Lodwick Aviation Military Academy
Avon Park Municipal Airport
Avon Park, Florida
This site is located in the Central region of the state. The latitude and longitude of the site is 27-35-28.122N / 081-31-40.272W.
Army Air Corps (AAC) Chief, General Henry “Hap” Arnold, turned primary pilot training over to other agencies in an attempt to allow the AAC personnel time to concentrate on later stages of training. As a consequence of this policy a number of civilian pilot training schools were employed for training purposes. Town fathers in Avon Park aggressively sought such a school to be located at the site of the Avon Park Municipal Airport. Negotiations with Albert Lodwick, co-owner of the Lakeland School of Aeronautics resulted in Lodwick Aviation Military Academy (LAMA) opening in October 1941 at the municipal field.
By adapting the former Highlands Lakes Hotel, a former golf course, an old casino, and several former resort structures, Lodwick created a primary training school using fifty Stearman PT-17 trainers. Because of multiple locations, it was necessary to transport students by bus between barracks and airfield. Using the remodeled hotel however, provided recruits with accommodations more luxurious than most other Army installations. The Jacaranda Hotel in Avon Park, a National Register of Historic Places listed site, reserved a special room for use as a Cadet Club. The cadets each paid $1.00 monthly for membership and hosted a dance for the first graduating class on December 6, 1941. Severe housing shortages, particularly for civilian employees, contributed to problematic turnovers at both LAMA and Avon Park Army Air Field. Many of these civilian employees were women.
With the successful prosecution of the war on the part of the Allies, Lodwick Aviation Military Academy was order closed on November 6, 1944. During the three years of operation, 3,413 recruits graduated and over 300 civilians were employed during peak periods. The economic loss to Avon Park was dramatic.
At the end of the war the facility reverted back to the city for operation as the Avon Park Municipal Airport. In February 1995 the Air Force Association placed plaques at the Jacaranda Hotel in Avon Park, the Avon Park Municipal Airport, and the on the grounds of the former Walker Memorial Hospital (Highlands Lakes Hotel and Casino) to honor the men of the 61st AAFFTD.