Fort Lauderdale Airport History
The original Merle Fogg Field.
Photo Credit: http://golldiecat.tripod.com/
Fort Lauderdale Daily News December 1945.
Photo Credit: http://www.broward.org/Airport/
Merle Fogg Airport opened on an abandoned 9-hole golf course on May 1, 1929. At the start of World War II, it was commissioned by the United States Navy and renamed Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale. The base was initially used for refitting civil airliners for military service before they were ferried across the South Atlantic to Europe and North Africa. NAS Fort Lauderdale later became a main training base for Naval Aviators and enlisted naval air crewmen flying the TBF and TBM Avenger for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps aboard aircraft carriers and from expeditionary airfields ashore. NAS Fort Lauderdale was the home base for Flight 19, the five TBM Avenger aircraft that disappeared in December 1945, leading in part to the notoriety of the Bermuda Triangle.
In 1966 the airport averaged 48 airline operations a day; in 1972 it averaged 173 a day. The Feb 1966 Official Airline Guide shows three nonstop departures to JFK and no other nonstops beyond Tampa and Orlando; five years later FLL had added nonstops to ATL, BAL, BOS, BUF, ORD, CLE, DTW, MSP, LGA, EWR, PHL and PIT. (Northeast's nonstop to LAX had already been dropped.)
Operations at FLL didn't grow along with Broward County's population. Low-cost traffic propelled the airport's growth in the 1990s, with Southwest opening its base in 1996, Spirit in 1999, and JetBlue in 2001. Spirit made FLL a hub in 2002 and in 2003 JetBlue made FLL a focus city.
During the 2005 hurricane season FLL was affected by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Wilma. Katrina struck as a Category 1 and caused minor damage, however the airport was closed for about a 48 hour period. However, when Hurricane Wilma made landfall in October roof damage was reported along with broken windows, damaged jetways, and destroyed canopies. The airport was closed for a period of 5 days. Hurricane Wilma was a Category 2 when its center passed to the west of FLL.
Beginning February 2007 the airport started fees to all users, including private aircraft. It is one of a handful of airports to administer fees to private pilots. A minimum charge of $10 is assessed to private aircraft which land at the airport.