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Airport Archives: DNR One of Airports Prime Customers

DNR one of airport’s prime customers
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 change.”

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 fishing enforcement.

In addition to that, Engelbrecht pointed out, “all the time there is some transporting of DNR officials.”

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 pilot noted.

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 mission.

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 been shot.

On one occasion, the DNR even transported salmon eggs, Engelbrecht said.


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