Sunday, November 5, 2017

Ask Us: Mankato Regional Airport (KMKT) used by hobbyists, corporate execs, aviation students

Q: I had an idea for an Ask It question or a little feature. I live across from the airport, I'm wondering who uses the airport. Who flies these jets that go over? I started thinking, I wonder who those people are? How many planes are stored there and what's the daily traffic?

A: "We have right now 75 airplanes located at the airport," said Mankato Public Works Director Jeff Johnson. "At this point, only one is a jet and the rest are turboprops or helicopters."

Of those Mankato-based aircraft, there's a mix of ownership between businesses, flying hobbyists and planes used largely for Minnesota State University's aviation program, which owns 12 planes.

That single jet isn't the only one making use of the airport, though. Many of the national corporations that have stores or other facilities in Mankato fly in executives for periodic visits, Johnson said.

"Those are almost exclusively jets," he said. "Regular companies that utilized the airport in 2017, but do not lease hangar space include Taylor Corporation, Cambria, Downs Foods, Verizon Wireless, Team Oracle, The Minnesota Vikings, Wal-Mart, Target, Bresnan Communications, Menards, Home Depot, Lowes, Best Buy, General Growth Partners, Fleet Farm, Pioneer Seed, Monsanto, John Deere, Charter Seed, Marvin Windows, Hy-Vee and many more."

The companies often use chartered jets, but some are clearly company-owned or owned by individuals. The most obvious instances of that were the ones with the purple trim and the Vikings logo on the tail that arrived every July.

"Yeah, the Wilfs sometimes had two jets out there," said City Manager Pat Hentges.

Unless Zygi and Mark and their extended family return to Mankato for sentimental reasons after moving the NFL team's training camp to Eagan, the airport won't see those aircraft again.

"And that's a loss," Hentges said. "They were good clients for North Star."

North Star Aviation manages day-to-day operations at the airport and works closely with MSU's pilot training program. Johnson guesses about half of the takeoffs and landings, which average a combined 345 per day, involve student pilots — who sometimes do multiple touch-downs as they practice landings. Annually, that's more than 126,000 airport operations, split between takeoffs and landings.

The airport has an annual economic impact of $11.5 million, according to a formula that attempts to account for all of the primary and indirect effects on the local economy of the airport's presence. The same economic impact calculator suggests that 160 jobs exist, directly or indirectly, because of the airport.

There's no direct property-tax subsidy for daily airport operations, Hentges said. Operational expenses are covered by hangar leases paid by aircraft owners, building space leases with MSU, payments from farmers who rent city-owned land surrounding the airport, and a city share of the 250,000 gallons of aviation fuel sold at the airport each year.

The airport's facility costs, by contrast, are heavily subsidized by the nation's taxpayers. Federal grants cover the vast majority of fixes and improvements to everything from runways to taxiways to security fencing to major equipment, with the city typically contributing a 5 percent match.

Original article ➤

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