Bemidji Regional Airport, located in northwest Minnesota, is the host airport for the Minnesota Airports Conference to be held April 16-18, 2014 at the Sanford Center in Bemidji.
In 1931, the Bemidji Civic and Commerce Association purchased approximately 160 acres of wooded land just northwest of Bemidji for use as an airport. The cost, including back taxes and 36 acres of tree clearing, was $1,625.
The association presented the property to the City of Bemidji in 1932 and the airport began operations with an all-way field with no defined runways. By 1941, the airport included over 150 acres and an aircraft hangar. The land comprising the airport at that time is located in what is now the southeast corner of the airport. By 1944, the airport had grown significantly to the northwest, increasing its size to nearly 1600 acres. The federal government designated the field as a “secondary defense airport” and embarked on a series of improvements. The all-way field was replaced with two paved and lighted 5700 ft. runways, a 4000 ft. turf runway, and a 2500 ft. turf runway.
Commercial air service began in 1952 with the arrival of flights operated by North Central Airlines. Commercial air service continues to this day.
The turf runways were abandoned by the late 1970s and in December of 1981, the official airport name was changed to “Bemidji /Beltrami County Airport.” In 2005, the name was changed to “Bemidji Regional Airport” to better reflect its role in serving the entire region.
In 2006 and continuing until the fall of 2008, the airport underwent a complete removal and replacement of all the runways and taxiways, upgrading of the weather reporting system, installation of an additional Instrument Landing System (ILS) for Runway 25, along with the planning and acquisition of the Bemidji VOR by the State of Minnesota, after it was decommissioned by the Federal Aviation Administration. Also completed in 2009 was a complete replacement of all airfield electrical systems and the installation of new backup generator systems.
On January 1, 2009, the airport transitioned from being jointly owned and operated by the city of Bemidji and Beltrami County to ownership and operation by an airport authority with its own tax levy and funding responsibilities. This was done to provide additional visibility of the airport’s financial structure and cost to the communities it supports.
In 2013, the airport completed a ramp rehabilitation project as a part of the federal recovery program, and the rehabilitation and expansion of the 20-plus-year-old terminal, the aircraft rescue and firefighting facility (ARFF), and the parking lot, all funded under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program. The airport’s next phase of development will be focused on growing corporate and general aviation, accommodating growth by tenants, and constructing a new snow removal equipment storage building.
SkyWest Airlines, through a partnership with Delta Airlines, serves Bemidji Regional Airport with two arrivals and two departures daily using a CRJ 200 regional jet to Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. On January 23, 2014, SkyWest, which is headquartered in
St. George, Utah, was named Air Transport World’s “Regional Airline of the Year.”
The Bemidji Regional Airport Authority includes Marshall Froyd – Chairman; Jack Frost – Beltrami County Commissioner; Jim Lucachick – Beltrami County Commissioner; Roger Hellquist – City of Bemidji Councilmember; and Ron Johnson – City of Bemidji Councilmember. Karen Weller is Interim Executive Director.
Delta Global Services provides ground handling for the airlines. Bemidji Aviation Services, Inc. is the fixed base operation serving general aviation AirCorps Aviation provides historical aircraft restoration. Roush Industries, Inc. does automobile testing. In addition, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources operates out of the airport for forest firefighting, and North Memorial Hospital and Sanford operates air ambulance services. Enterprise, Hertz and National/Alamo provide car rental.
Bemidji has a population of 13,723 (2012), and is the first city on the Mississippi River’s route heading south in the heart of Minnesota’s northwoods (www.visitbemidji.com).
For additional information on Bemidji Regional Airport, refer to its website: www.bemidjiairport.org, or contact Karen Weller in airport administration at 218-444-2438. Harold Van Leeuwen served as airport manager until recently. At press time, his successor had not yet been named.
For additional information on the Minnesota Airports Conference, refer to the Minnesota Council of Airports website: www.mnairports.org, or call Judy Meyers with the Minnesota Office of Aeronautics at 651-234-7232.