Under the leadership of the CITY OF PALATKA City Commission and the City Manager, together with Airport Staff and Passero Associates, Airport Engineers, Palatka is an aviation portal of the future, steeping in the riches of its historical past.
The Airport was founded in 1938 with just 214 original acres. On June 1, 1942, the U.S. Navy, under a government lease, acquired the Airport from the City and subsequently, in 1943, acquired additional land. On August 21, 1942, the Airport was officially named “Kay Larkin Field” for a local U.S. Army Air Corp pilot instructor and Palatka native killed during the Second World War. In 1946, the War Assets Administration turned the Airport back to the City.
Shortly after that, the United States Postal Service, realizing the value of the location, included a Palatka leg in their north Florida airmail run. This postal air service ran from Tallahassee to Lake City to Gainesville to Ocala to Orlando up the east coast to Sanford to Deland to Palatka to St. Augustine to Jacksonville back to Gainesville and to Lake City and back to Tallahassee. See First Flight, postmarked 7-AM, March 25, 1947.
In the early 1960s, commercial service would likely be initiated in the Palatka area. To accommodate this service, a terminal building of approximately 1,400-sq. ft. was constructed and dedicated in January of 1963. In September of 1963, South Central Airlines started servicing Palatka and the Central Florida area and continued for approximately two years, discontinuing service in 1965.
Shortly after that, the City leased operation to outside FBOs but resumed complete operation in the early 1980s. And over the decades, Palatka’s founders initiated capital improvements and developed infrastructure, a series of improvements that continues today and has progressed us forward into today’s world of General Aviation. In fact, during just 2008 and 2009 alone, more than $8 million has been invested. This included not only airfield improvements such as runway/taxiway resurfacing and drainage preservation projects but also the installation of the long-awaited AWOS III-T, new hangars, and the most visible improvement to date: a 4,000 sq ft, all-inclusive brand new FBO/Terminal Building, which is now open and is the showpiece of the City.
Palatka Municipal Airport is the gem of the City, having grown to over 730 acres. It features three (3) active runways, 3000’ pvd., 3500’ pvd., MIRL, PAPI, and the 6003’ Primary Runway 09/27, pvd., MIRL, PAPI, GPS, and NDB, accommodating 65,000 lb duel wheel landing.
With the earlier closure of the fourth runway, Palatka now features an adjacent Industrial Park with an attached Business Park. On the field sits the General Ramp area, 54 t-hangers, 3 Commercial Hangers, 2 Executive Hangers, 1 Corporate Hangar, and self-serve/full-serve fuel capabilities for both 100LL and Jet A, over the wing and single point.
From the Corsairs of WW II to the Gulf Streams of today, this aviation port in Palatka has been part of a local transportation system that was once dominated by river boats of old for maritime traffic, maritime that’s still supported by the Fort Gates Ferry of today and the familiar sight of barges servicing a river peppered with local modern industry. This aviation port in Palatka has been part of a local transportation system that offers buses and historical trolleys over the road, where Amtrak and CSX ride the rails, and major highways are only the next red light away. Today the Airport is the leader of that transportation system.
Ideally located, Palatka Municipal Airport is prime for the picking in the economic and development boom being experienced in northeast Florida. Airport construction, upgrades, and capital improvement projects have elevated 28J to a “hot spot” for industrial and commercial development.
Palatka Municipal Airport’s Master Plan calls for additional improvements that will coincide with such an explosion and continue the City’s vision of an inland transportation hub, an aviation port of integrated multimodal transportation, anchoring the area’s business and commercial trade.
The 1942 “Kay” Larkin Memorial still stands today as it was dedicated decades ago. On the field still stands an original Quonset Hut of WW II, a military spec and bunker-style structure. And mixed in with the plethora of design group aircraft, modern military aircraft from all service branches still frequent Kay Larkin Field for training exercises.