A flight departs from runway 12/30 at the Lake Buena Vista STOL Airport.
What is S.T.O.L.? Short Takeoff and Landing. A reference to a short runway, used primarily for puddle-jumping commuter flights. This one happens to be one of the neatest hidden things in Walt Disney World.
Lake Buena Vista STOL airport was built in 1971 on a patch of land just East of the Walt Disney World Speedway. The STOL was a private airstrip intended for Walt Disney World guests and employees. With no hangers, and enough room to accommodate only four airplanes, the STOL was a small port. To Walt Disney World, the airport served as a living concept – a test of a much larger airport. The vision for a full-service airport was never realized.
All passenger service was halted in the 1980s. The growth of the resorts, parks, and monorail system would doom the airport to it’s present use – a staging area for trucks and buses. The STOL is still visible from the monorail and the roadway. Just look to your left as you drive South past the turn-in for Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort.
Even though it has not serviced a flight in 30 years, the upkeep of the runway is meticulous. A dedicated group of Cast Members ensure that to short runway is kept in perfect form – you never know when you’ll need a runway.
Since 2003, an FAA-mandated no-fly zone has been in effect over Walt Disney World. Check out this link to see the details. Pilots can apply for waivers to fly over the park – out of thousands of applications since 2003, few have been approved.
We will be profiling Shawnee Airlines very soon. This is the airline that serviced the STOL in the 1970s – Stay tuned, they have a great history and some better paint jobs on their aircraft.