Archives: DNR One of
Airports Prime Customers
|DNR one of
airport’s prime customers
By CHERYL COUTURE
People Section Editor, Brainerd Daily Dispatch
One of the primary users of the Brainerd-Crow
Wing County Airport, with the exception of
scheduled air carriers, is the Department of
Natural Resources (DNR).
Jerry Engelbrecht, a conservation officer pilot
for the DNR (one of four such pilots in the
state), said the DNR’s Division of Enforcement
owns an aircraft which is kept at the airport.
The DNR’s use of the airport is extensive, he
said, but “it varies as the seasons of the year
Engelbrecht explained that in the spring, the
aircraft (a Piper Super Cub) is used mainly to
detect smoke from forest fires. In the summer—a
busy season because of the increase in
tourists—there are fishery and wild rice surveys
and fishing and wildlife enforcement.
The fall season, he said, is the “peak DNR
enforcement time,” with wildlife surveys and the
opening of hunting season. There is also forest
fire work again, he added.
He noted that winter is a busy season too, with
fishery and wildlife surveys and trapping and
In addition to that, Engelbrecht pointed out,
“all the time there is some transporting of DNR
He added: “During the course of the year, I
travel all over the state,” and “Brainerd has
one of the finest airports in the state… The
runway and terminal facilities are excellent.”
Aside from surveys and enforcement, the
Department of Natural Resources in involved in
search and rescue missions, the conservation
Engelbrecht, who has been with the DNR for 11
years (nine as a pilot), pointed out that search
and rescue work goes on all year, but mostly
during hunting season.
“There are probably 10 search and rescue
missions each year, involving boating, lost
hunters and lost children over the central
one-third of the state,” he said.
Before a search begins, he explained, the area
is narrowed down as much as possible by friends
or relatives. Then, he and another person,
usually another conservation officer or a
sheriff’s deputy, will fly in that area.
It’s always best to fly with another person,
Engelbrecht said, adding that “two more eyes”
can help a lot.
After the person or persons are spotted, he then
directs the ground search team by two-way radio
and they, in turn, would complete the rescue
Engelbrecht said in addition to rescuing people,
the Department of Natural Resources also flies
wounded birds and animals to the University of
Minnesota School of Veterinary Medicine.
This usually involves bald eagles and other
birds of prey that have been injured in some
way—either by flying into a power line or having
On one occasion, the DNR even transported salmon
eggs, Engelbrecht said.