On November 16, 2017, Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in Lakeland, Florida commissioned its airport facility as the newest port of entry for U.S. Customs and Border Protection clearance. Four pilots who arrived into the Lakeland Airport facility out of Grand Bahama Island on a Cessna 182 series aircraft, owned by Sun n Fun, were the first international pilots and aircraft to be welcomed into the new facility.
The pilots, students and graduates of the Lakeland Aero Club, arrived Lakeland Linder Regional Airport on November 16, at 4:30 p.m. and by 4:38 p.m. they had officially cleared U.S. Customs. They were met and welcomed by Captain Greg Rolle, Sr. Director of Sports and Vertical Markets for The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation (MOTA) alongside a line of city officials.
Captain Mike Zidziunas, Bahamas Flying Ambassador and President of the Lakeland Aero Club and Captain Greg Rolle coordinated the historic inaugural landing and customs clearance.
“Lakeland’s new facility should result in an increase level of business to The Bahamas for pilots wishing to conduct fly-ins and travel to The Bahamas. The airport which, is located on the southern end of Florida, provides additional opportunities for pilots who prefer to travel directly into The Bahamas without venturing Far East to clear U.S. Customs,” said Captain Mike.
The Cessna departed Lakeland Regional Airport at 8:30 a.m. on November 16, with the three pilots led by Captain Mike. They toured Grand Bahama Island, ate lunch and held a meeting with executives of the MOTA Grand Bahama office before returning to Lakeland Linder Regional Airport to become the first international flight and pilots to clear U.S. Customs in the new facility.
According to Captain Greg Rolle, a pilot and former President of the International Federal Partnership alliance, “the one day flight conducted by the young pilots was monumental for The Bahamas because it demonstrated the ease and convenience of flying into and out of The Bahamas. Additionally, the historic flight further highlighted the strong working relationship that The Bahamas government enjoys with the U.S. government agencies in particular, the Department of Customs and Border Protection,
as well as with Sun n Fun organization, which operates the 2nd largest aviation convention and airshow in the U.S.A. We look forward to the endless growth opportunities that this new ‘customs cleared” airport will bring for aviation into The Bahamas,” he said.
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