Until now, Lakeland Linder Regional Airport has been a general aviation airport, with many private and corporate aircraft based there. The charter airline Sky King recently announced that they are moving their headquarters from Sacramento, California to Lakeland Linder, bringing it one step closer to once again having scheduled airline service. Sky King provides charters for sports teams, resorts, and casinos in Tunica, Mississippi, Myrtle Beach and Atlantic City.
Sky King has one of their Boeing 737 jets parked at the airport along with 50 employees, and has already hired some local people. For the time being only airline maintenance and operations will be done at Lakeland Linder, but eventually the airline hopes to provide service using it’s fleet of several Boeing 737s. The Linder airport terminal is being updated for airline service and should be ready in March 2011.
National airlines operated from Lakeland from 1950 to 1962, then Allegheny Commuter and Sun Airlines provided service during the 1970s before deregulation. During the late 2000s Day Jet was based at Linder, offering charter services using small jets.
The airport was originally built as Drane Field in the early 1940s for Army Air Corps training, and was donated to the city of Lakeland after World War II. Lakeland already was operating Al Lodwick field nearby so the airport was nearly abandoned until 1957, when the city decided to revive the airport as Lakeland Municipal Airport. The old Al Lodwick field was converted to the spring training camp for the Detroit Tigers baseball team.
The name was changed to Lakeland Regional in 1970, and in the late 1980s it was again renamed to the present Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in honor of a local businessman. From 1970 to 1999 military operations continued in part of the field, hosting the Florida National Guard Huey helicopters.
Today Lakeland Linder covers 1528 acres and operates two runways of 8500 and 5005 feet, with about 180 aircraft based there. One corner of the field houses the corporate hangar for the Publix Supermarket chain, which is headquartered in Lakeland. The two story terminal is home to Earhart’s Runway Grill, in honor of aviatrix Amelia Earhart, and next to the terminal is a Hilton Hotel. On the southern side of the field is the Florida Air Museum, which hosts the Sun and Fun air festival and aviation convention every spring.
The City of Lakeland is about halfway between Orlando/Disney World and the Tampa Bay area, and nearby is Interstate highway 4. Greyhound bus lines stops at Lakeland.