Blaine-Anoka County Airport Slated for $22 Million Upgrade

The Blaine-Anoka County Airport is on the verge of a $22 million improvement program that includes a longer runway, 100 more hangars and a new navigational system.

The airport also soon will be home to a new aviation careers program sponsored by Anoka Technical College.

The Metropolitan Airports Commission is scheduled to approve the improvements at a meeting Monday. The projects and aviation careers program are "pretty much a done deal," said Anoka County Commissioner Dan Erhart.

The work is part of a long-term plan to upgrade the airport, said Tim Anderson, deputy director of operations for the airports commission, which owns Blaine-Anoka and five other "reliever airports" as well as Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

"There is a strong interest in making reliever airports all they can be," Anderson said.

The new hangars would be in addition to the roughly 250 already there. In an arrangement new to the commission, it plans to lease hangar land to Anoka County, which would sublease it to private developers. Those developers would build hangars to suit specific customers. At other small airports, counties or cities build and operate hangars, Anderson said.

The improvements would add another 1,000 feet to the east end of the airport's east-west runway, for a total of 5,000 feet. The north-south runway is already about 5,000 feet, said Anderson, but the extension means corporate jets will be able to land and take off in more weather conditions.

"On a hot day like today, a Cessna Citation 3 would have a hard time taking off in 4,000 feet," Anderson said last week, because hot air is less dense than cooler air.

Even wind direction can change a pilot's preference for landing safely, airport manager Joe Harris said. "We get northwest winds in the winter," he said. "This will give pilots another option."

The extension won't necessarily mean more traffic and complaints about noise, Anderson said. Most complaints come from Mounds View, which is affected by the north-south runway and traffic there isn't expected to increase.

Plans also call for installation of a new navigational system for the east-west runway, enabling approaching aircraft to land in half the visibility of the present system. When the new system is up and running, pilots will be able to land in visibility down to a half mile and under a cloud cover of 200 feet.

The improvements also may mean another fixed-base operator a contracted specialist in servicing certain types of aircraft. The airport already has two.

The aviation careers program isn't included in the airport improvement plan, but Anoka Technical College president Anne Weyandt said the college will coordinate its plans with the work.

Professors from St. Cloud State University will teach classes at the airport, Weyandt said. The program wouldn't train future pilots but would involve other aviation-oriented careers, such as airport management or control tower dispatch.

Many details haven't been settled, she said, including the size of the program or when it would begin.

In terms of size, the 1,700-acre airport is second in the metro area to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The Blaine-Anoka County Airport is home to about 475 aircraft.

Bob Shaw can be reached at bshawpioneerpress.comor 651-228-5433.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press