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AIRPORT COMMISSION: Skywest unofficially official carrier for lakes area

Travelers flying out of Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport might be a little confused about who exactly is airport’s the operating carrier.

Skywest is scheduled to take over as the airport’s carrier on Dec. 15, but Skywest planes have already made their debut in the lakes area.

Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Commission Chair Andy Larson said Delta Airlines partner Pinnacle airlines, the carrier operating flights between Brainerd and the Twin Cities has filed for bankruptcy. Skywest Airlines has assumed the Pinnacle schedule until the official carrier transition in December. “It can be confusing,” Larson said.

The contract between the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport and Skywest has been signed and Interim Airport Manager Rick Adair said at the airport commission meeting Thursday that the only significant change was a reduction in the insurance required of the airline. The insurance figure was reduced from $500 million to $250 million. Skywest Airlines indicated to the Brainerd airport that $250 million was an appropriate amount for the size of the regional airport.

The commission also discussed the process by which the carrier could leave the airport should they choose to do so in the future. FAA regulations require a new carrier in place before a contracted carrier can terminate their operations at the airport. Adair pointed out that the only contingency would be bankruptcy.

The commission also discussed purchasing billboard advertisement space in the Brainerd lakes are to help promote the new airline carrier. Both billboard advertisements will be partially grant funded.

Airport commission Vice Chair Beth Pfingsten remarked that travelers she had spoken to were excited for the potential fare reduction and a schedule that was more friendly to business travelers.

“They are really, really happy,” she said.

Commissioner Rachel Reabe Nystrom agreed that the agreement with Skywest has proven favorable.

“A lot of people have no idea what we could have lost,” she said.

The commission also discussed the format in which it records its minutes for commission meetings. Commissioner Jeff Czeczok expressed his support for maintaining a detailed account of minutes recorded while Commissioner Nystrom favored a more abridged version.

The commission made the decision to continue with a more detailed minutes record for the next two months and revisit the issue after that time.

Also discussed by the commission was the future of the airport’s fixed-based operator (FBO) lease agreement with Airmotive, Inc. Airmotive owner, John Riedl, Jr., is entertaining the possibility of selling Airmotive. A decision that commission Chair Andy Larson said could potentially result in an extension added onto the FBO lease scheduled to expire at the end of 2012.

Central Lakes Aviation owner Kai Brings attended the commission meeting Thursday and made a presentation to the commission informing them of his company’s interest in serving as the FBO for the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport. “We just want the airport commission to know they have options,” Brings said. Brings expressed his concern over the potential safety issues that may arise if Airmotive sells to a less experienced aviation operator. “Untrained people can lead to mistakes made,” Brings said.

Larson said the airport commission’s lease committee will meet some time in mid-November to discuss the future of the lease.

SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at or 855-5879.