MAC Newsletter, September 2018

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MAC News 75th Anniversary Edition

MSP's operations expertise on display at forum in China

sara freese

Minnesota is known for its winter weather.


And Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) is known in the industry for responding to those chaotic snowstorms – with an organized, thorough and speedy removal of snow and ice – a playbook of sorts.

That expertise was recognized recently when Sara Freese (pictured), MSP’s assistant director for Operations and Field Maintenance, was asked to share MSP’s winter weather strategies with Chinese airport and airline leaders at a conference in Beijing, China.


Her presentation last month described how MSP handles everything from a light Alberta clipper to a major blizzard.


“The professionals at the conference were eager learners,” Freese said. “It was a great exchange of knowledge.”


Freese’s presentation was part of an executive training program organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in China and the Civil Aviation Administration of China, a government entity similar to the FAA in the United States.


A day prior to her presentation, Freese received training to speak through a translator. Her prepared remarks also scrolled on a screen in Mandarin as she spoke.


Freese used a multi-media approach to showcase the types of equipment used at MSP and described worker training and all aspects of snow removal – from storm preparation to post-squall critiques.


Ten airports in China each serve more than 35.5 million passengers annually, the largest being Beijing Capital International with 95.7 million passengers -- the second busiest in the world after the Atlanta airport in Georgia. MSP served 38 million passengers last year.


“I was honored to share the vast knowledge my team has built up over many winters,” Freese said. “The trip and the conference were the experience of a lifetime.”

New boardwalk opens at Crystal Airport wildlife area

crystal boardwalk

The wildlife area on the northeast corner of Crystal Airport is again available for round-trip hikes, thanks to a partnership with the Three Rivers Park District and the City of Crystal.


The 40-acre wildlife area located on Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) property features a boardwalk and a nature trail that circles a wetland area. A water control structure designed to limit the amount of runoff that goes into Twin Lake to the south had, over time, raised the water level in the wetland and submerged portions of the previous boardwalk. 


To bring the nature trail back to life, this summer Three Rivers built a new 460-foot section of the boardwalk. The new structure includes an outdoor learning station for visiting groups and reconnects the .7-mile loop around the wetlands.

Pictured: The MAC's Kelly Gerads addresses the crowd at the re-opening.

Officials from Crystal, the MAC and Three Rivers attended a recent ribbon-cutting to mark the re-opening. Dozens of local fans of the wildlife area were on hand to see the rebuilt boardwalk and enjoy the area.

At the ribbon cutting, Kelly Gerads, the MAC’s assistant director of reliever airports, encouraged residents to enjoy the beautiful wildlife area in their community.

“We’re pleased that the partnership with the city of Crystal and Three Rivers has made this hidden gem accessible again,” Gerads said.

The MAC acquired the site for the Crystal Airport in 1948. The wetland on the corner of airport is the only wildlife area in Crystal and is adjacent to Brooklyn Center’s Kylawn Park to the east.

Everson named new Public Safety Director

Mike E.

Mike Everson was recently named as director of the new Department of Public Safety at the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC).


Everson, currently the chief of police at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) will lead the department that consolidates the airport’s police, fire and emergency programs under one umbrella for improved coordination of services. 


Everson (pictured) will continue to serve as chief of police in addition to his role as director of public safety. 


“Mike Everson has tremendous knowledge and experience, having served honorably in MSP International Airport’s police department for 30 years,” said MAC Chief Operating Officer Roy Fuhrmann. “He has been key to developing and implementing the airport’s security plan and has served with distinction as police chief since 2014. Mike has held national leadership roles and been instrumental in improving security practices at airports.” 


Everson joined the MAC in 1988 as community service officer and rose steadily through the ranks before being named chief in 2014. In 2016, Everson was instrumental in creating the Public Area Protection Initiative, providing a more visible police presence in public areas of MSP. 


“It is an honor to be given this opportunity to lead the MAC’s public safety professionals,” Everson said. “I am humbled by the trust the MAC has in me and in all of the men and women who tirelessly serve this airport community.” 


He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Minnesota and an associate’s degree in law enforcement from Inver Hills Community College. Everson is a graduate of the Southern Police Institute’s 116th administrative officer’s course at the University of Louisville. 

Special Olympics plane pull fundraiser draws a crowd

Sunny skies, a Delta jet and a little friendly competition made for another exceptional Plane Pull at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport last Saturday.

