Soaring high

General aviation traffic through Minot International Airport has been keeping Minot Aero Center busy.

Warren Pietsch, an owner of the aero center and of Pietsch Aircraft Restoration & Repair, reported to the Minot Airport Committee recently that the aero center, with its capacity to handle larger aircraft, is in a good position to serve the oil industry. With 80,000 square feet of commercial space, Minot Aero Center is the largest fixed-base operator in the western two-thirds of the state, he said.

Minot Aero Center, in its fourth year of operation, has seen tremendous growth in business.

“It’s going well,” Pietsch said. “We are happy.”

Some statistics from January into November:

124 flights a week by corporate and other private airplanes.

1,500 cargo flights.

3,400 take-offs and as many landings by flight training and rental operations.

830 crop-spraying operations.

For the year to date, the airport has had an estimated 6,864 arrivals and departures of scheduled airlines, or about 11 flights a day. The numbers include Delta, United, Frontier and Allegiant flights.

The aero center’s six full-time mechanics have performed more than 11,000 hours of maintenance. They have responded to 122 maintenance call-outs, or about one every three days on average.

Pietsch said the availability of aircraft maintenance in Minot has made the airport a choice stop for private pilots. The Minot airport is on a Great Circle Route, which is a path that pilots making global trips typically use. The aero center can provide many of the services that pilots look for, including customs. Pietsch said that although the number of planes following the route initially has been low, that number is increasing.

In addition to maintenance, the center can arrange for rental cars, help with booking hotels and provide other assistance to visitors who fly in. The aero center has two plane de-icers and can make those services available to the commercial airlines as backup if requested. The center also handles fueling functions at the airport.

Minot Aero Center is staffed 24 hours a day. It has 34 full-time and four part-time employees.

In response to the growth that’s occurring in air cargo activity, Pietsch Aircraft Restoration and Repair is pursuing potential construction of a 8,280-square-foot facility that would add to existing cargo space. The city has approved an initial application, but more detailed information will be submitted through the City Planning Department for further review. If approved by the city, construction is expected to begin early in 2014 and be complete by Sept. 1.