Minot Aero Center rolls out the red carpet for visitors - literally.
The red carpet is just one small touch in the center's plan to ensure that pilots choose Minot when they select stopping points on their routes.
Warren Pietsch and Brian Sturm established Minot Aero Center as a full-service, fixed-base operation at the airport after getting a contract with the City of Minot to provide aviation fueling. The center took over the fueling operation at the beginning of the year from the city airport staff.
Jill Schramm/MDN •
The lobby of Minot Aero Center reflects a new look June 24 after extensive remodeling.
Jill Schramm/MDN •
Minot Aero Center created a room where pilots can plan their flights.
With the city's privatization of fueling comes an expectation of improved services and increased general aviation traffic, which the staff at the center are working hard to make happen, said employee Duane Haugstad, whose duties include marketing for the center.
"A lot of people don't have to come to Minot so we are competing for that business. Everything we can draw here that doesn't go elsewhere is good for the community," he said. "We are trying to set ourselves apart by offering more services than most and making it a little more luxurious. ... We are trying to do some of the unexpected things to get people to come back."
A rolling video of airplanes on a screen above the urinal in the men's bathroom is one of the unexpected things.
If the center can't out-distance the competition, it at least wants to run neck-and-neck. The first step in enticing pilots to fly through Minot was to give a new look to the city's general aviation building with new flooring, paint and redesign.
For pilots, an old lounge has been replaced with a new lounge with a television and a separate quiet room for catching a nap or just enjoying the peace. There's a flight room where pilots can log onto a computer and scan a wall-sized map of the United States to plan their trips.
For passengers, there is another lounge with a television. Wireless Internet is available throughout the building. A lunch room provides a refrigerator, microwave, coffee and vending machines.
Minot Aero Center is working with local business to provide catering if a group flying in would like a meal upon landing.
Minot already has advantages with a U.S. Customs office and location on the common fly route across the country. Those were factors in the recent landing of a Gulfstream jet in Minot after winds forced it to divert from St. Louis, Mo., Haugstad said.
Pilots are looking for quick turnaround, and that's what Minot Aero Center strives to provide to get them back in the air again, he said.
It's not just the amenities associated with the remodeling that add to the appeal. There's also the decor. The new lobby includes a compass imprint embedded in the new tile floor and a television screen with a round-the-clock weather channel. The nearby Air Museum in Minot has a promotional display at Minot Aero Center, including a vintage radial engine from the 1930s. There are plants and aviation artwork by Leon Basler of Minot and Chris Grina of Minot in various parts of the building.
The center also opened the back of the building, with its expanse of windows overlooking the airport, to the public.
The ambiance extends to the rest rooms, done in a rich wood. Complimentary toiletries are provided.
"This facility can go anyplace throughout the United States and we would be very proud of it," Haugstad said. "We are not re-inventing anything. We are just trying to do it better, giving outstanding customer service every time somebody comes in. We have good people in place to help us do that."
The center employs 20 people, an addition of 12 people from the operation that had already been ongoing at Pietsch Aircraft Restoration and Repair. Shelley Cole is center manager.
Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the center provides services for visiting pilots such as hangar rental, fueling, de-icing, warming up planes in the winter and airplane maintenance and repair. The center's three mechanics have more than 100 years of combined experience.
The airport averages 24 general aviation flights a day, which doesn't include local pilots who come and go. Center staff also do fueling as needed for the commercial airlines, Delta and United, which fly a combined nine flights a day out of Minot. Minot Aero Center has been assisting the ground crew servicing United to get acquainted with new equipment.