The Brainerd/Crow Wing County Regional airport has changed since Sept. 11, according to Steve Sievek, airport manager.
Passenger screening and random baggage checks are a permanent change in operations. Each passenger is scanned with a hand-held wand for metal detection. The airport is creating a secure seating area in the terminal with a walk-through screening unit and an X-ray unit for carry-on baggage.
This screening process will require passengers to arrive at the terminal 45 minutes to one hour before their flight. No additional airline employees are planned and the existing employees will add these duties, following training.
The airport is not required to adhere to the new 300-foot rule --requiring vehicles to park at least 300 feet away from the terminal. In Minnesota, the airports required to adhere to the 300-foot rule are Duluth, Rochester and Minneapolis/St. Paul. The airport still allows people to drive up to the terminal building, unload baggage and then park in the lot.
The airport is still maintaining 125-feet distance for unattended vehicles to park any closer to the terminal. Sievek stated the whole parking question remains unresolved and may change at any time. Nearby St. Cloud, Bemidji and Hibbing airports are implementing similar parking restrictions.
The airport has been reduced to two arrivals and two departures per day: 7 a.m. arrival/7:12 a.m. departure and a 2:22 p.m. arrival which continues to Hibbing and returns to Brainerd at 4:25 p.m. and then departs for Minneapolis/St. Paul at 4:50 p.m. The late night arrival continues at 10:05 p.m.
On Dec. 18, the 10:30 a.m. arrival/11 a.m. departure will be reinstated and it does not appear that it will be paired with another community, but will be a direct flight to and from the Twin Cities. The 5:30 a.m. flight has not been reinstated.
Passenger numbers in September were affected by the runway construction project and the Sept. 11 terrorism. Sievek said he is encouraged by the number of passengers in October with five departure flights a year ago in October and now two departure flights.
Sievek reported that in October 2000, Mesaba flew a total of 1,589 people and as of Oct. 21st, Mesaba flew 809 people, which puts the airline on track to fly 1,200 people in October -- a reduction of about 300 people.
"The public is ready to fly," Sievek said. "We just need more flights into Brainerd."
The Brainerd Lakes Area Chambers of Commerce coordinates an air transportation committee, which will review plans to promote the reinstatement of flights into the Brainerd lakes area at its Nov. 8 meeting
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.