Airport of the Month: Warroad
In Warroad they do windows. That's glass and wood, not computer software. Warroad is the home of the Marvin Companies. They make the gold standard for windows and know how to use general aviation to make a really good business even better. Marvin operates two Beech 1900s, a Beech King Air 200 and a Cessna Citation XLS. In 2013 they carried about 12,000 passengers and made 630 trips to and from Warroad. In effect, it's a small airline which started in 1976 with one pilot and a Piper Aztec.
Supporting that kind of traffic requires a first class airport. The Warroad Memorial International Airport is that. "International" means US Customs are available. The main runway is 5400 feet long, has high intensity runway lights, an instrument landing system (ILS), and a full approach lighting system on both ends. A parallel taxiway extends the full length of the runway and there's plenty of aircraft parking space. Land side facilities include an Arrival/Departure building that has a lounge, meeting room, and flight planning area. "Tee" hangar space is available for both transient aircraft and long term lease. Both Jet Fuel and Aviation Gas can be purchased all day, every day. A courtesy car is available, but call ahead first. There's space for underwing camping if you're so inclined. The turf cross-wind runway is open in the summer and is used by ski planes in the winter. All those modern facilities were developed in the 1990s, but the airport dates back to 1934 when the City began buying property to develop an airport. After World War II, two 300 foot wide turf runways were developed, the longest of which was 2300 feet. In 1973 Runway 13/31 was paved, lighted and extended to 3700 feet, then extended again to 4400 feet in 1985.
Aviation has deep roots in Warroad. Don Hanson was a B-24 pilot in World War II who survived being shot down over Bremen, Germany and spent 18 months as a POW. After the war he came home to Warroad. About the time the City started developing the airport, Don started Hanson's flying service. Don might be best known for delivering the US Mail to the remote area on Lake of the Woods called the "Northwest Angle". Don has been featured in Life Magazine and was inducted into the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame. John Parker was another member of the "Greatest Generation". John flew P-47s in the Italian campaigns. By 1949 the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources saw the need to use aviation to support their programs. They hired John and moved him to Warroad. John flew Champs, Super Cubs, and Cessna 180/185s in support of the DNR's wild life management until he retired in 1983. These two veterans did a lot to pioneer aviation at the Warroad Airport.
Currently the airport's support group includes John's son Jeff Parker. Jeff followed his dad into military aviation, flew B52s and came home to Warroad to "retire". He's now manager of Marvin's flight department, and supervises their 11 pilots and support staff. One of those pilots is Henry Kliner. Henry was the Chief Pilot for 28 years, but might be better known for his side job doing flight tests as an FAA designated examiner and his work on the City's Airport Commission. Finally, Dick Soderberg is not an aviator, but the former resort owner and one time civil engineer knows the value of a good airport. Dick has been a member of the Warroad City Council and Airport Commission since 1988. His understanding of the State and Federal programs for funding airport projects have helped leverage a lot of grant money for Warroad. Dick will tell you, "we've been lucky", but he's a pretty modest guy.
So why go to Warroad if you aren't buying windows? Marvin does have a training and visitor center where you can get a tour and see how the windows are made. The airport is awesome, but so are the recreational opportunities. The fishing is great and there's plenty of resorts. Warroad has the only US port facility on Lake of the Woods and the City brags about being known for "Windows and Walleyes". For pilots who have skis on their airplanes, the local Lions Club hosts a February fly-in on the Warroad River. Seven Clans Casinos offers ice fishing tours in the winter and dock space in the summer, as well as gaming and good food. Apparently they like to play hockey in Warroad too and perhaps you could find a game to watch. But that's another story all together.