Duluth International Airport Hosts Minnesota Airports Conference

Duluth International Airport is the host airport for the 2010 Minnesota Airports Conference, April 14-16 at the Duluth Entertainment & Convention Center. For additional information, contact Judy Meyers at the Minnesota DOT Office of Aeronautics: 800-657-3922 (Judy.Meyers@dot.state.mn.us).

Being asked to be the “host airport” for the Minnesota Airports Conference, which is sponsored by the Minnesota Council of Airports and the Minnesota Department of Transportation Office of Aeronautics, is a tremendous honor and responsibility. It is an opportunity for the airport to showcase its facilities to other airport managers and commission members from around the state, and to bring attention to aviation to the local community.

The history of aviation in Duluth, Minnesota, dates as far back as the early 1900s when Thomas McGoey, “The Birdman,” flying a Curtiss Pusher, made the first flight in Duluth at Athletic Park. In 1913, Julius Barnes purchased a Benoist Seaplane, which he named the “Lark of Duluth” for a carnival in Duluth. The Lark became the world’s first commercial airline in Florida the same year. On September 13th and 14th, 1930, the original Duluth airport was born. The field was officially dedicated and named the Williamson-Johnson Municipal Airport after Harvey Francis Williamson, Jr., who was a local pioneer of commercial aviation, and Lt Conrad Gilbert Johnson, who was Duluth’s first aviator to be killed in World War I.

In 1931, Northwest Airways began providing airmail and passenger service from the Duluth Boat Club. A Sikorsky S-38 amphibian, took off from the bay after passengers were rowed to the aircraft. In 1940, Northwest Airlines began the first regularly scheduled air service to Duluth using Lockheed twin-engine Ultras. A large investment was made in 1951 when Williamson-Johnson Airport received one of the most modern control towers in the country. In that same year, the U.S. Air Force opened an interceptor base at the airport. The Williamson-Johnson Municipal Airport was renamed the Duluth International Airport in 1961. The current airport terminal was built and dedicated in 1974. Twenty years later, Cirrus Design Corporation located their world headquarters at the Duluth International Airport and began designing, manufacturing and selling one of the most popular single-engine piston planes in the world. In 2009, the official ground breaking for Phase 1 of the new terminal was held. The $65 million project will include a new passenger terminal, aircraft apron, entrance roadway and vehicle parking areas. The building will be LEED-certified and meet Department of Homeland Security and FAA requirements.

Duluth International Airport, located only 10 minutes from downtown Duluth, Minnesota, and 15 minutes from Superior, Wisconsin, serves 350,000 passengers annually which makes it the region’s largest airport. With daily passenger service by three major carriers, Duluth International provides excellent connections to hundreds of domestic and international destinations. Delta Airlines provides seven daily nonstop flights to Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport and two daily nonstop flights to Detroit. United Airlines provides twice daily nonstop flights to Chicago, and low-cost carrier Allegiant Air offers twice weekly nonstop flights to Las Vegas and Orlando. The airport has a 24-hour FAA control tower, two runways, including one of the longest runways in Minnesota at 10,152 feet, and a Cat II instrument approach system. Air cargo carriers include Federal Express, United Parcel Service and Delta Airlines. Other services available at the airport include 24-hour U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Nestled between Lake Superior’s white sand beaches and the calm scenic waters of the Duluth Harbor is “Sky Harbor Airport” on Minnesota Point. Sky Harbor Airport was founded in 1946 by Jack Brockway and William Neukom. Sky Harbor is one of only four airports in Minnesota that has a hard-surface airport and a seaplane base. Sky Harbor Airport is the only dual use airport in the state that is also an international airport. The airport serves a mix of aircraft with 24-hour facilities including a seaplane ramp and tug, parking, hangars, self-serve aircraft fueling, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Sky Harbor Airport has two private businesses located on the field: Jonathan Aero and Hangar 10 Aero. Jonathan Aero provides a full range of aircraft maintenance including annual inspections and float changes. Hangar 10 Aero is an aviation business that sells Poly-Fiber Products, Rans Aircraft kits, and Hatz Bantam aircraft plans. Hangar 10 is also the home of the Duluth Aviation Institute. Sky Harbor is also a base for scenic helicopter and seaplane tours during the summer and fall months.

Duluth International Airport is proud to be the home of the 148th Fighter Wing of the Minnesota Air National Guard. The 148th Fighter Wing stands on 24-hour alert with  a fleet of the newest F-16 block 50 aircraft. They are currently recognized as the best fighter unit in the world, as demonstrated by the award of the 2009 Airforce Raytheon Trophy. The 148th Fighter Wing is an integral part of our aviation sector, which provides national defense through deployments worldwide, education, and advanced training opportunities in aviation.

Duluth International’s fixed base operator, Monaco Air Duluth, provides full-service facilities, consisting of 24-hour fueling, certified aircraft maintenance, line services and heated hangar storage and above and below-wing airline services. The company has achieved the ultimate in customer service, comfort and convenience for pilots, crew and passengers. Monaco’s successful marketing of Duluth as an international tech stop has resulted in a tremendous increase in large corporate aircraft stopping at Duluth to clear customs and purchase fuel as they transition between Europe and the U.S. West Coast.

Cirrus Design Corporation’s headquarters is also located at Duluth International Airport. Cirrus is one of the largest single-engine piston aircraft manufacturers in the world. The company currently manufactures the SR20 and SR22 aircraft, with deliveries worldwide. Cirrus is testing their prototype of the personal jet, the “Vision.” The Vision will be Cirrus’ entry into the very light jet (VLJ) market with an affordable, easy-to-fly jet. As the largest manufacturing company in Duluth, Cirrus Design has a tremendous economic impact not only in the twin ports, but statewide and regionally.

Lake Superior College’s Minnesota Center for Advanced Aviation provides a venue for students to learn to fly, professionally, as well as recreationally.

Northstar Aerospace, SCS Aircraft Interiors, Hydro Solutions, Greystar Electronics Inc., and American Precision Avionics are all companies located at Duluth.

Northstar Aerospace, located in the Duluth Airpark, produces precision-machined components, including aircraft seats, parts and assemblies for the aerospace industry. The company works with a number of major airplane manufacturers, such as Cirrus, Eclipse and Adams Aircraft. Northstar has quickly developed a reputation for one of the finest aircraft precision parts manufacturers in the world.

The Duluth Airshow is held about every other year. This year the show will feature the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. The dates are July 17-18.

The Duluth Aviation Sector generates over $1.3 billion in annual economic impact and accounts for over 4,400 jobs throughout the region.

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