”
There was a last-ditch suggestion from a staff member to spell shuttle “with four t’s to make it unique.” But that idea was also rejected.
By summer of 1969, it was clear that one name was routinely used to identify Westinghouse’s system that debuted in Tampa, and it was a name that could not be trademarked.
“There is one alternate which to me is entirely acceptable,” wrote Leigh Fisher in his final letter on the subject, “and that is simply to call the Westinghouse ride system “Shuttle.”