Up North At The Minnesota Airports Conference

Article by Dave Weiman
Photos by Peggy Weiman
Published in Midwest Flyer Magazine June/July 2023 Digital Issue

The 2023 Minnesota Airports Conference was held April 26-28 at the Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center in Alexandria, Minnesota. The conference was sponsored by the Minnesota Council of Airports and Minnesota DOT Office of Aeronautics, with support from the University of Minnesota Airport Technical Assistance Program (AirTAP).

The keynote speaker at the opening luncheon was Tim Eggebraaten with the topic of “Finding Your Beat, the Rhythm of Life.”

Eggebraaten has been a police officer since 1992 and had many different roles during his career with the Detroit Lakes, Minnesota Police Department – DARE Instructor, Patrol Sergeant, Investigative Sergeant, K-9 Handler, and Chief of Police. He retired in 2016 after 24 ½ years in law enforcement and 3 years as a correctional officer.

Like everybody else, Eggebraaten faces the challenges of balancing family life with the rigors of his career and trying to keep himself physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy. Eggebraaten began talking about his leadership journey in 2016 and found that talking with others about personal and emotional topics helped in his own healing process, and he learned that others could benefit from knowing that they are not alone in their own journey.

The Minnesota DOT Office of Aeronautics staff, and its newly appointed director, Ryan Gaug, discussed funding, policy, staffing, and other news.

MnDOT completed its state aviation system plan (MNSASP) in late 2022. As part of this effort, numerous follow-on studies were identified to assist MnDOT in achieving its goals. One primary goal of this effort was developing an updated project selection and prioritization model for state funding of airport projects. This session provided an overview of this process and reviewed future application within the overall MNSASP hub.

Pavement solutions to airfield maintenance was discussed. Representatives of the construction industry described new pavement rehabilitation and reconstruction techniques for runway pavement.

Pavement maintenance is an essential component in fiscally responsibly managing a safe and efficient airport. The lifecycle of both concrete and bituminous pavement depends on many factors, which drive the timing and type of maintenance method necessary to extend their useful lives. During this session, attendees heard from three airport sponsors who have recently completed different forms of pavement maintenance projects at their airports. They shared how they prepared for their respective pavement maintenance projects. Session highlights included CIP level planning, cost estimating, funding, phasing, project execution, and an overview of the latest pavement maintenance best practices, such as crack and joint sealing, seal coats, micro surface treatments, mill and overlays, and full pavement reconstructions.

The installation, preventive maintenance and aiming requirements of Precision Approach Path Indicators (PAPIs) was discussed, as were hangar and ground leases.

The topic of airport wildlife management – plans and reality – focused on FAA’s requirements and components of an airport wildlife hazard management plan to include recommended practices, lessons learned, and local and national training opportunities.

A general aviation round table discussion brainstormed solutions to airport challenges, and attendees learned about different ways to complete projects by networking with their peers.

Preparing an airport to upgrade its navaids was discussed, including how to start the process and the funding required.

Most airport managers and staff must report to governing groups including commissioners and council members. In addition, airport managers have an opportunity or need to seek additional funding for aviation facilities through elected officials. These conversations can be intimidating when politics and airport management are not the manager’s full-time job. This session provided helpful tips for effective communication and collaboration with local decision-makers.

A highlight of each Minnesota Airports Conference is an update from Bryan Ryks, Executive Director/CEO of the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC). MAC operates Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (KMSP) and six reliever airports: Airlake (KLVN), Anoka County-Blaine (KANE), Crystal (KMIC), Flying Cloud (KFCM), Lake Elmo (21D), and St. Paul Downtown (KSTP).

“Project of the Year Awards” went to South St. Paul Municipal Airport for the reconstruction of Runway 16/34… Ely Municipal Airport for its construction of partial parallel Taxiway A and connector Taxiway A2… and Thief River Falls Regional Airport for its airfield lighting replacement.

Duluth International Airport (KDLH) received this year’s “Outstanding Leadership in Airport Planning, Environment & Strategic Initiative Award” for its Vision 2040 Master Plan and Part 150 Noise Study.

The Chair of MCOA is Pam Schroeder, Manager of Fillmore County Airport (KFKA) in Preston, Minnesota. Vice Chair is Andrew Wall of South St. Paul Municipal Airport (KSGS). MCOA Directors include Barrett Ziemer of Range Regional Airport; Joe Hedrick of Thief River Falls Airport; Steve Wright of Brainerd Regional Airport; Mark Hagen of Detroit Lakes Airport; Bill Towle of St. Cloud Regional Airport; Kurt Claussen of Rochester International Airport; Dave Beaver of Owatonna Regional Airport; Eric Rudningen of Willmar Municipal Airport; Joe Grabianowski of Mankato Regional Airport; Mark Papko of Duluth International Airport; and Joe Harris of the Metropolitan Airports Commission, Reliever Airports. Mark Knoff is Executive Director.

Representing AirTAP was Katherine Stanley and Samantha Redmond.

Platinum sponsors included Mead & Hunt, Bolton & Menk, SEH, Karvakko, KLJ, and TKDA.

The Minnesota Aviation Trades Association (MATA) again held its annual meeting at the conference this year. Mark Nelson of Hawk Aviation in Rush City, Minnesota is President. He is supported by a board of directors including Joe LaRue of Prairie Air, Vice President; Nancy Grazzini-Olson of Thunderbird Aviation, Treasurer; Kreg Anderson of Alexandria Aviation, Secretary; Bill Mavencamp of Wright Aero, Director; Dave Weiman of Midwest Flyer Magazine, Director; Joe Birkemeyer of NorthPoint Aviation, Director; and Mike Beard of Bollig Engineering, Director. Gene DePalma of Wipaire is Executive Director.

The 2024 Minnesota Airports Conference will be held at Breezy Point Resort in Breezy Point, Minnesota.

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