AirTAP – Minnesota’s “One Stop Shop”

by Jim Bildilli
Published in Midwest Flyer – February/March 2019 issue

Whether you are a full or part-time airport operator or manager, the state of Minnesota has created a program that can furnish resources to help answer questions and provide solutions to an array of problems.

In 2001, the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Office of Aeronautics, and the University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies, formed a partnership to assist airport managers, airport consultants, airport sponsors and fixed base operators, called the “Airport Technical Assistance Program” or simply “AirTAP.” The Minnesota Council of Airports (MCOA) was also a key player in the development of the program.

Whether an airport is big or small, the day-to-day problems encountered are very similar and usually only differ in magnitude. Needless to say, those who manage or are responsible for the operation of airports also vary from the professionally trained airport manager to the unpaid volunteer. AirTAP was created to provide information resources, training and a network for exchanging ideas amongst those individuals charged with managing the airport. The concept is somewhat parallel to the idea of not “re-inventing the wheel” where others can benefit from those with the expertise and experience.

AirTAP provides assistance through a mix of formal education and training programs, specific technical assistance, various publications and its website www.airtap.umn.edu. Its goal is to provide access to information and training that ultimately will reduce costs, and improve the overall safety and efficiency of airport operations.

Although the funding is provided by MNDOT Aeronautics, the University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies administers the program which includes the annual Minnesota Airports Conference, and the Fall Fly-Around and Forums. In addition, there is also specific technical training covering wildlife control, airport lighting and pavement preservation, emergency and safety management practices, and since this is Minnesota, snow and ice control. Recently AirTAP presented an “Airport 101” program for those seeking to know more about managing an airport. Through its website, you can download a quarterly newsletter entitled “AirTAP Briefings” and a myriad of publications and guides covering the promotion of your airport, to best management practices.

Through its website, you can also link to additional helpful publications including those produced by the Transportation Research Board’s Airport Cooperative Research Program.

Bill Towle, manager of St. Cloud Regional Airport, St. Cloud, Minnesota, says this about the program: “AirTAP has been very beneficial, not only to me here in St. Cloud, but to the entire state of Minnesota. AirTAP has been able to offer item-specific training on things like NOTAMS, snow removal and emergency management for my operations and maintenance staff, and has been able to provide it right here in-state, which saves me lots of time and money over sending those folks to a conference out-of-state.”     

AirTAP is a successful program that benefits not only the airport owner and manager, but ultimately the pilot and aircraft community through the sharing of ideas and best practices. Ultimately, it makes the system safer and more efficient while providing savings to the taxpayers and users.

Anyone wishing to learn more about the program and perhaps how to start one in their state, can contact Mindy Carlson, AirTAP Director at carlson@umn.edu or at 612-625-1813.

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