Airport of the Month
Fairmont Municipal Airport
October 1, 2018
Fairmont got its name because the original townsite was higher than the surrounding terrain. Before you pack your skis and head out, remember this is southern Minnesota. The mountain might be a little fictitious.
"City of Lakes" is what the community advertises itself as, and that's a perfect description. Fairmont is on the shores of a chain of five beautiful lakes with lots of public access and several waterfront parks. Four of the lakes are connected, and all are excellent for boating and fishing. The City also maintains a delightful system of trails, and many more parks including one dedicated to fun with your canine friends. The City is justifiably proud of it's facilities.
A remarkably diverse economy is another point of civic pride. High quality public facilities and a strong economy go together, so it's no surprise that the Martin County seat also has a first class airport. With a 5500-foot-long primary runway, the Fairmont Municipal Airport can handle everything in the General Aviation fleet, including the biggest Gulfstream.
Getting there should be no problem, even if the weather isn't perfect. The main runway has an instrument landing system, approach lights, high intensity runway lights and PAPI. The second runway is 3300 feet long and equipped with a full lighting system. RNAV/GPS procedures are available, and an automated weather system tells you when to use them. A VOR is on the field too and supports instrument procedures for those of us still living the 20th century.
After landing, there's plenty of parking on the ramp, hangar space is available, and the self-service fueling system dispenses both aviation gas and jet fuel.
In the Arrival/Departure building pilots and passengers will find everything they need 24 hours a day, including meeting space and wireless internet connections. Public transportation, a courtesy car and rental vehicles are all available.
Aviation is nothing new to Martin County. In 1894 there was a hot air balloon demonstration, and in 1911 the Fairmont Commercial Club hired a pilot and airplane to do demonstration flights. The pilot showed up late, and the club had the Sheriff confiscate his airplane. The deal was renegotiated, and the flying took place the next day. During the next 30 years, several private airports operated in the county, including one in Fairmont called the Stade Airport. Cora Fuller learned to fly there and in 1931 became the first woman in Minnesota to hold a pilot's license. Cora got her license after just 8 hours of instruction. A former military instructor named Lloyd Alsworth started Fairmont Flying Service at Stade after World War II. It was a licensed airport, but it basically a converted pasture and not suited for development as a modern airport.
Fairmont citizens foresaw the future and formed an "Airport Association" with the intention of developing a true municipal airport. Mr. Alsworth was their expert and mentored the group through the process. A new airport at the current site was dedicated in 1951. Fairmont Flying Service moved to the new location and conducted flight instructing, charter flying and crop spraying. After the new facility opened, Alsworth demonstrate his dedication by providing city with free airport management services. He was a FAA designated flight examiner who trained over 3500 pilots and was an active instructor for more than 50 years. Lloyd Alsworth was a 2016 inductee of the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame.
Beginning in 1959, Fairmont had scheduled airline service. North Central Airlines was the first carrier using DC-3s. Ticket prices during the first year were $3.85 to Mankato, $8.69 to Minneapolis, and $36.40 to Chicago. North Central morphed into Republic and the route from Fairmont was taken over by a series of "commuter" airlines until the flights were ended by the economics of air service in 1996. That would appear to be a short-sighted move by the airlines, since the Fairmont area continued to prosper very nicely without them.
The prosperity includes a very busy airport. It's home to over 30 aircraft and supports more than 10,000 annual operations, including lots of business related flying. Fairmont would be paradise for a savvy enterprise that knows how to use General Aviation. It would also make a good destination for some fun flying.
Besides the parks and lakes, Fairmont has some nice golf courses for both balls and discs. A lot of diverse and tasty food can be had close to the airport, and the local Lions Club hosts a fly-in breakfast on the fourth Sunday in June.