May 15, 2024

Purdue commercial air service underway following inaugural flight, groundbreaking

Purdue commercial air service underway following inaugural flight, groundbreaking

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Commercial air service has returned to the Purdue University Airport, marking the next chapter in the university’s storied tradition of aviation.

At 6:20 a.m. Wednesday (May 15), the first Southern Airways Express flight departed Purdue University Airport (LAF) in West Lafayette, traveling to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD). Southern Airways will operate flights between the two airports seven days a week, with 24 weekly round-trip flights currently planned. Purdue and Surf Air Mobility Inc. (NYSE: SRFM) agreed last December to begin scheduled commuter air service between LAF and ORD.

Wednesday’s flights mark the return of commercial air service to the Purdue University Airport for the first time since 2004 and follow a ceremonial first flight and groundbreaking event held Tuesday (May 14) for the university’s new Amelia Earhart Terminal.


At Tuesday’s event, Purdue University officials were joined by Southern Airways Express leaders and community and industry representatives to celebrate a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Amelia Earhart Terminal in Hangar 2 at Purdue University Airport. Rob Wynkoop, vice president of Purdue Administrative Operations, provided opening remarks and was followed by Stan Little, founder and CEO of Southern Airways Express; Myung Kim, acting chief of staff for the Transportation Security Administration; and Purdue President Mung Chiang, who spoke about the partnership and what it means for the future.

ceremonial-flight A ceremonial first flight takes off Tuesday (May 14) from Purdue University Airport following a groundbreaking event for the university’s new Amelia Earhart Terminal. (Purdue University photo/Kelsey Lefever) Download image

After the groundbreaking, Chiang, Little, members of the university’s Board of Trustees and Greater Lafayette community leaders boarded a Purdue-branded Southern Airways plane and made a local, ceremonial flight to mark the occasion. 

“Bringing commercial airline services to Purdue University Airport is a milestone that reflects the continued momentum of economic growth of Greater Lafayette and will further accelerate job creation and enhance quality of life for our neighbors,” Chiang said. “As we break ground also for the new Amelia Earhart Terminal at LAF, we thank all the partners at federal, state and local levels and Southern Airways Express as we embark on the next journey following a long tradition of ‘Purdue flies.’”

The return of commercial flights furthers Chiang’s ABCD strategy, in which the “A” stands for airport and aims to provide the university’s students, faculty, staff and families, as well as residents and businesses in Greater Lafayette, with easier, faster connections.

As the local connection to the world, round-trip flights from West Lafayette to O’Hare can provide access to more than 240 connecting destinations. When flying out of LAF, travelers can enjoy numerous benefits, including:

  • Shorter security lines and less time in the airport.
  • Flight time under an hour compared to a multi-hour drive to ORD.
  • Bus fare or gas savings.
  • Cheaper parking rates than other airports in the region.
  • Interline partnership and seamless connections via American, United, Alaska and Hawaiian airlines.
  • Ability to walk gate-to-gate in ORD without going through security with interline airlines.

“I would like to recognize and thank all of the individuals whose persistence made it possible for us to be here today,” Wynkoop said. “Each of you played a critical role in bringing commercial air service back to our community, and we’ll soon have a new terminal building that will not only support this service but will honor a legend in aviation and someone who embodied the Boilermaker spirit, Amelia Earhart.”

Construction on the new, $11.8 million, approximately 9,400-square-foot terminal building will commence this month with completion expected in August 2025. Planned to be located directly west of the existing airport terminal, the Amelia Earhart Terminal will include ticketing, passenger screening, baggage claim and a waiting area to comply with Transportation Security Administration and Federal Aviation Administration requirements.

“Southern Airways is honored to partner with Purdue, America’s leading aviation university, as we not only bring commercial flights back to West Lafayette for the first time in a generation, but also develop the next generation of airline leaders,” Little said. “The CEOs of tomorrow are the Purdue graduates of today, and I’m excited about that.”

Information about booking flights can be found here:

Media contact: Tim Doty,

Note to journalists: Video b-roll from the commercial flight ceremony is available via Google Drive.

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