Iron Range Airport Launches Expanded Jet Service
Thu, 12/01/2011 – 9:15pm
By Jeremy Scott and photojournalist Nathaniel LeCapitaine, FOX 21 News
HIBBING – A major milestone on the Iron Range as a first–of–its size Delta Airlines passenger jet made its inaugural departure from the Range Regional Airport.
Thursday’s departure couldn’t have arrived at a better time, as many smaller regional airports face uncertain futures. The new service is about to connect the Iron Range to world now more than ever.
Bags are packed, tickets are printed, and passengers takeoff.
Frequent business flier Nathan Condon is no stranger to rural airports.
“I’ve seen lots of smaller airports being in the mining industry and this is as nice as any I’ve been to,” said passenger Nathan Condon.
Checking in for his flight to Montreal at the Range Regional airport in Hibbing, Condon knows the significance of a strong rural airport.
“An airport can be a lifeline for smaller communities.”
While many smaller airports are being hit hard by declining passenger numbers, airline cutbacks, and federal funding problems, the Range Regional Airport is flying high.
“We really count on our air service up here, for business travelers and economic development,” said Executive Director at Chisholm-Hibbing Airport Authority, Shaun Germolus.
On Thursday, a new Delta commercial service replaced a smaller passenger plane with a grander 50 seat regional ride.
“Passengers are going to notice a newer more modern aircraft, it will be quieter, probably more comfortable, the planes a little faster, so I think they’ll have a more enjoyable flight to Minneapolis,” said Germolus.
But the upgrade by Delta Airlines takes Range airport officials by surprise.
Just days after a study by think–tank Minnesota 2020 revealed airports in greater Minnesota like the Range Regional Airport may be in jeopardy of closing.
“It’s always a concern we are served by Delta through the federal DOT subsidy, there’s some talk that the subsidy may be reduced or eliminated in a few years and that does greatly concern us,” said Germolus.
And while this economic uncertainty may keep some flights grounded, many on the Iron Range and beyond will continue to celebrate the success of their local aviation achievements.
“It’s absolutely critical to keep them going, if money can actually be invested in small airports like this it can certainly make life lot better for residents of small communities,” said Condon.
Flights from Hibbing to Minneapolis run twice a day.
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