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A rise in the skies: Bemidji Regional Airport sees increase in passengers in 2018

Travelers wait for their luggage on Friday at Bemidji Regional Airport. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 2
Travelers await their flight out of Bemidji on Friday at the Bemidji Regional Airport. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 2

BEMIDJI—The number of people flying in and out of the Bemidji Regional Airport terminal is on the rise.

In 2018, Airport Executive Director Karen Weller said 61,430 passengers made their way through the airport, with arrivals and departures about equal. It's a number that's been increasing for some time, with the total just two years ago at 51,000.

"It seems to be a trend," Weller said. "For 2017 and into 2018, we were up anywhere from 100 to 300 passengers per month."

On a daily basis, the airport has two arrivals and two departures, with flights connecting passengers to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

"We have an early morning departure, a midday turn, where the airplane arrives and then departs, and then a late night arrival," Weller said. "The majority of our traffic through those flights appears to be for business."

Along with tracking travelers in the terminal, airport staff also have been working this year to prepare for two major projects. In 2019, Weller said several new hangars and a new airport ramp will be constructed to improve aviation capabilities.

The hangars for aircraft will be housed in three new buildings, with two of the buildings each holding five smaller hangars and the third building holding four larger hangars. The new 84,000 square-foot ramp, meanwhile, will serve as space on the airport for businesses to construct their own hangars alongside. In airports, ramps are installed for refueling planes, loading cargo and maintenance.

Last summer, a new taxiway was constructed which will connect to the new ramp upon completion.

"We're expecting the hangars to be done by this October and the ramp might be done this summer as well. The timing will all depend on when we get our funding from the FAA," Weller said.

Along with the Federal Aviation Administration, Weller said the projects are also receiving funding from the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the United States Department of Commerce. The airport received a grant of roughly $1 million from the latter through its economic development assistance program.

Weller said the ramp will cost about $1.2 million while the new buildings are estimated at about $2.2 million. In addition to those projects, Weller said the airport will also purchase a new fire truck this year for $683,000 to replace 20-year-old equipment.

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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