Iron Range Airport Launches Expanded Jet Service
Thu, 12/01/2011 - 9:15pm
By Jeremy Scott and photojournalist Nathaniel LeCapitaine, FOX 21 News
HIBBING - A major milestone on the Iron Range as a first–of–its size
Delta Airlines passenger jet made its inaugural departure from the Range
Thursday’s departure couldn't have arrived at a better time, as many
smaller regional airports face uncertain futures. The new service is
about to connect the Iron Range to world now more than ever.
Bags are packed, tickets are printed, and passengers takeoff.
Frequent business flier Nathan Condon is no stranger to rural airports.
"I've seen lots of smaller airports being in the mining industry and
this is as nice as any I've been to,” said passenger Nathan Condon.
Checking in for his flight to Montreal at the Range Regional airport
in Hibbing, Condon knows the significance of a strong rural airport.
"An airport can be a lifeline for smaller communities."
While many smaller airports are being hit hard by declining passenger
numbers, airline cutbacks, and federal funding problems, the Range
Regional Airport is flying high.
"We really count on our air service up here, for business travelers
and economic development," said Executive Director at Chisholm-Hibbing
Airport Authority, Shaun Germolus.
On Thursday, a new Delta commercial service replaced a smaller passenger plane with a grander 50 seat regional ride.
"Passengers are going to notice a newer more modern aircraft, it will
be quieter, probably more comfortable, the planes a little faster, so I
think they'll have a more enjoyable flight to Minneapolis," said
But the upgrade by Delta Airlines takes Range airport officials by surprise.
Just days after a study by think–tank Minnesota 2020 revealed
airports in greater Minnesota like the Range Regional Airport may be in
jeopardy of closing.
"It's always a concern we are served by Delta through the federal DOT
subsidy, there's some talk that the subsidy may be reduced or
eliminated in a few years and that does greatly concern us," said
And while this economic uncertainty may keep some flights grounded,
many on the Iron Range and beyond will continue to celebrate the success
of their local aviation achievements.
“It's absolutely critical to keep them going, if money can actually
be invested in small airports like this it can certainly make life lot
better for residents of small communities,” said Condon.
Flights from Hibbing to Minneapolis run twice a day.