Lakeland Linder International Airport

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Lakeland Linder International Airport
Drane Field
2017 SNF Aerial.jpg
Airport type Public
Owner City of Lakeland
Serves Lakeland, Florida
Elevation AMSL 142 ft / 43 m
Coordinates 27°59′20″N 082°01′07″W / 27.98889°N 82.01861°W / 27.98889; -82.01861Coordinates: 27°59′20″N 082°01′07″W / 27.98889°N 82.01861°W / 27.98889; -82.01861
LAL is located in Florida
Location of airport in Florida / United States
LAL is located in the US
LAL (the US)
Direction Length Surface
ft m
9/27 8,499 2,590 Asphalt
5/23 5,005 1,526 Asphalt
8/26 2,205 672 Turf
Statistics (2017)
Aircraft operations 115,589
Based aircraft 230+

Lakeland Linder International Airport (IATA: LAL, ICAO: KLAL, FAA LID: LAL) is a public airport five miles southwest of Lakeland, in Polk County, Florida.[1] The National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2017-2021 categorized it as a national airport as well as a reliever airport [2] for Tampa International Airport. The airport has a Class 1 Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 139 operating certificate allowing passenger airline flights. Annually, around March–April, the airport hosts the Sun 'n Fun International Fly-In and Expo, a six-day fly-in, airshow and aviation convention. It is the second largest such event in the United States after the Experimental Aircraft Association's (EAA) annual "AirVenture" event each summer at Wittman Regional Airport (OSH) in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. During the week of Sun 'n Fun, Lakeland Linder International Airport becomes the world's busiest airport with 60,000+ aircraft movements.[3] With over 230 based aircraft for fiscal year 2016 the airport reported 115,589 aircraft operations, averaging 317 per day: 98% general aviation, 1% military, 1% airline.


For the World War II use of the airport, see: Lakeland Army Airfield
For the original Lakeland Municipal Airport, see: Lodwick Field

In 1940 the Lakeland City Commission passed a resolution to replace the city's Lakeland Municipal Airport, which was built in 1933 & early 1934. The new airport, tentatively named Lakeland Municipal Airport No. 2 was named Drane Field in honor of Herbert J. Drane, one of Lakeland's outstanding citizens.

The city had barely begun work on the new airport when, with war already raging in Europe, it leased the facility to the War Department. The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers improved the three existing runways and constructed the necessary buildings to operate a training facility to fly combat bombers and fighters. The new base, initially a sub-base of MacDill Field, near Tampa, was named Lakeland Army Air Field. Thousands of men received part of their flight training in Lakeland during the war. After the war ended, the Army Airfield was left unused due to the size of the facility far exceeding the needs of the city as well as the costs involved of converting it to civil use.

By the 1950s Lakeland Municipal Airport (renamed Al Lodwick Field in 1948) was dwindling due to the closure of Lodwick Aircraft which was the airport's primary tenant.With the closure of Lodwick Aircraft, the city decided to phase out Lodwick Field as a municipal airport in the summer of 1957 and concentrate its resources on Drane Field in south Lakeland. Drane Field had deteriorated and languished underutilized for many years following the departure of the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1945. After several years of new construction and conversion to a civil airport, it was rededicated as Lakeland Municipal Airport in 1960 with Don Emerson as its first director.[4]

In the 1970s, the facility was renamed Lakeland Regional Airport. In the late 1980s, it was again renamed as Lakeland Linder Regional Airport for local businessman Paul Scott Linder. Linder had founded Lakeland-based Linder Industrial Machinery, a multimillion-dollar heavy construction machinery company, in 1953. The Chairman of the Lakeland Economic Development Council, Linder was also director of the Florida Council of 100, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Council of Economic Education. He was named Florida’s Free Enterpriser of the Year in 1988, received a Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Florida, and was named 1989 Florida Entrepreneur of the Year. Paul Scott Linder died on November 11, 1990.[5]

In November 2017 Lakeland Linder Regional Airport opened their first U.S. Customs and Border Protection General Aviation Facility allowing international aircraft with 20 passengers or less to land at the field with an approved overflight permit. With the opening of this new U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility it is expected that the airport will change its name to Lakeland International Airport (or some variant of) in the near future. In July of 2018, the name was officially changed to Lakeland Linder International Airport.[6]

Commercial Air Service[edit]

Draken Ramp at LAL

With the impending closure of Lodwick Field, National Airlines relocated their Lodestars and Convairs to Drane Field in 1947, the airline left the airport in 1962.