Twenty teams competed to see who could pull a Delta jet 25 feet in the shortest time. At the end of the competition, Team Cybertron walked away with first place – and bragging rights until next year's pull. First through third place included:

  • First Place: Team Cybertron
  • Second Place: TDKA - Tip Towing
  • Third Place: APD Core 


To participate, each team was asked to raise $1,000 in pledges for Special Olympics Minnesota. In total, the event brought in nearly $30,000.

This family-friendly event was presented by Minnesota law enforcement agencies as part of their year-round Law Enforcement Torch Run fundraising efforts; co-sponsors included HMSHost, EndeavorAir, Delta, and, of course, the MSP Airport Police Department.


Thomson Reuters touts sustainability at MSP

A recent post from "Thomson Reuters Sustainability" highlighted the MAC's work on sustainability projects that helped it earn the 2017 Environmental Achievement Award for Innovative and Special Projects from the Airports Council International.

Solar arrays, efforts to reduce carbon emissions and optimized profile descents for aircraft are some of the topics covered.

The wide-ranging Thomson Reuters article is available here.

New InterContinental Hotel hosts 2018 State of the Airport

More than 530 people gathered at the new InterContinental Hotel at MSP last week for the annual State of the Airport luncheon.

Attendees were treated to a good look at the new facility and presentations by Delta Air Lines executives.  

Brian Ryks addresses the crowd at the SOTA luncheon.


Jana Webster, the executive director of Airport Foundation MSP, and Arts@MSP Director Ben Owen, provided updates on the foundation's cultural and travelers' assistance programs.  

MAC CEO and Executive Director Brian Ryks recapped the last year's worth of activities and projects at MSP, including the Super Bowl and ongoing construction work at Terminal 1. 

A video of MSP airport employees who keep operations flowing smoothly day-to-day was also shown. Click on the image above to see the video.

The MAC in the 1990s: A dual track study and NWA negotiations

 (Editor’s note: Following is the eighth in a series of articles on the history of the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which is marking its 75th anniversary this year.)


The 1990s opened as the state of Minnesota and the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) began deciding the future of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport: whether to expand at its existing location or develop a new airport elsewhere.


As that work began, Northwest Airlines sought public financing to expand its presence in Minnesota –financing that later proved important in helping the airline survive a period of financial losses.


Following the purchase of Northwest Airlines in 1989 by Wings Holding, the airline was carrying debt that limited its operations. Northwest lost money in 1990 and 1991, leading up to its request to the MAC and the state of Minnesota for assistance to build Airbus maintenance bases in Duluth and Hibbing, Minn.


Over the course of almost a full year, Northwest and the state negotiated a deal; the incentives package was re-worked several times. At one point a handful of cities and airports around the U.S. were bidding for the planned Airbus maintenance base.

Jeff Hamiel, MAC CEO and executive director (right), meets with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Sam Skinner in the early 1990s.

Interested parties included Kansas City, Detroit, Memphis, Seattle, Indianapolis and Milwaukee.

Ultimately, the state of Minnesota approved a $761 million financial assistance package for the airline to reduce debt and build facilities in Northeastern Minnesota, a deal that crafted a unique partnership between the airline and the state.

The financial package provided some stability for Northwest, but a recession in 1991 and competition among airlines put further pressure on the industry.

nwa 747s
Two Northwest Airlines' 747s parked at MSP International in the late 1990s.

By 1993, Northwest was floating the idea of bankruptcy due to its continuing debt burden. Ultimately, Northwest employees made wage and other concessions, and lenders renegotiated loans, giving the airline better financial footing.

Northwest’s financial position improved in the mid-1990s, and the airline added flights to six Canadian cities, improved its frequent flier program and expanded electronic ticketing as online booking became popular. Northwest’s fleet grew to more than 400 planes and a partnership with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines increased Northwest’s presence globally.

Northwest’s new $46 million Airbus A320 maintenance base opened at the Duluth International Airport in 1996; Airbus maintenance operations ceased there in 2006. Also in 1996, a Northwest reservation center opened in Chisholm, Minn. Delta still operates that facility as its Iron Range Customer Engagement Center.

nwa planes

Pictured: Northwest Airlines aircraft at gates on Concourse C.

Other Northwest-related events had occurred over that same stretch of time that bode well for MSP.

In April 1991, a KLM 747 touched down at MSP. Although international charter operations had previously served the Twin Cities market, the KLM flight marked the first scheduled service by an overseas-based air carrier to MSP.

KLM was a minority partner of Northwest Airlines at the time. The flight from Amsterdam, the Netherlands was greeted by Northwest Airlines’ Co-Chairman Al Checchi, former Vice President Walter Mondale, U.S. Rep. James Oberstar and Gov. Arne Carlson.

