A Tale of Two Airports
September 1, 2019
They are the best of airports, they are the worst of airports. What makes an airport the best? Or the worst? There surely are a wide variety of airports in Minnesota, each with not only different local sights to see, each with different configurations of runways and ramps, each with different amenities. We are fortunate to have the Minnesota Department of Transportation-Aeronautics overseeing our airports, making sure that safety is integrated into the facilities, but once you get past quality assurance for airport safety the discriminating pilot finds some differences that sometimes makes us scratch our heads.
I don’t claim to have visited each and every airport in Minnesota, but either out of pleasure or necessity I have experienced airports in about every corner of the state. We each have different missions when we fly to an airport that is some distance from our own. I think that we can agree on some basic items which we really look for when we venture from our home base.
Availability of clean, easy to procure, reasonably priced fuel is important to all of us who don’t have the luxury of charging purchases to purchase accounts. Thanks to AirNav.com and Foreflight we are able to easily access information to help guide us. The proliferation of self-serve pumps has made cross country flights much less challenging. Most airports in the state have these, thank heavens.
Once we are at the airport we often would like to make the trek into town to purchase an item that we need, to visit a local restaurant to sample the local cuisine or, in my case, to attend visit family or friends for a short visit. The availability of courtesy cars at a few airports is greatly appreciated, and that transportation can, in itself, be a source of adventure. Retired police vehicles make for some interesting rides as drivers on the road seemingly slow down when they see us coming. Let’s face it, the automobile doesn’t have to be a Corvette. Minivans are terrific, as are any vehicles which get us from the airport to a nearby destination, and back.
With these thoughts in mind I have found some “good” airports that understand pilots, and some that are “bad” airports, who seem to consciously or subconsciously discourage visitors, the best and the worst. A good example of the best is the Detroit Lakes (KDTL) airport, to mention one. Coffee and donuts every Saturday morning, to boot. On the other extreme is an airport in SW MN, in a town noted for having a brewery, with high priced fuel and zero transportation, despite having nice people, a beautiful airport and interesting things to do. Great potential.
I hope you will take a moment to do a self-evaluation and then to communicate with your airport commissions, with the FBO’s, and make your airport one which will be inviting to other pilots. It really doesn’t take that much on an investment to encourage pilots to stop by and support the local economy.