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Airport Archives: Politics Involved In Site Selection

Politics 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 location.

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 financing.

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 types.

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 facilities.”

 
 
 
 
 

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Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport
16384 Airport Rd, Suite 5 · Brainerd, MN 56401-5852 · 218-825-2166