Gene Conrad, the director of the Polk County-based airport, revealed to local news outlet WTSP that the missile was discovered inside a container on August 14 at roughly 2 p.m. local time. Within moments of the heart-stopping find, the southeast side of the airport was immediately evacuated.
Emergency responders, including members of the Lakeland Fire Department, the local branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team from nearby MacDill Air Force Base, were alerted and called to the scene to investigate.
Photos of the munition were shared on social media by MacDill AFB, which noted in a Facebook post that the missile was ultimately safely transported to a storage facility.
Upon inspection, it was determined that the projectile was a live munition, but was unarmed at the time of discovery. It was further understood that the shipment arrived at the airport with pieces of a plane that belonged to Draken International, an American aerospace and defense company that operates a “commercial fleet of tactical ex-military aircraft.”
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Draken International is a tenant of the airport and has been processing its shipments through the facility for several years. Conrad told the Times that Draken has operated at the airport for nine years, and the recent incident proved to be “a first.”
In a statement of its own on the matter, Draken International explained that its personnel had alerted officials to the scene after the team “discovered an object with questionable markings indicating it may be explosive.”
At present, the missile will stay at MacDill AFB’s storage facility until it can be properly disposed of. As for the airport, the affected portion was shuttered for a period of roughly four hours before an all clear was given by officials.