Purdue University Airport

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Purdue University Airport
Aerial view, March 2007
Airport type Public
Owner Purdue University
Serves Lafayette, Indiana
Location West Lafayette, Indiana
Elevation AMSL 606 ft / 185 m
Coordinates 40°24′44″N 86°56′13″W / 40.41222°N 86.93694°W / 40.41222; -86.93694Coordinates: 40°24′44″N 86°56′13″W / 40.41222°N 86.93694°W / 40.41222; -86.93694
Website www.purdue.edu/AIRPORT/
Location of Tippecanoe County in Indiana
Location of Tippecanoe County in Indiana
LAF is located in Tippecanoe County, Indiana
Location of airport in Tippecanoe County
Direction Length Surface
ft m
10/28 6,600 2,012 Asphalt
5/23 4,225 1,288 Asphalt
Statistics (2010)
Aircraft operations 95,690
Based aircraft 83

Purdue University Airport (IATA: LAFICAO: KLAFFAA LID: LAF) is a public-use airport in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, United States. Owned by Purdue University, the airport is 2 nautical miles (3.7 km; 2.3 mi) southwest of the central business district of Lafayette,[1] in West Lafayette. Because of the heavy traffic generated by Purdue University and its flight programs, Purdue University Airport is one of the busiest airports in Indiana, second only to Indianapolis International Airport.

As per Federal Aviation Administration records, the airport had 1,959 passenger boardings (enplanements) in calendar year 2008,[2] 1,518 enplanements in 2009, and 1,405 in 2010.[3] It is included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2011–2015, which categorized it as a general aviation airport.[4] The facility no longer offers scheduled commercial airline service, and none is planned. But charters are allowed, in fact, some come in every so often for Purdue Sports Teams.[5]


Purdue University Airport was the first university-owned airport in the United States. In 1930, inventor-industrialist David Ross (one of two people for whom Purdue's Ross–Ade Stadium is named) donated a tract of land to be used as an aeronautical education and research facility at Purdue University. The U.S. government designated Purdue University Airport as an emergency landing strip on 1 November 1930; runway 5-23 was paved later in the 1930s. Amelia Earhart prepared her airplane for her around-the-world flight attempt in Hangar 1 at the airport. Earhart was an adjunct faculty member at the time and the Lockheed Model 10 Electra she flew was purchased for her by the Purdue Research Foundation.[6]

Hundreds of members of the U.S. Army, Navy, and War Training Service were trained at Purdue Airport during World War II, as were several commercial pilots from Latin America.[7] Later, the airport became the home of the first Reserve Officers' Training Corps flight program (1955).[8]

The original hangar, now referred to as the Niswonger Hall of Aviation Technology, still stands and is used by Purdue University's department of Aviation Technology for offices, classrooms, and laboratories. The bay that held Earhart's plane still contains aircraft; they are used by the Aeronautical Engineering Technology program for maintenance and inspection training. A large addition to the building was completed in the summer of 2009.[9] A plaque on the building near the side entrance commemorates the airport's history.[10]

In the early 60s, runway 10-28 and a larger hangar were built to support the Midwest Program on Airborne Television Instruction with two DC-6 aircraft.[11]

From the 1950s until the mid-2000s, Purdue University Airport received regularly scheduled commercial air service. Allegheny Airlines / Lake Central Airlines (both now part of US Airways) maintained flights to Chicago O'Hare and Pittsburgh with the latter service being operated with British Aircraft Corp. BAC One-Eleven (BAC 1-11) twinjet aircraft for a period of time. Air Wisconsin offered service to Chicago O'Hare and to Marion. Northwest Airlines (via Mesaba Air) offered service to Detroit. Lastly, TWA (via Trans States Airlines) offered service to St. Louis. As of 2013, all of these carriers have ceased operations into Purdue Airport and there is currently no commercial passenger service operated from the airport, but it is possible in the future just not planned. The service ended in February, 2004, the final service was American Eagle to St. Louis 3 times daily.

