Thursday, June 23, 2011


A new airline took off at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport today.
The airport is celebrating eight new direct flights that officials say will spur more traffic in and out of the facility.
When Direct Air Flight 7704 took off Thursday at 7 a.m. for Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, it was the culmination of years of work.
Airport Director Gene Conrad said expanding Lakeland Linder from a general aviation facility that handled small private planes to taking on eight commercial departures a week was no small task.
"Obviously we had to work with TSA, put our airport security plan together, new access controls on all our doors and gates,'' Conrad said. "We had to badge close to 600 people that use the facility everyday. There's so much stuff, so many moving parts."
Conrad said the service can be a convenient alternative to Tampa, Orlando and even St. Petersburg airports.
The airline is expected to provide a boost for the entire airport, including Earhardt's Runway Grill.
"When we initially opened, we started with breakfast and then stopped because we didn't have the numbers to support,'' said restaurant owner David Layman. "But now with the new airline hopefully we will and we'll open for 3 meals, 7 days a week rather than just the two we're doing Monday thru Friday And (we'll be) adding on staff too, We're increasing employment.''
In addition to Myrtle Beach, the airline will provide direct travel to Niagara Falls, NY, Springfield, Il., Hagerstown, Maryland and Plattsburgh, NY. Officials said direct service to Puerto Rico will begin in November.