Lakeland Linder Regional Airport

Lakeland Linder Regional Airport
Drane Field

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

Location of airport in Florida

Direction Length Surface
ft m
9/27 8,499 2,590 Asphalt
5/23 5,005 1,526 Asphalt
Statistics (2011)
Aircraft operations 73,247
Based aircraft 139

Lakeland Linder Regional 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 2011–2015 categorized it as a reliever airport.[2]

The airport has a Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) Part 139 operating certificate allowing passenger airline flights; the current terminal facility, which opened in late 2001, was designed to host airlines with minimal modifications. Scheduled airline flights returned to the airport in June 2011, when Direct Air began service to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Niagara Falls, New York and Springfield, Illinois.[3] Service ended on March 13, 2012 when Direct Air unexpectedly announced an end to operations.[4] The charter carrier, who offered flights from Lakeland to Niagara Falls and Plattsburgh, New York; Springfield, Illinois and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with Boeing 737 aircraft, was subject to Chapter 7 liquidation on April 12, 2012.[5]

Annually, around March–April, the airport hosts Sun 'n Fun, 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. Although originally begun by a local EAA chapter, Sun `n Fun is now an independent nonprofit corporation and no longer affiliated with EAA. During the week of Sun 'n Fun, Lakeland Linder Regional Airport becomes the world's busiest airport with about 60,000+ aircraft movements.[6]

It was anticipated that the 2013 Federal sequester would result in the closure of the airport's control tower and require pilots to rely on air traffic controllers from other area airports.[7][8] As of March 2016, the control tower remains in operation, with a second 141-foot tower being constructed to replace the current 50 foot one.[9][10]


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.

So Lakeland Municipal Airport remained Lakeland's commercial airport, though National Airlines moved its Lodestars and Convairs to Drane Field in 1947. (They left in 1962.) Lakeland Municipal Airport was renamed Al Lodwick Field in 1948. Lodwick Aircraft Industries was established in February 1946 at Lodwick Field to convert war surplus military aircraft to non-military use.

By the early 1950s, the number of military aircraft available for conversion to commercial use dwindled and most of the surplus parts & equipment it contracted to sell were obsolete & had no market. By 1954 Lodwick Aircraft was moribund. It had lost most of its assets in a bank foreclosure & ceased operations in September. Al Lodwick moved to the Miami area during the following year.

Commercial and post-war military use

With the closure of Lodwick Aircraft, the city had 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 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.[11]

During the rest of the 1960s and into the early 1970s, prior to airline deregulation, commercial airline service was provided by Allegheny Commuter and the former Sun Airlines. 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.[12]

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 locally based UH-60L Blackhawk helicopters of Detachment D, 171st Aviation Battalion (GS) and C-23B+ Sherpa fixed-wing cargo aircraft of Detachment 1, H/171st Aviation Battalion (TA).[13] 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 Hernando County Airport in Brooksville, Florida.

Despite the military's departure from Lakeland Linder Regional 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, and other transient military aircraft throughout the southeast 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.

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 currently built to a design standard that enables it to accommodate Boeing 737-700/800 series aircraft.

Design of the current 2½ story airside/landside terminal was begun in 1997, with construction comencing in 2000 and completed in late 2001. 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, again leaving Lakeland without scheduled commercial airline service until 2011 when Direct Air launched scheduled commercial service to a number of destinations from Lakeland Linder. The charter carrier was liquidated in April 2012.[5] Currently the airport has limited air service by one FAR Part 135 Air Carrier, Atlantic Airlines, Inc. since June 7, 2010. Atlantic Airlines currently provides (Air Taxi) service throughout Florida and is headquartered at the airport. The Sun 'n Fun complex and its associated Florida Air Museum are located in the southwest quadrant of the airport.


LAL control tower and airfield; photo taken during annual Sun 'n Fun Fly-In
Main terminal building
Earhart's restaurant

The airport covers 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]

The Lakeland VORTAC is on the airfield and all runways 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), a Medium Intensity Approach Light System with Runway Alighment Indicator (MALSR) and a published Cat I ILS precision instrument approach. All other runways have published non-precision approaches. The airport has been a tower-controlled airport since the 1970s and the airport management's air traffic control division operates an FAA Level I air traffic control tower under the FAA Contract Tower Program. The FAA has 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]

For the period ending September 30, 2015 the airport had 117,686 aircraft operations, average 322 per day: 97% general aviation, 1% military, 1% air taxi, and <1% airline. 139 aircraft were then based at the airport: 77% single-engine, 14% multi-engine, 4% jet, and 6% helicopter.[1]

The airport hosts corporate flight operations for the respective national headquarters of the Publix supermarket corporation, its associated PECU Insurance Agency, LLC, and the Watkins Motor Line trucking corporation.

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 two Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17 fighter jets. Draken International, Inc., a provider of tactical fighter aircraft for contracted air services in support of U.S., NATO and other military and contract customers, is also based at the airport. With over 50 jets, Draken operates the largest fleet of privately owned former military tactical jet aircraft in the world. This distinction makes the company noteworthy among contract air services providers for the U.S. Department of Defense and other defense contractors. The company's fleet includes Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21, Aermacchi MB-339 and Aero L-39 Albatros aircraft.[14]

The headquarters of Atlantic Airlines, Inc., is located on the airport and provides flights throughout Florida.

The headquarters of, Inc., is located on the airport at the Sun 'n Fun campus on the south side of the field.

The main terminal building contains the airport administrative offices, a conference facility, a fixed-base operator and an aviation-themed restaurant, Hallback's Bar & Grill, located on the terminal's second floor. A Hilton Hotels Corporation Hilton Garden Inn is conveniently located adjacent to the terminal.

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lakeland Linder Regional Airport.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 FAA Airport Master Record for LAL (Form 5010 PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. Effective May 31, 2012.
  2. "2011–2015 NPIAS Report, Appendix A" (PDF, 2.03 MB). National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems. Federal Aviation Administration. October 4, 2010. External link in |work= (help)
  3. Chambliss, John. Direct Air Expects Lakeland Linder to Become a Hub of Tourism,, March 30, 2011
  4. ABC News. "Direct Air Suspends Operations". ABC News.
  5. 1 2 Caywood, Thomas (April 12, 2012). "Judge grounds Direct Air's return plan". Myrtle Beach Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  6. "SUN 'n FUN". SUN 'n FUN.
  7. "FAA Contract Tower Closure List". American Association of Airport Executives. March 22, 2013.
  8. "FAA: 149 control towers to close at small airports". USA Today. March 22, 2013.
  9. "New Air Traffic Control Tower is Under Construction at Lakeland Airport". TownNewsToday. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  10. "AirNav: KLAL - Lakeland Linder Regional Airport".
  13. The United States Military Aviation Directory, T. Kaminski and M. Williams, AIRtime Publishing, Norwalk, CT, c2000, ISBN 1-880588-29-3
  14. Draken International, Florida Trend magazine, July 2013
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