Meeting The Air Transportation Needs of The Mayo Clinic, Local Pilots & Businesses
by Dave Weiman
Published in Midwest Flyer – April/May 2020 issue
Some airports have the unique status of including “regional” in their names, thereby serving more than one municipality or a region within a specific geographic area. The title “international” is reserved for those airports that accommodate international flights, and either have their own U.S. Customs & Border Protection facility, or are served by U.S. Customs from a neighboring community.
Rochester International Airport (KRST) is one of a handful of airports in Minnesota that serve not only their local community, but also the international community. The airport and city of Rochester are best known for the Mayo Clinic, whose roots in Rochester can be traced back to 1864 when Dr. William Mayo came to the area. Last year, patients from all 50 states and 139 countries visited the clinic, with many of these patients arriving by air, either on commercial airline flights or in private aircraft.
The hospital’s research, teaching, and training activities are augmented by the airport, as the hospital relies on just-in-time shipments of various supplies that arrive by air. The Mayo Clinic Health System has dozens of locations in southeast Minnesota, and doctors from Rochester are sometimes flown to these outlying medical facilities.
The Mayo Clinic also has an affiliated air ambulance service that supports emergency medical flights to Rochester. Mayo Clinic physicians also could not perform lifesaving transplants without the teams of doctors who fly from Rochester to harvest organs to support life-saving operations. The Mayo Clinic has an estimated 33,500 employees in Rochester, and the clinic is expected to grow in the years ahead.
Always on the cutting edge of medical science and service, the Mayo Clinic is introducing “Destination Medical Center” (DMC) – a unique 20-year economic development initiative. The $5.6 billion plan in private investments (the largest in Minnesota’s history), DMC will provide the public financing necessary to build the infrastructure and other projects needed to help support the Mayo Clinic as a global medical destination center (https://dmc.mn/what-is-dmc/). Rochester International Airport will continue to play an important role in this initiative.
History of Rochester International Airport
The airport was originally founded in southeast Rochester by Drs. William and Charles Mayo in 1928. The airport resided on 285 acres and was owned and operated by the Mayo Foundation.
The airfield was officially dedicated as “Rochester Airport” in 1929. That same year, Rochester Airport Company was founded as a subsidiary of the Mayo Foundation.
In 1940, the Rochester Airport Company improved the facility with paved runways, and 85 additional acres were acquired to bring its total acreage to 370.
In 1945, the Mayo Foundation gave the airport to the City of Rochester because as a private corporation, the foundation was not eligible for federal grants for airport improvements. The Rochester Airport Company continued to operate the airport under an operating agreement with the City of Rochester.
In 1952, the airport was officially renamed “Lobb Field,” and moved to its present location in 1960 where it was renamed “Rochester Municipal Airport.” The airport was renamed again in 1995 as “Rochester International Airport” with the addition of a U.S. Customs facility.
Currently, Rochester International Airport is located on approximately 2,400 acres, and is served by three major air carriers with scheduled daily service: American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines. Federal Express also has scheduled service. The airport features an industrial park and a business park.
Business Use of Rochester International Airport
Besides serving the airlines, Rochester International Airport also serves general aviation, from single-engine piston aircraft, to Boeing 777s used by foreign dignitaries.
Over 100 local businesses have adopted “Fly Local” policies, committing to utilize the airport for commercial air travel, significantly increasing commercial passenger volumes to record levels in recent years.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) uses the airport for aerial inspections and monitoring wildlife, parks, forests, fishing, and water resources, covering an area of nearly 8,750 square miles. Other agencies and organizations that benefit from the airport include the Rochester Police Department, Minnesota Air National Guard, and Civil Air Patrol.
Rochester is the second busiest airport in Minnesota with 370,000 commercial passengers, 23 million lbs. of cargo, 50,000 control tower operations, and 200 diversions handled from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Some 200 international aircraft clear U.S Customs at Rochester each year. It is also one of the busiest air ambulance facilities in the U.S.
John Reed is the airport’s Executive Director. Reed began his career at Rochester in 2015. Previously, Reed served as Assistant Airport Director at Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay, Wisconsin for 13 years. Prior to his position in Green Bay, he was the Assistant Director of Aviation at Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport in Texas from 1997 to 2002.
Reed began his career in aviation as an airport planner and airport inspector in Nevada and Missouri. He has served on both the Minnesota Council of Airports (MCOA) and Wisconsin Airport Management Association (WAMA) boards of directors, and has worked to ensure the success of the airport conferences in both states.
Reed holds a Master’s Degree in Aviation Safety from the University of Central Missouri, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Aviation Science from The College of the Ozarks. He is an Accredited Airport Executive (A.A.E.), and a member of the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and its Great Lakes Chapter.
Reed is assisted by Kurt Claussen, Deputy Airport Director, who has dedicated nearly 30 years of his career to the success of Rochester International Airport.
Minnesota Airports Conference
Rochester International Airport is the “host airport” for this year’s Minnesota Airports Conference to be held April 29-May 1, 2020 (canceled because of the Coronavirus) at the Mayo Civic Center.
The conference will focus on airport management, operations and maintenance, but is open to anyone interested in aviation. To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 612-625-2900. For additional information, email Mark Knoff at email@example.com or call 507-995-3051. For hotel reservations, contact either the Kahler Grand Hotel at 507-280-6200 ($129-$159 per night), or the Hilton Garden Inn at 507-285-1234 ($149 per night).
Rochester International Airport can be reached at (507) 282-2328. The airport is served by Signature Flight Support, which can be reached at (507) 282-1717. Both full and self-serve fuel is available. Contact either Signature or airport administration concerning general aviation parking and any fees that may apply. There are no ramp fees with the purchase of either full-service or self-serve fuel.
“Los Arcos Kitchen & Cantina” is located in the business park adjacent to the airport. “Tailwind Concessions,” offering food and beverage in the main terminal, was remodeling at press time with limited services, and will reopen with a full-service restaurant later this spring.
The Minnesota Airports Conference is sponsored by the Minnesota Council of Airports and the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and facilitated by the Airport Technical Assistance Program (AirTAP).