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Airport of the Month - Project Spotlight

Roseau Municipal Airport

 

February 1, 2021

Tom Foster

The new 1,600 square-foot arrival and departure building and hanger at the Roseau Airport including a conference room for meetings and a lounge for passengers. Pilots have their own lounge and flight planning area. A kitchenette makes snacking possible and there are rooms for crew members to use for naps.

Business and commercial flights to rural airports work best if take offs and landings can happen even if the weather's not so good. What does an airport owner do when some important users need lower instrument approach minimums to operate effectively?

The city of Roseau recently debated that question and came up with the right answer.

Snowmobiles were invented in Roseau and Polaris Industries is the premier manufacturer of those machines. Roseau native Edgar Hetten founded Polaris, but the first snowmobile got built because he took a vacation.

When he got home, he found the employees at Hetten Hoist and Derrick had built it using a Chevy bumper for skis and a conveyor belt for a track. Edgar wasn't impressed but changed his thinking when he sold the "Rube Goldberg" machine for $465.

First full-scale production of the "Polaris Snow Traveler" started in 1956. Roseau is still the site of the primary assembly line, but things are a little different now.

Like many manufacturers, Polaris keeps costs down by minimizing parts inventory and depending on "just in time" delivery of components. Sometimes stuff needs to be flown in and they get crabby if the assembly line stops because the delivery aircraft can't land. Besides Polaris, Roseau is home to an air ambulance operation, so the incentive to improve the approach minimums was even higher.

Nothing makes a pilot landing from an instrument approach happier than seeing a lot of bright lights when arriving at minimums. With the advent of GPS, an expensive Instrument Landing System (ILS) is no longer the limiting factor.

Roseau had good GPS procedures, so they set out to improve the airport lighting. A Medium Intensity Approach Lighting System with Sequenced Flashing Lights (in FAA speak a MALSF) was constructed. With that came upgraded runway lighting and a new system of guidance signs.

Design of instrument approach procedures by the FAA is done using the guidance found in a document titled "Terminal Instrument Procedures" or TERPS, which also contains the standards for establishing minimum altitudes and visibilities for aircraft using a procedure.

TERPS might well be the most Byzantine government publication ever written. It defines many imaginary surfaces that must be clear of obstructions to achieve the best possible instrument approach minimums. This assures pilots who fly the procedure that the first thing on the ground the aircraft will encounter is the runway. The geometry of the TERPS surfaces is something only Euclid could love, but

Tom Foster

Roseau had good GPS procedures, so they set out to improve the airport lighting. A Medium Intensity Approach Lighting System with Sequenced Flashing Lights (in FAA speak a MALSF) was constructed. With that came upgraded runway lighting and a new system of guidance signs.

sufficient to say there were some things at Roseau that had to go. Notably the arrival/departure building, main hangar, fueling system and most of the aircraft parking area. The good news is some of this stuff needed to be replaced anyway.

Though a peripheral benefit, Roseau's new arrival and departure building is a terrific upgrade. It's 1,600 square foot with all the desired facilities including a conference room for meetings and a lounge for passengers. Pilots have their own lounge and flight planning area. A kitchenette makes snacking possible and there are rooms for crew members to use for naps.

At 2 a.m. the phone rings interrupting a pleasant dream of flying a big Boeing to Honolulu as a captain with a major airline. The on-demand freight pilot gets up, files the flight plan, and pulls the old (but well maintained) Beechcraft out of the hangar to deliver the needed snowmobile components to Roseau. Visibility is low, but the bright lights pierce the fog for a successful landing and a warm welcome at the new building. There's coffee or a courtesy car to go to town for breakfast. At Polaris, the assembly line keeps moving and another airport project is a big success.

 

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