Noise mitigation and other MAC milestones

Other important events early in the 1990s included the Minnesota Court of Appeals unanimously upholding a decision that had been made by a Hennepin County jury in a test case over airport noise.

The jury had found that the MAC didn’t directly or substantially violate the rights of three homeowners who lived near MSP. The lawsuit had initially been filed as a class-action lawsuit by more than 27,000 business and residential property owners. To expedite a decision, the courts had ordered the test case.

At the same time, the MAC was advancing plans to provide noise-insulating measures for eligible homeowners near the airport.

The MAC had started insulating schools near the airport in 1981, when it provided window replacement, air conditioning and other improvements at St. Kevin’s school on 28th Avenue in Minneapolis. Eighteen other schools near the airport would receive insulation by 2006.

In 1992 the MAC and the Federal Aviation Administration announced an initial sound-insulation program for 300 homes. The work consisted of improvements that could include window reconditioning or replacement, new doors, wall and attic insulation, baffling of roof and attic vents and central air conditioning.

The program placed MSP among the most responsive airports in the country on noise mitigation efforts. Since 1992, the MAC has spent more than $484 million on noise mitigation.

At MSP, work was also underway in 1995 to reconstruct and extend the length of Runway 4-22, which runs diagonally from the southwest to the northeast, to improve the safety and capacity of that airstrip. 

new window
Contractors replace windows on a home to provide better sound-proofing through a program coordinated by the MAC.

Dual track study underway

In 1989 the MAC began the dual track study at the direction of the State Legislature. Lawmakers wanted to determine if MSP should be expanded at its current location or if a new airport should be built in southeastern Dakota County, near Rosemount.

The study resulted from pressure by opponents of aircraft noise in the neighborhoods near the airport and MSP’s growth projections showing the airport could outgrow its existing site.

Over the course of seven years, the MAC and consultants ran various models of passenger demand and airfield configurations to gauge the feasibility of an additional runway at MSP.

Meanwhile, analysts calculated the cost of building a new airport, an idea that met increased resistance from Dakota County residents and politicians. Later in the evaluation process, the idea of remote runways and a small terminal south of Rosemount -- connected to MSP by high-speed rail -- was also briefly considered.

State lawmakers aimed to choose between an expansion of MSP or a new airport by 1996.

The dual track study came to a head that year as the MAC board voted 11-3 to recommend the expansion of the existing airport instead of moving to a new location.

Northwest Airlines and the downtown Minneapolis business community had been opposed to relocating MSP International to the edge of the southern suburbs.

The dual track study had shown that expanding MSP with a fourth runway, more gates and a new terminal could handle all of the growth forecast through 2020. The study also found that the expansion would deliver the same economic benefits of a new airport, but for $2.2 billion less.

The MAC’s vote sent the issue to the State Legislature, which had the final say on the issue. Legislators later that year approved the expansion plan for MSP.

The result: the $3.1 billion MSP -- Building a Better Airport expansion program.

The MAC had analyzed three proposals for new runways at MSP. The plan chosen involved the construction of a new north-south runway, which today is runway 17/35, running mostly parallel to Cedar Avenue on the west side of MSP’s airfield.

In addition to the runway, other expansion projects at MSP included 42 new gates at Terminal 1, a new Humphrey Charter Terminal, new parking ramps and plans for the addition of light-rail transit at both terminals.

Sources: MAC archive material, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota Historical Society archives.

MSP's bond rating remains strong

A recent report from Fitch Ratings affirmed healthy ratings for the Metropolitan Airports Commission’s outstanding bonds, citing Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport’s (MSP) strong air service and the Twin Cities metro area’s healthy economy.


Fitch Ratings, a New York-based agency, affirmed its “AA-“ rating on the Metropolitan Airports Commission’s (MAC) approximately $704 million in senior revenue bonds and an “A+” rating on the MAC’s approximately $699 million in subordinated revenue bonds.

"Maintaining one of the highest debt ratings of any airport in the nation helps keep the costs of borrowing for capital improvements at MSP low," said MAC Executive Director and CEO Brian Ryks.

The report referenced the MAC’s modest capital needs as its expands and renovates Terminal 1, MSP’s strong base of flights originating at the airport, and the MAC’s conservative debt structure – which minimizes the risk of fluctuations in debt interest costs. 

Upcoming MAC meetings

MAC Committee meetings: Monday, Oct. 8.

Full MAC Commission: Monday, Oct. 22


Agendas for the meetings are available a few days prior at the MAC's website.

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