Your Fly Minnesota Airports Passport Adventure Awaits You!

by Darlene Dahlseide
Published Midwest Flyer – October/November 2020 issue

Flying is fun for aviators. The freedom experienced when you fly is little short of absolutely marvelous. And now and then something comes along that makes flying even more fun, or even makes it like a new adventure!

One of those things is the “Fly Minnesota Airports Passport” program. The program started in 2008, and to date, 46 pilots have qualified to receive a Fly Minnesota Airports leather flight jacket by visiting at least 130 of Minnesota’s

134 public airports, six aviation museums, and attending six FAA safety seminars.

Any FAA-licensed pilot from any state can participate in the program. After receiving their Fly Minnesota Airports Passport (registration takes about one minute), pilots can earn “stamps” in their passport each time they visit a Minnesota public airport, attend an FAA safety seminar, and visit Minnesota’s aviation museums.

The 46 pilots who currently wear a Fly Minnesota Airports leather jacket also earned a cap and flight bag for earning stamps during their skill-building and educational adventures. Hundreds of other pilots are currently working to fill their Fly Minnesota Airports Passport.

The program promotes general aviation safety and education in Minnesota, and is sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Office of Aeronautics and the Minnesota Council of Airports. At its most practical level, the program encourages pilots to practice approaches and landings in many different environments. It’s also a great way to support general aviation airports, local businesses, and tourism.

Now is the perfect time to get flying toward your leather jacket for the fall.

This year MnDOT updated the Fly Minnesota Airports Passport program. The entire process is now online. To register and receive your Fly Minnesota Airports Passport, visit the registration webpage, answer a few questions, and a passport will be sent to you within a week. After that, just begin flying and fill your passport with stamps. Registering online will validate your participation in the program and allow us to update you with any changes to the program.

The link to register is: www.mndot.gov/aero and click on the Fly Minnesota Airports Passport logo in the left margin.

Be sure to fill in the page at the front of your Fly Minnesota Airports Passport with your name and contact information. When you visit a public-use airport in Minnesota, an aviation attraction or participate in any FAA safety seminar, have your passport stamped or signed in the appropriate space.

Pilots may attend FAA safety seminars online or in person. If a course is taken online, fill in the course name, date, and instructor’s name in the appropriate block. You may also be asked to provide a copy of your FAA Safety Team Accredited Activity history. We encourage you to attend FAA safety seminars in person when it is safe to do so, and the FAA will have stamps available at qualifying events. To find events, stay informed, and register, login on at www.faasafety.gov or contact the FAA Flight Standards District Office for more information.

There are three award levels to the Fly Minnesota Airports Passport program – the Bronze, Silver and Gold. The Bronze Level awards a hat and pin to those pilots who have visited 34 airports, two aviation attractions, and attended two FAA safety seminars. The Silver Level awards a flight bag to those pilots who have visited 68 airports, four aviation attractions, and attended four FAA safety seminars. The Gold Level awards a leather flight jacket to those pilots who have visited 130 airports, six aviation attractions, and attended six FAA safety seminars.

Upon completion of any level, the Fly Minnesota Airports Passport and your logbook must be submitted to the MnDOT Office of Aeronautics for review. Once a passport has been submitted and the award is received, the passport and logbook will be returned to the participant so that he or she can continue to the next level. There is no deadline for completing the passport program, as long as the program remains in operation.

We always encourage pilots to fly safe, conduct adequate preflight activities to ensure that a flight can be conducted safely, and always check NOTAMS.

Make your adventure last longer. Some airports may have vehicles to borrow to explore the community. Check with the airport manager about availability. Also, consult www.exploreminnesota.com or call 888-VISITMN to get help from experts to plan your adventure. You may want to make a note of the date of your flight, weather conditions, and any other memorable details of your flight in your passport booklet in the correct airport box.

Here are a few comments from several Gold Award winners about their Fly Minnesota Passport program experience:

Rushford Municipal Airport – Robert W Bunke Field – was ranked by several pilots as the most beautiful airport in Minnesota: “It also has the best classic/collector courtesy car – you have to stop by and see it for yourself.”

Piney-Pinecreek Border Airport is the only airport owned by the State of Minnesota and is co-located in Minnesota and Manitoba, Canada.

Grand Marais – Cook County Airport: “I had been practicing my emergency takeoffs and landings and they paid off during my most challenging landing at Grand Marais – Cook County Airport due to the windy conditions off of Lake Superior.”

“My most memorable flights were in northern Minnesota in the fall. They are just beautiful with all the fall colors, crisp air, and great engine performance.”

What’s next for the Fly Minnesota Airports Passport Program?

The MnDOT Office of Aeronautics is looking forward to another great year for all Fly Minnesota Airports Passport participants. And for those pilots who already completed the current program, we hope to create a new program for them.

If you have any ideas for “Passport 2.0,” please forward them to Darlene Dahlseide at Darlene.dahlseide@state.mn.us.

Happy Flyin’ and Landin’!

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