Airport Ownership, Classification and Role
The Thief River Falls Regional Airport is owned by the City of Thief River and operated by the Thief River Falls Airport Authority, as a public-use facility providing for commercial, general aviation, college and military users. The Airport has historically experienced between 3,000 and 8,000 annual enplanements, achieving ‘Non-Primary Commercial Service’ classification by the Federal Aviation Administration National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS).
The 2006 Minnesota Aviation System Plan (SASP) identifies the Airport as a ‘Key’ commercial service classification. The Airport is designated as an FAA C-III Airport Reference Code (ARC), and certified as a Class I-A FAA Part 139 facility for serving passenger aircraft up to 30 seats.
From FAA-published information gathered in 2012, the Airport experiences 31,200 aircraft operations per year (takeoffs and landings) of which 30,000 operations are attributed to general aviation operations, 1,250 from air carrier commercial service, 2,600 from other commercial/cargo service, and 100 military operations. Nearly 5,000 passengers (2,500 enplanement boardings) are processed annually from scheduled airline flights. The Airport has 26 based aircraft, including 3 multi-piston and 3 jet turbine airplanes.
The Airport has commercial service by Boutique Air. They provide very affordable direct service to Minneapolis with three round trip flights per day. Boardings were increased from 2015 by 284% in their first 6-months of service in 2016. As the company purchases more aircraft they are considering adding a fourth roundtrip per day. Boutique Air is also opening a car rental business at the airport early in 2017.
The Airport property, which is owned by the City and leased and operated by the Airport Authority, totals about 1,200 acres in fee and easement land interests.
The following describes the airfield systems, as illustrated on the Airport Layout Plan (ALP) drawings and supporting table documentation:
- Runway System: The airfield is a midfield intersecting runway configuration, with a 6,503’ x 150’ primary Runway 13-31, and 4,996’ x 75’ crosswind Runway 03-21. Runway 31 is installed with a precision Instrument Landing System (ILS).
- Taxiway System: The airfield taxiway system includes a full-length parallel taxiway system to Runway 13-31 and Runway 3-21, Runway 13-31 exit taxiways and terminal connector taxiways to the apron/ramp. The taxiways total 15,000 linear feet and vary from 40 to 75 feet wide.
- Apron System: The apron/ramp areas are located on the northeast side of the airfield, supporting various aircraft parking and maneuvering for the commercial operators, transient users, the Fixed Based Operator, Northland Community and Technical College airframe and power plant program, and hangar tenants. The main apron is a contiguous paved area totaling about 281,370 square feet, containing one airline parking position fronting the passenger terminal building, a designated cargo aircraft parking position, 11 marked small aircraft tie-downs, and undesignated ramp parking areas adjacent to buildings and hangars.
Recent Airport Projects
The City of Thief River Falls Regional Airport has completed numerous large scale transportation projects in recent years. Their purpose was to repair and maintain failing infrastructure, support general aviation, commercial traffic and freight operations. A summary of these projects is outlined below.
- Terminal Building Remodel and ARFF Building Improvements
- Multi-Purpose Hangar Construction (UPS Gateway Design)
- Fuel System Upgrade
- Crosswind Runway Construction
- Runway 13-31 Reconstruction
- Supplemental Wind Cones
- Snow Blower, Plow Truck and High Speed Broom Purchase
- Wastewater Force Main Construction
- ALP Update
- Jet Fuel Truck
- Reconstruct Parallel Taxiway
These projects reinforce the local commitment, along with state and federal partnerships to install and maintain infrastructure critical to the growth and vitality of the Thief River Falls Regional Airport.
Proposed Airport Projects
The Thief River Falls Regional Airport continues to plan for the maintenance of existing infrastructure and expansion to meet the needs of industry. Having classification as a National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS), the Thief River Falls Regional Airport is eligible to receive federal grants under the Airport Improvement Program (AIP).
The Airport’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP) outlines proposed projects over the next 20 years at a total estimated cost in excess of 40 million dollars.
The project of most interest to Digi-Key is an extension of the runway to facilitate larger aircraft. This project, which would extend the runway from 6,300 feet to 7,500 feet, is in the CIP (attached) with an environmental assessment programmed for 2023 (FFY 2022) and construction in 2025 (FFY 2024). Zoning and land acquisition could began prior to these dates.
The total cost of these improvements is estimated to cost approximately $15,000,000. Funding for these improvements comes primarily from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), with a portion from state and local sources.
Justification for the extension can be accomplished through a letter of commitment from Digi-Key and their carriers regarding the larger aircraft they are planning to use and the anticipated schedule.
The foundation is in place to accomplish these critical projects through the 2016 Capital Improvement Program. Early communication and planning will assure that the needs of Digi-Key can be met.
The Thief River Falls Regional Airport is committed to accomplishing these improvements as quickly as the process allows.