Hurricane Hunters to Leave MacDill
The aircraft, part of NOAA’s fleet of nine specialized environmental data-gathering aircraft, will move to Lakeland Linder Regional Airport.
TAMPA BAY – Federal, state, and local officials have cut the ribbon on the new facility for NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in Lakeland.
The center is the main base for NOAA’s nine specialized environmental data-gathering aircraft, including the agency’s three “hurricane hunter” planes. The fleet is moving there from MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa where it has been housed since 1993. The search for a new home began in February 2016 when the U.S. Air Force required the hangar and facilities AOC has occupied as a tenant since 1993. No other NOAA operations in the Tampa Bay area are affected.
“Our new state of the art home in Lakeland ensures NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center will continue to protect lives and property by collecting the high-quality data our hurricane forecasters need to keep Americans safe from severe weather,” said Ben Friedman, acting NOAA administrator. “I offer my sincere thanks to all of our partners for their great work in getting us ready for operations in this new facility so quickly.”
NOAA aircraft play a vital role in collecting environmental data essential to protecting lives and property, conserving and managing coastal as well as marine resources, and understanding weather and climate. NOAA’s aircraft fleet is maintained and operated by a team of 110 civilians and officers of the NOAA Corps, one of the nation’s uniformed services, which can trace its roots back to 1807 and President Thomas Jefferson.
Designed by the Lunz Group and built by Register Construction, the new facility includes a 58,000-square-foot aircraft hangar, office space, and facilities for aircraft repairs and component storage.
NOAA awarded a 10-year lease to the city of Lakeland in November following a competitive lease award process. NOAA sought to lease a facility after being notified by the U.S. Air Force in February 2016 that MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, required the hangar and facilities AOC has occupied as a tenant since 1993.
The lease competition was open to airport facilities within 50 road-miles of the MacDill Air Force Base main gate. NOAA took into account the need to retain AOC’s highly skilled and specialized workforce when defining the lease competition area.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Plant City, said Lakeland Linder has proven to be the perfect location for the operation. Because of its inland location, the airport is protected from many hurricane force winds and already serves as a logistical staging area for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the State Emergency Response team. The AOC will further serve as the main base for NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations’ aircraft fleet, and provide capable, mission-ready aircraft and professional crews to the scientific community, he said.
Ross represents Florida’s 15th Congressional District, which includes a part of Hillsborough and Polk and Lakes counties.
For information about NOAA, go to noaa.gov.
Photo of new facility at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport courtesy of NOAA.
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