Purdue University Airport
|Purdue University Airport|
Aerial view, March 2007
|Location||West Lafayette, Indiana|
|Elevation AMSL||606 ft / 185 m|
Location of Tippecanoe County in Indiana
Purdue University Airport (IATA: LAF, ICAO: KLAF, FAA 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, 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, 1,518 enplanements in 2009, and 1,405 in 2010. It is included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2011–2015, which categorized it as a general aviation airport. The facility no longer offers scheduled commercial airline service. Airline flights operated for over 40 years, then abruptly ended in the mid 2000s. As of early 2017, Adam Baxmeyer is the airport manager.
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.
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. Later, the airport became the home of the first Reserve Officers' Training Corps flight program (1955).
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. A plaque on the building near the side entrance commemorates the airport's history.
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.
Purdue University Airport also had its own airline, Purdue Airlines until 1971. 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.  One CD-9 that was based at the airport was operated by Purdue Airlines on behalf of, and painted in the livery of Hugh Hefner for his Playboy jet.
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.
From the year 1960 until the mid-2000s, Purdue University Airport received regularly scheduled commercial air service. The airport saw as many as 45,000 passengers, that was back in 1979 when the airport was served by Air Wisconsin and Indiana Airways. 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. Great Lakes airlines operated daily flights to Chicago O'hare on a Beechcraft 1900, under the name of United Express. American Airlines offered service to O'Hare International Airport via its American Eagle line until the mid 1990s, when flights were halted after several crashes of the ATR aircraft operated by American Eagle, including the Roselawn, Indiana crash in October, 1994 (which had been operating from Indianapolis to O'Hare). These flights operated from the 90's until February 2001. Northwest Airlines (via Mesaba Air) also offered service to Detroit on saab 340's until late 2002. Lastly, American Connection (via Corporate Airlines) offered daily service to St. Louis on a Bae Jestream 32. This was the airports last scheduled airline service, and operated from December 1, 2001 until February 15, 2004. As of 2016, all of these carriers have ceased operations into Purdue Airport and there is currently no commercial passenger service operated from the airport. The airport has supposedly gone into talks with airlines, but none have gone far enough as to start service. In 2009, the airport proposed two daily round trip flights to and from Chicago's O'hare. This service, which would have been operated by Expressjet, never passed the planning phase. In 2016, the Lafayette Journal and Courier reported on the possibility of United Airlines flying to LAF, as the airline had announced that it was expanding operations in the midwest. The article was soon followed by another article, where Adam Baxmeyer confirmed that United wasn't coming to the airport.
Facilities and aircraft
Purdue University Airport has an FAA-staffed air traffic control tower and is the second busiest tower in Indiana.
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).
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.
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.
FedEx donated a 727 to Purdue, which was eventually torn apart. United Airlines donated a 737, which was subsequently torn apart and given to the Department of Aviation Technology's aircraft mechanics program. In October 2014, Comair donated a Bombardier CRJ-100, which was then customized with Purdue logos near the cabin door and on the tail.
The airport is also home to two medical helicopters. One of the helicopters, an EC-145, is operated by Metro Aviation, Inc. for IU Health LifeLine.
The airport has one passenger terminal, which was used for air service until early 2004. The building was built in 1943, and houses an aviation library, offices, and more. The passenger area now is used for a ground shuttle service. Very little remains from the commercial service, only seats, luggage carts, and a few signs.
Aircraft Operations Gallery
- American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (2005). "Historic Aerospace Site: Purdue University Airport, West Lafayette, Indiana" (PDF). Retrieved 10 December 2011.
- Topping, Robert W. (1988). A Century and Beyond: The History of Purdue University. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press. ISBN 0-911198-95-4.
- FAA Airport Master Record for LAF ( PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. Effective April 5, 2012.
- "Enplanements for CY 2008" (PDF, 1.0 MB). CY 2008 Passenger Boarding and All-Cargo Data. Federal Aviation Administration. December 18, 2009. External link in
- "Enplanements for CY 2010" (PDF, 189 KB). CY 2010 Passenger Boarding and All-Cargo Data. Federal Aviation Administration. October 4, 2011. External link in
- "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
- "Pilot/Aircraft/Ground Services". Purdue University. Retrieved December 7, 2010.
- AIAA, pp. 2–3.
- Topping, p. 240.
- AIAA, p. 4.
- Soumitro, Sen. "Purdue dedicates Niswonger Aviation Technology Building". Purdue University. Retrieved December 7, 2010.
- Holsapple, Matt. "Purdue Airport recognized as aviation historical site". Purdue University. Retrieved December 7, 2010.
- Topping, p. 324.
- "Lafayette Tower Information". National Air Traffic Controller's Association – Local LAF. Retrieved December 10, 2011.
- "Pilot Responsibilities When Conducting Land and Hold Short Operations (LAHSO)". AOPA. Retrieved December 7, 2010.
- Purdue University Airport, official site
- Key Events in the History of the Purdue Airport
- National Air Traffic Controllers Association LAF HOMEPAGE
- Aerial image as of April 1998 from USGS The National Map
- (PDF), effective March 2, 2017
- FAA Terminal Procedures for LAF, effective March 2, 2017
- Resources for this airport: