An aviation company based in Washington State has purchased the South Lakeland airport and, according to the new owners, plan to convert it into a training and support center.
- Triton Aerospace purchased airport for $2 million
- Company manufactures aircraft in China
- Owners expect new center to bring about 100 jobs to the area
Triton Aerospace bought the airport for $2 million, according to the Polk County Property Appraisers Office.The company is based in Washington State, and manufactures planes in China.
Thomas Hsueh, the owner of Triton Aerospace, said he plans to make the South Lakeland Airport a training and support center for the aircraft he develops and manufactures.
“Florida is the perfect place for training," said Hsueh. "You got flat, flat, flat place and then sunshine everyday, so you can train 365 days a year.”
Hsueh hopes local flight schools will purchase his latest aircraft, Skytrek, which is a two seater, special light sport airplane that runs on regular fuel. According to Hsueh, it’s the first special light sport aircraft to be certified by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and be built in China.
Hsueh wants to build his customer base in China. In order to do that, he plans to bring Chinese pilots to the South Lakeland Airport to train them to be licensed instructors, so they can teach people how to fly back home.
“China is very big, a lot of people but maybe only a handful has (sic) private license," said Hsueh. "So the potential of bringing Chinese over here is tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands. So, I envision we’re going to have a very intense training program."
John Leenhouts, president of the nearby Sun’N’Fun International Fly-In and Aerospace Center for Excellence, said he’s glad to see a big company moving in and helping to train more people to become pilots.
“We’re thrilled another aviation company is moving into the region that will provide not only aviation opportunities to fly, but also to learn to fly and provide possibly aircraft that could be sold, creating jobs and again aviation exposure for the youth in the area,” said Leenhouts.
Hsueh said he also plans to make improvements to the South Lakeland Airport, such as paving the ends of the runways. He expects the complex will bring about 100 jobs to the area.