Northpoint Aviation builds international contacts
Changing of guard at Brainerd Regional Airport FBO strengthens success
Northpoint Aviation, the FBO at Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport is smoothly keeping stride with ever growing, always progressive forces behind the original formation and development of the region's airfield.
In the 1920's Henry Rosko housed Brainerd's first airfield. The 1940's saw a partnership between the city of Brainerd and Crow Wing County resulting in land acquisition and development of a new airport to meet the needs of increased air traffic.
Brainerd resident Walter Wieland implored the city of Brainerd and Crow Wing County to develop an Airport Commission to guide and direct the airport's growth with purpose. In 1948 the first commercial flight arrived. In 1965 the airport was renamed Walter Wieland Field to commemorate the man who became affectionately known as "Mr. Airport."
Through the years runways were lengthened and widened, a commercial terminal built, and a 20-year comprehensive plan developed. Expansions and remodeling readily met additional needs as they arose.
It is this successful lineage into which Northpoint Aviation placed its cornerstone. Since 1958, Airmotive Enterprises Aviation Services was the FBO.
Airmotive Enterprises was purchased in 2013 by Jeff Voigt and D.J. Dondelinger, the two principal owners of Northpoint Aviation. The name Airmotive Enterprises was kept in use through December of 2015 to ensure a solid transition.
For over three years, Northpoint Aviation has faithfully served existing and new customers. Northpoint Aviation manager Mark Mathison and his crew have proven the quality of their service within the parameters of the most telling test – time.
"It's a team concept here, "said Mathison, "so when we say 'we', it's literally just that, a team that makes up the company. It takes a lot of people to make everything happen that needs to happen on behalf of our customers. We honestly have to work together to provide the kind of service we do."
Northpoint Aviation is a full service FBO, offering flight instruction, T-hangars, private and commercial hangars, maintenance, GPU, LAV services, and aircraft sales. Within the building that houses the FBO is a restaurant. Down the corridor is a comfortable airport terminal lobby.
Though it is not uncommon for an FBO to offer flight instruction, Mathisen's extensive experience teaching students all around the globe allows Northpoint Aviation instruction to gather students far beyond its geographic location.
"I used to think of an FBO in northern Minnesota as a place to get gas when you pass through that town," said Mathisen. "Northpoint Aviation is way more than that. We commonly serve people from all over the world."
Mathisen has taught in Spain, Portugal, Greece, China, Japan, Australia, the Maldive Islands, Canada, and many regions in the United States. As a rule, his students are private or commercial pilots being trained in a specific aircraft. Surprisingly, he has found flight instruction crosses the language barrier best without a language interpreter. Real life is the interpreter. Mathisen's commands, coupled with his actions at the same moment, give meaning to the student.
"You know, it's interesting," said Mathisen. "Virtually everybody I've dealt with all over the world has at least some knowledge of the English language, either officially or by virtue of the aviation side of it. For lack of a better expression I would say that repetition in instruction seems to get me through the biggest hurdles.
"I sit in the co-pilot seat on the right side. When there is a language barrier, ofen times I will fly the airplane so the student can see what I am doing. Then they follow me through on the controls. That bridges the communication gap.
"With students who don't speak any English, I've done more actual flying from a demonstration side of things than I would normally do. As we go along, students learn what words I use for different commands, so it gets better as we establish common commands and phrases."
The speed at which the situation changes aloft is another reason to work with example as the teacher.
"Things happen fast in an airplane," said Mathisen. "If you see a change in flight régime and you say something, by the time it goes through an interpreter to a pilot, a whole other command is required, so timing is the issue there. The thing I've used the most is repetition because it works."
In addition to flight instruction and maintenance, Northpoint Aviation is a Quest Aircraft Kodiak Dealer for Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, North & South Dakota, and in Canada, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut, and Ontario.
In November, Mathisen trained a group of international pilots in Kodiak Seaplanes for a company launching a program to take tourists from city areas to resort areas via air rather than boat or ship.
"There are very active seaplane programs in different places in the world that do this just because it's so fast and so much more comfortable," said Mathisen. "It's a private company, made up of all professional crews that come from the airline industry."
International travel is common to Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport so Northpoint Aviation services private and corporate aircraft on a regular basis.
"We serve corporate airplanes that get all their supplies and fuel here, then go as far as Croatia direct," said Mathisen. "We have customers who chose Brainerd as their recreational destination, so oftentimes they go from here, back to work overseas. It's pretty interesting."
Northpoint Aviation's fuel sales testify to their jet traffic. Around 30 percent is avgas while 70 percent is jet fuel.
While there is a winter slow down, Northpoint Aviation keeps busy with training winter flying, complete aircraft rebuilds, and continuing local and international customer service. Though Northpoint owners and operating crew recall the downturn in the aviation industry, they are all about focusing on present and future growth.
"Of course everybody is aware of 2008-2009 when the economy was in the tank," said Mathisen, "but since about 2011 we've seen the industry come back to a really healthy, strong industry again, not only for us, but for a lot of aviation companies.
"Northpoint Aviation is pretty diversified and progressive so I can see us growing in the next five years. Our people are very qualified, well trained, experienced, and active. As we progress, we keep looking for more people of like mind to facilitate our growth. It's amazing how much you can do if you have the right people, even up here in northern Minnesota."
It is commonly known that the economic strength of a community lies in the health of its local airport. In the case of Brainerd and its regional airport, Northpoint Aviation's service is a stellar example of that belief as they continue building on the dream of its founders.