Lakefront Airport is a public use airport located four nautical miles (5 mi, 7 km) northeast of the central business district of New Orleans, in Orleans Parish, Louisiana, United States. Owned by the Orleans Levee District, it is included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2011–2015, which categorized it as a general aviation reliever airport.
Originally the major commercial airport in the New Orleans area, Lakefront Airport relinquished that role in 1946 when commercial airline service began from Louis Armstrong International Airport, a significantly larger facility located in the nearby suburb of Kenner. Lakefront Airport continues to serve as a general aviation airport with charter, private, and occasional military operations taking place. Commercial airline service is also available to destinations within the Gulf South Region. The terminal building’s interior retains much of its original lavish 1930s decoration, and the art deco exterior, obscured for decades by a “bomb-proof” facade installed after World War II, has recently been returned to its original appearance. The terminal building housed a restaurant frequented by nearby residents, the Walnut Room, but this has yet to reopen, post-Katrina. The sculpture installation in front of the terminal, “Fountain of the Winds” by Enrique Alferez, is a local landmark.
Lakefront Airport was damaged by hurricane-force winds and the storm surge of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and a number of the hangars and outlying buildings were destroyed. While the airport soon resumed functioning, restoration of the terminal building and other facilities proceeds slowly. With the exterior of the main terminal fully restored however, the classic Art Deco building was used as the headquarters of the fictional company Ferris Aircraft in the 2011 action hero film Green Lantern (film) starring Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively
LAKEFRONT AIRPORT HISTORY
The airport was constructed in the mid-1930s by Huey Long on a man-made peninsula dredged by the Orleans Levee Board, jutting into Lake Pontchartrain on the Eastern New Orleans side of the Industrial Canal. It was originally named Shushan Airport after Levee Board president Abraham Shushan. The airport was inaugurated on 10 February 1934. Visitors noticed that every doorknob, window sill, countertop, and plumbing fixture either had the name or the initials of Abe Shushan. The airport was soon thereafter renamed New Orleans Airport, and was assigned the airport code “NEW”, which it retains despite its current name.
Main terminal in late 2005, before restoration
During World War II, the airfield was used by the United States Army Air Forces and housed the Tropical Weather School in 1945.
At the start of the 1960s, thick concrete panels were added to the main terminal building to turn it into a Cold War era bomb shelter.
Lakefront Airport was badly damaged by storm surge during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and again during Hurricane Isaac in 2012. While the airport was quickly brought back to service, many facilities remained in temporary trailers for years after Katrina.
On January 23, 2010 a United States Navy Beechcraft T-34 Mentor training aircraft crashed into Lake Ponchartrain just over one mile from the approach end of the airport. The aircraft was intending to land at Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base New Orleans but diverted to Lakefront Airport due to weather. The student pilot on board survived, however, the instructor drowned. According to official reports, the aircrew lost track of their altitude which resulted in their ditching in the lake.
Post-Katrina reconstruction at the airport has included restoration of the main terminal building’s original Art Deco facade. The Art Deco interior and restoration of the Shushan terminal is being filmed for a television documentary titled, Return Flight. Filming began in 2012 and will conclude in 2013 when the restoration draws to a close.
LAKEFRONT AIRPORT LOCATION
LAKEFRONT AIRPORT FACTS
Elevation: 7 ft.
Runway length available: 09/27 3113×75 ft. :: 18R/36L 6880×150 ft. :: 18L/36R 3697×75 ft.