During the 1960s and into the early 1970s, prior to airline deregulation, commercial airline service was provided by Allegheny Commuter and the former Sun Airlines.

From 2006 to 2008 the airport had limited air service under FAR Part 135 (AirTaxi) provided by DayJet utilizing Eclipse 500 very light jet (VLJ) aircraft. DayJet also maintained a "DayPort" facility in the airport's main terminal building. However, DayJet ceased operations in September 2008 and subsequently declared bankruptcy.

Scheduled airline flights returned to the airport in June 2011, when Direct Air flying Boeing 737s began service to Myrtle Beach, SC; Niagara Falls, NY and Springfield, IL. Service ended on March 13, 2012 when Direct Air unexpectedly announced an end to operations. Direct Air was then subject to Chapter 7 liquidation on April 12, 2012.

Corporate and Business Aviation[edit]

The airport hosts 84 businesses and organizations that employ over 1,450 people. Through the combination of aircraft operations and local businesses, the airport has an economic impact of over $284 Million (in 2012). The airport is currently embarking on a new economic impact study for 2017.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration′s (NOAA) Aircraft Operations Center (AOC). Relocated to Lakeland from Macdill AFB in June 2017. NOAA AOC is the headquarters for all nine research aircraft operated by NOAA including their world-famous NOAA Hurricane Hunters (WP-3D Orion aircraft).

In addition, Draken International (a DOD Contractor) headquartered at the airport. Provides training support to several branches of the United States Military acting as instructors and aggressors in live combat situations. Operating the largest fleet of privately owned tactical aircraft in the world, makes the company noteworthy among contract air services providers for the U.S. Department of Defense. The company's fleet includes Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21, Aermacchi MB-339, Aero L-39 Albatros, and Dassault Mirage F1 aircraft.[7]

The airport is the home of the Black Diamond Jet Team, a civilian aerobatic demonstration team which flies four Aero L-39 Albatros high performance trainers and one T-33.


ARFF 1 and USN Blue Angel 7 sit in front of the terminal

From the 1970s until 1999, the airfield operated as a joint civil-military facility when it hosted Army Aviation Support Facility #2 of the Florida Army National Guard, operating since-retired UH-1 Huey helicopters, followed by the locally based UH-60L Blackhawk helicopters of Detachment D, 171st Aviation Battalion (TA). the establishment of these units and aircraft in Lakeland was due primarily to the efforts of former U.S. Senator and later Governor of Florida, Lawton Chiles, a Lakeland native. In 2000, the Florida Army National Guard aviation units relocated to a new facility at Tampa Bay Regional Airport in Brooksville, Florida.

Despite the military's departure from Lakeland Linder International Airport, Florida Army National Guard aircraft, as well as Air Force aircraft from MacDill AFB, Coast Guard aircraft from CGAS Clearwater, Army Reserve aircraft from the Army Aviation Support Facility at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, U.S. Navy aircraft from Pensacola and other transient military aircraft throughout the United States continue to use the airfield for practice approaches, landings and takeoffs. The airport's principal fixed-base operator (FBO) also continues to provide DoD contract jet fuel services for transient military aircraft.


Postcard of Lakeland Municipal Airport No. 1, showing school of aeronautics.

LAL is host to Central Florida Aerospace Academy a public high school with over 250 students. The academy, part of the Polk County School Board, maintains four tracks, that students can follow throughout their high school career, including: A&P, Aerospace, Avionics and Engineering.

LAL also hosts the Lakeland Aero-Club which is the largest high school flying club in the nation. The club builds and restores vintage aircraft, promotes flight training to its members, and flys to Oshkosh, Wisconsin "Airventure" annually in all antique airplanes providing members with cross country flight training.

In addition, the airport hosts a college (Polk State College) and career college (Travis Technical College). Polk State has over 240 students between their four degree programs(Aerospace Administration, Aerospace Sciences, Aviation Maintenance Administration, and Professional Pilot Science). PSC is the only public college offering bachelor's degrees in Aerospace in the state of Florida. While Travis Career Center allows students to obtain their A&P license after high school.


