We derive aerosol extinction profiles from airborne and space-based lidar backscatter signals by constraining the retrieval with column aerosol optical thickness (AOT), with no need to rely on assumptions about aerosol type or lidar ratio. The backscatter data were acquired by the NASA Langley Research Center airborne High Spectral Resolution Lidar (HSRL) and by the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization (CALIOP) instrument on the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) satellite. The HSRL also simultaneously measures aerosol extinction coefficients independently using the high spectral resolution lidar technique, thereby providing an ideal data set for evaluating the retrieval. We retrieve aerosol extinction profiles from both HSRL and CALIOP attenuated backscatter data constrained with HSRL, Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), and Multiangle Imaging Spectroradiometer column AOT. The resulting profiles are compared with the aerosol extinction measured by HSRL. Retrievals are limited to cases where the column aerosol thickness is greater than 0.2 over land and 0.15 over water. In the case of large AOT, the results using the Aqua MODIS constraint over water are poorer than Aqua MODIS over land or Terra MODIS. The poorer results relate to an apparent bias in Aqua MODIS AOT over water observed in August 2007. This apparent bias is still under investigation. Finally, aerosol extinction coefficients are derived from CALIPSO backscatter data using AOT from Aqua MODIS for 28 profiles over land and 9 over water. They agree with coincident measurements by the airborne HSRL to within ±0.016 km−1 ± 20% for at least two-thirds of land points and within ±0.028 km−1 ± 20% for at least two-thirds of ocean points.