Airport officials unhappy with bid from airline | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

Airport officials unhappy with bid from airline

Posted: November 1, 2011 - 7:51pm

Airline service to Brainerd would be more frequent but less spacious if the lone bid for air service from Great Lakes Airlines is accepted.
Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Manager Steve Sievek said Tuesday the airport commission has until Nov. 28 to voice concerns with Great Lakes proposal — a bid he termed as disappointing.
Sievek said in comments after the meeting Great Lakes Airlines would replace the Delta Saab 340’s 34-passenger prop plane, which has a restroom and a flight attendant, with a 19-passenger Beech 1900 prop plane with a single row of seats on both sides of the aisle, no restroom and no flight attendant.
In addition the Great Lakes aircraft could not be hooked up to a jet bridge either in Brainerd or the Twin Cities. Sievek said the inability to connect with a jet bridge, which the Brainerd airport expects to acquire as part of its terminal renovation, makes its difficult to accommodate people with mobility issues. A jet bridge, Sievek said, has been seen as an important tool, particularly with the Brainerd area’s aging population.
Sievek noted that many athletes who attend hockey camps in the Brainerd area come with bulky equipment and the storage space for such equipment in the Beech aircraft is “virtually nil.”
Sievek said the Great Lakes Airlines bid met all of the federal requirements. The airport manager said the airport commission intends to ask the federal Department of Transportation to rebid the Brainerd proposal.
“Whether or not they will do that, I don’t know,” Sievek said.
Sievek said for some of Brainerd’s air passengers the smaller aircraft won’t make any difference while others may choose to fly out of Minneapolis-St. Paul.
On the up side, Sievek said Great Lakes Airlines would offer four trips out of Brainerd compared to the two flights a day now offered by Delta.
Unlike Delta, which offered its air service without using a federal subsidy, Great Lakes Airlines would be subsidized by the government for as long as those subsidies continue.
Sievek said he is working with Brainerd Lakes Chamber CEO Lisa Paxton, Reggie Clow of Clow Stamping, Brian Thuringer of Madden’s and representatives of Ascensus before responding to the Great Lakes Airlines proposal.
Sievek emphasized that the airport will continue to have airline service until a replacement for Delta is found and in place.
The commission supported efforts by Airmotive employee Mike Petersen to have Brainerd included in the American Barnstormers Tour on Aug. 12-14, which could draw between 2,000 and 4,000 people.
Petersen said Brainerd and St. Cloud are being considered for inclusion in the tour and a decision could be made this week. The event features bi-plane rides and barnstormers celebrating the golden age of aviation (1920-1940).
“I think this is a fabulous idea,” Nystrom said. “This couldn’t be better situated or scheduled.”
The commission also:
Scheduled a closed personnel committee meeting for this month for union negotiation strategy and manager performance evaluation.
Discussed how it would wait for the county board to take action regarding conflict of interest training.
Learned that the display aircraft which is being repainted is expected to be completed this week. The date of its return to Brainerd will be decided later.
Called for airport officials to craft requests for proposal for interior design of the remodeled airport terminal by next month’s meeting.
Decided to not sell advertising venues in the restrooms of the remodeled terminal. Chair Beth Pfingsten said the advertisements were tacky and Commissioner Brad Davis agreed. The ads generate about $200 a year in revenue.
Approved a five-year lease with the airport’s cafe. The manager reported work continues on a proposed Avionics lease.
The next meeting is 9:30 a.m. Dec. 6 at the Jinx Ferrari Room in the Historic Crow Wing County Courthouse.

MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at mike.orourke@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5860.