Purdue University Airport also had its own airline, Purdue Airlines in the 1960s and 1970s. Originally operating DC-3 aircraft, and then a DC-6, there were later up to three McDonnell Douglas DC-9 (Series 30) aircraft based at the Airport for charter service. One such charter was to Hugh Hefner for his all-black DC-9 Playboy jet (maintained periodically at the Airport).

Evergreen International maintained a short-lived cargo operation at the Airport in the late 1970s using Lockheed L-188 Electra turboprop aircraft.

President Ronald Reagan and Air Force One (then a military version of a Boeing 707) visited Purdue University Airport on April 9, 1987. He later wrote a letter concerning a list of questions to the editor of the Purdue Exponent concerning his optimism about the future of relations between the United States and the Soviet Union and his favorable impression of what he saw at Purdue.

Facilities and aircraft[edit]

Purdue University Airport has an FAA-staffed air traffic control tower and is the second busiest tower in Indiana.[12]

The airport covers an area of 527 acres (213 ha) at an elevation of 606 feet (185 m) above mean sea level. It has two asphalt paved runways: 10/28 is 6,600 by 150 feet (2,012 x 46 m) and 5/23 is 4,225 by 100 feet (1,288 x 30 m).[1]

Runway 10 has a Category 1 ILS approach. Runways 10 and 28 are both served by GPS WAAS approaches. Additionally, a VOR-A approach is available.[13]

Runway 10 is occasionally used in a shortened configuration: aircraft land at the beginning of the runway but do not use its full length to stop. Instead, they hold short of the intersecting runway 5/23. Known as a land and hold short operation (LAHSO), this procedure is relatively common in the United States and allows both runways to be used at the same time. Pilots have the ability to reject the LAHSO clearance if they need the full runway to ensure a safe landing.[14]

Runway 23 has a displaced threshold, which shortens the runway to 3,913 ft for landing operations.[13]

For the 12-month period ending December 31, 2010, the airport had 95,690 aircraft operations, an average of 262 per day: 99% general aviation, 1% air taxi, and <1% military. At that time there were 83 aircraft based at this airport: 80% single-engine, 15% multi-engine, 2% jet, and 4% helicopter.[1]

FedEx donated a 727 to Purdue, which is taxied through the airport every once in a while. United Airlines donated a 737, which was subsequently torn apart and given to the Department of Aviation Technology's aircraft mechanics program. In October of 2014, Comair donated a Bombardier CRJ-100, which was then customized with Purdue logos near the cabin door and on the tail.


  1. ^ a b c d FAA Airport Master Record for LAF (Form 5010 PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. Effective April 5, 2012.
  2. ^ "Enplanements for CY 2008" (PDF, 1.0 MB). CY 2008 Passenger Boarding and All-Cargo Data. Federal Aviation Administration. December 18, 2009. 
  3. ^ "Enplanements for CY 2010" (PDF, 189 KB). CY 2010 Passenger Boarding and All-Cargo Data. Federal Aviation Administration. October 4, 2011. 
  4. ^ "2011–2015 NPIAS Report, Appendix A" (PDF, 2.03 MB). National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems. Federal Aviation Administration. October 4, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Pilot/Aircraft/Ground Services". Purdue University. Retrieved December 7, 2010. 
  6. ^ AIAA, pp. 2–3.
  7. ^ Topping, p. 240.
  8. ^ AIAA, p. 4.
  9. ^ Soumitro, Sen. "Purdue dedicates Niswonger Aviation Technology Building". Purdue University. Retrieved December 7, 2010. 
  10. ^ Holsapple, Matt. "Purdue Airport recognized as aviation historical site". Purdue University. Retrieved December 7, 2010. 
  11. ^ Topping, p. 324.
  12. ^ "Lafayette Tower Information". National Air Traffic Controller's Association – Local LAF. Retrieved December 10, 2011. 
  13. ^ a b "Purdue University Airport Lafayette, Indiana, USA". AirNav (FAA data). Retrieved December 7, 2010. 
  14. ^ "Pilot Responsibilities When Conducting Land and Hold Short Operations (LAHSO)". AOPA. Retrieved December 7, 2010. 

External links[edit]