External video
Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, YouTube video; City of Lakeland. retrieved 20 July 2018
NOAA 42 and NOAA 49 inside NOAA's AOC at LAL

The airport encompasses 1,710 acres (692 ha) at an elevation of 142 feet (43 m). It has two asphalt runways: 9/27 is 8,499 by 150 feet (2,590 x 46 m) and 5/23 is 5,005 by 150 feet (1,526 x 46 m).[1] It also has one turf runway: 8/26 which is 2205 by 60 feet (672 x 18 m) and requires prior permission to use.

Over the years the airport has seen a number of layout modifications. An original northwest/southeast 5,000-foot (1,500 m) runway was converted to a taxiway to permit construction of the Publix supermarket chain's corporate aircraft facility on the northwest end, while Runway 9/27 was incrementally increased in length to 6,000 feet (1,800 m) in the late 1950s and then to 8,500 feet (2,600 m) in the late 1990s. Runway 9/27, its associated taxiway system and the current airport terminal ramp area is built to a design standard that enables it to accommodate up to Boeing 747 and 777 aircraft.

The Lakeland VORTAC is on the airfield and runways 9/27 and 5/23 have high intensity runway lighting (HIRL) and P4L precision approach path indicator (PAPI) systems. Runway 9 is equipped with a Category I Instrument Landing System (ILS), and Medium Intensity Approach Light System with Runway Alignment Indicator Lights (MALSR). In addition, runways 5/23 and 27 have published non-precision approaches. The airport has been a tower-controlled airport since the 1970s and the FAA operates an Level I air traffic control tower under the FAA Contract Tower Program. The FAA also installed an Automatic Detection Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) ground station at the airport.

Emergency services are provided by the Lakeland Fire Department, which maintains a 24-hour manned station on the airfield with a specialized crash truck and crew providing aircraft rescue and fire fighting (ARFF) capability.[1]

The main terminal building contains the airport administrative offices, passenger processing area, passenger waiting areas, and an aviation-themed restaurant. A Hilton Hotels Corporation Hilton Garden Inn is located adjacent to the terminal. A Staybridge Suites extended stay hotel became the second hotel at the Lakeland Airport, opening in December 2017 and sitting on 2.18 acres next to the Hilton Garden Inn. This new lodging accommodates the expansion of nearby corporate parks, distribution centers, and the increasing capacity of the airport facilities.

With a growing demand from international operators the airport began planning and design of a new U.S. Customs and Border Protection General Aviation Facility (User Fee Facility) in 2015. With the opening of its customs office in 2017 LAL is now capable of accepting an array of international flights.

Future Plans[edit]

The Lakeland Linder International Airport is currently under construction with big things in store. The I-4 corridor's growth as a major distribution center for companies such as Publix, Amazon, Saddlecreek, and Walmart placed new demand on the Lakeland Airport for MRO and Air Cargo facilities. To meet this demand the airport is developing approximately 60 acres in the northwest sector of the airport for large air cargo aircraft operations and maintenance hangars. Construction of the entrance taxiway to the new development will commence in October 2017. In addition to ramp areas and taxiways associated with the development. Hangar and air cargo processing sites will be cleared, graded, and have utility services added so they may be developed quickly for future tenants.

In order to fulfill the growing need for additional hangar space capable of accommodating today's largest corporate aircraft the airport's FBO (Sheltair Aviation) will be constructing two 20,000 sq.ft. hangars complete with office space on the North side of the airport. This project is currently in its initial design phase with a pending start date

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d FAA Airport Master Record for LAL (Form 5010 PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. Effective May 31, 2012.
  2. ^ "2011–2015 NPIAS Report, Appendix A" (PDF). National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems. Federal Aviation Administration. October 4, 2010. Archived from the original (PDF, 2.03 MB) on September 27, 2012.  External link in |work= (help)
  3. ^ "SUN 'n FUN". SUN 'n FUN. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-08-11. Retrieved 2006-08-11. 
  6. ^ Moore, Kimberley (July 13, 2018). "Airport director on a mission to bring airline service to Lakeland Linder International Airport". The Ledger. Retrieved 20 July 2018. Airport Executive Director Gene Conrad is throttling up efforts to bring an airline to what is now officially called Lakeland Linder International Airport, all as several airport tenants move to expand their businesses. 
  7. ^ Draken International, Florida Trend magazine, July 2013

External links[edit]