Lake Wales Municipal Airport
a growing airport in the center of the Sunshine State
With an enviable location, impressive operation upgrades, and an ever-increasing number of flights, Lake Wales Municipal Airport is poised to take off
It isn’t just real estate that benefits from location, location, location. Airports can certainly benefit from being conveniently located. Air passengers looking for a central point in which to travel to surrounding attractions will look for airports that can provide this ease of travel upon landing. For Lake Wales Municipal Airport, the close proximity to tourist destinations including Orlando and even Miami makes it a continuous draw for private flights in and out.
“Our airport has a variety of general aviation,” explains Amanda Lomneck “Everything from regular small private aircraft up to medium-sized jets for business charters or tourism. Since we’re centrally located in the state, it’s easy to get pretty much anywhere from here. One of the main attractions in Lake Wales is Bok Tower, and then a lot of people come to Mountain Lake Golf Course.”
“Besides general aviation, we have some military operations that take place here. They’re not based here, but they come here to train. We have a little bit of agriculture spraying as well as PPGs and skydiving seven days a week. We have pretty much everything except commercial service at this airport,” Lomneck describes.
Lake Wales Municipal Airport in the city of Lake Wales, Florida, is a publicly owned airport that operates in conjunction with the city departments, as its own FBO with fuel farm, hangars, and pilot services.
There are two runways, the main runway is 5400 feet while the secondary runway is 4000. There is a full-length parallel taxiway as well as a paved apron. There is a privately operated flight school, Fun Flight Training which has two instructors and also handles private recertification flights. JUMP Florida has both a skydiving facility and an aircraft maintenance facility on a land lease agreement.
Like many smaller regional airports, Lake Wales traces its history back to the United States Army Air Force, which took a civil airfield and turned it into an auxiliary airfield for the Sarasota Army Airfield in 1943. The airport would revert to the city in 1945 and has continued to grow ever since.
“Before the pandemic, in 2019, we saw 11,000 operations, while the total operations for this past year are right at 18,000,” says Lomneck. This represents an increase of approximately 7,000 operations.
“I work for the City of Lake Wales and so the airport has a very close relationship with everyone at City Hall. I have weekly meetings with members of management up there so that everybody stays in the same loop,” Lomneck continues. “It is about sharing opportunities and being able to work together on growth. The whole city is growing, and the airport is a part of that which is why we are working to grow our capabilities as well.”
In terms of promotion, one of the airport’s main partnerships is with Leadership Lake Wales. This program takes teenagers and adults on tours of the facilities allowing them to experience a different side of aviation. As Lomneck points out, most people only go to commercial airports and fly on jetliners, they have little understanding of any other type of flying. It is also a way for them to be introduced to careers they might not have otherwise considered.
“When it comes to infrastructure, we had our fuel farm apron repaved,” Lomneck says.
“This also created more tie-down spaces for overnight aircraft. Almost all our pavement except our secondary runway is new within the last three to four years. And then we have the maintenance facility which JUMP built as well as a row of four large corporate hangars which were a private build ground lease. Our largest upcoming project is to rebuild our fuel farm.”
Lomneck points out that the airport has two aging 10,000-gallon tanks and with extra funding from the FAA and the Florida Department of Transportation, Lake Wales Municipal airport will be receiving two 12,000-gallon fuel tanks.
“These tanks will also have the ability to offload fuel and so we will be purchasing fuel trucks. We also had a wildlife hazard assessment done, which has resulted in a few landscaping changes as well as the realization that we need to extend our security fence along the south side of the airport as well. That is all cattle ranches, and we have cattle fencing, but the assessment determined it was not sufficient,” she describes.
“This coming year we also hope to take some of the extra funding and do some small security upgrades. We need a few more security cameras, and one of our gates is still a padlocked gate, which we would like to put onto our secure card entry system.”
Lake Wales Airport has also recently completed a new master plan – which is now in the final stages of FAA revision. The master plan is largely concerned with the development of the east side of the airport over the next few years.
This area already has some development but the hope is to build on that and create more T-Hangars. There seems to be a shortage across the country and as private aviation continues to grow, there will be a need. The plan also calls for the development of a business park for non-aeronautical commercial space but growing the overall footprint, both physically as well as economically to the region.
“I think that the airport is extremely fundamental for growing the city,” Says Lomneck, “We have such a centrally located space and that is huge – we might not be an international airport, but we are still a gateway airport to the region. From Lake Wales you can drive to Tampa, Orlando, and Miami – we are centrally located and surrounded by tourism and tourist attractions.”
She highlights that “We are here to cater to the needs of those people who don’t want to deal with the stress of going to the international airport. At the same time, we offer every amenity that you would receive at those larger places in a more personal way. I mean, I may be biased, but if you want to visit central Florida, this is the best place to come.”
“I feel like I have the best job in the world,” she concludes, “Because I get to experience so much diversity and see so many things. There are prop planes and jets, military aircraft, helicopters, paramotors, skydiving… I know I have come full circle, but I love aviation, and in an airport like this you see so much of it, in so many different ways.
Reflecting further on her exciting role she concludes, “You really never know what is going to happen, one day it is a military helicopter and the next a glider. I’ve even seen some ultralights that look like spacecraft. I guess that’s my favorite part, I am surprised on a daily basis by something new, and that keeps it interesting.”
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AT A GLANCE
Lake Wales Municipal Airport
WHAT: A general aviation airport
WHERE: Lake Wales, Polk County, Florida