involved in site selection
By LES SELLNOW
Editor, Brainerd Daily Dispatch
There were better spots for the airport than the
one selected back in the mid-1940s, but some
county politics figured into the decision to
locate the facility east of Brainerd between
Brainerd and Crosby.
The ideal location would have been south of
Brainerd where the land is more level and there
wasn’t quite as much tree and brush growth.
Brainerd officials felt that Crosby should be
involved in the project and tried to find a
location that was midway between the two cities.
S.G. Fitzpatrick was city attorney then and he
remembers that a selection committee examined
several areas before deciding on the present
Most of the property that became the airport was
tax-forfeited land, Fitzpatrick said. As city
attorney, Fitzpatrick handled the early details,
but later this task was taken over by Walter F.
Wieland for whom the field is named.
Though most area residents felt the airport was
needed, a lot of them “thought it was a waste of
money,” Fitzpatrick recalled.
Much of the work on the airport was completed in
1948 and an open house was held in September of
that year. The local airport was the first of 28
primary airports to be completed in Minnesota
under the three-way federal, state and local
The new airport came in for some laudatory
remarks on the part of Leslie L. Schroeder, who
was serving as commissioner of the Department of
Aeronautics and spoke to the Brainerd Rotarians
on Sept. 7, 1948.
“Not only is it the first, but it is one of the
finest and most beautiful airports in the entire
state,” Schroeder said. “Recently, while flying
over Aitkin at an altitude of 1,800 feet, I was
able to see and line up perfectly on the runways
at the Brainerd-Crow Wing Airport.
“Located, approximately at the geographical
center of the state, this airport will bring the
entire community closer to all parts of the
country. Within two years you will wonder how
you got along without an airport of this type as
people from all over begin to come to this area
by air. With this community less than 50 minutes
flying time from the Twin Cities, businessmen
who have not been able to come to this region
for brief periods of recreation will now be able
to do so. That will mean dollars in your pockets
that would otherwise go elsewhere.”
The groundwork that made it possible for
Brainerd’s airport to come into existence was
established in 1943 when the Legislature
activated the Department of Aeronautics.
However, it was not until 1945 that the first
appropriations were made. During the interim
before funds were available, plans were made to
establish a system of primary airports in 28 key
cities throughout the state. The airports would
accommodate planes of the larger transport
The plan was that these airports should be
within 100 miles of each other so that a
transport plane would never be more than 50
miles from a suitable landing field.
A plan was also instituted at that time for a
series of secondary airports across the state
for smaller aircraft.
As a special feature of the September open house
at the new airport, residents were allowed to
drive their cars on the runways.
Airport Commission Chairman Walter Wieland had
this to say in his invitation to the public to
attend the event: “We want the public of Crow
Wing County to realize the great work that has
been done to give to this county one of the
finest airports in Minnesota.
“We are anxious, too, to have communities of the
county realize that airmail service through the
airport which will come with the opening of the
port to general schedule flights, will be
available to all communities.
“The people of Crow Wing County should
understand that this port is a county-wide
project, available to all, and will play an
important role in future transportation