50th Cover

2014 – GFK’s 50 Year Anniversary

The airport celebrated it’s 50th Anniversary on August 18, 2014.

Click here to view a copy of the event’s special newspaper section published in the Grand Forks Herald.

Patrick Dame was the Executive Director of the Grand Forks Regional Airport Authority during this 50th Anniversary Celebration. Below is a transcript of his speech, followed by some photos taken that day.

Good Afternoon and welcome to the 50 year celebration of the Grand Forks International Airport Mark Andrews Field. My name is Patrick Dame and I am the Executive Director of the Grand Forks Regional Airport Authority.

To start out, I would like to take this opportunity to provide a thank you to the Airport Authority Board of Directors, our staff, tenants and volunteers who have helped to bring this event to you, without them this event would not have been possible. I would like to provide a special thanks to Coleen Peterson for her hard work in organizing the event. Please join me in providing them with a round of applause..

We are honored to have some great displays here today with Duggy the DC-3, a P-51 Mustang, T-6 Texan, Japanese Zero and several more. What a great opportunity for kids to see some historical aircraft at this event and learn some history. I would encourage parents to have their kids speak with the pilots about their airplanes. Please join me in offering a round of applause to pilots of these fantastic aircraft.

It is difficult to summarize 50 years of an airport and what that means to a community, especially Grand Forks. Many small communities do not have the luxury of an airport as large and diverse as Grand Forks. The Grand Forks International Airport – Mark Andrews Field was constructed in 1963 and 1964. At that time, the current airport on the west side of town was only large enough to accommodate a DC-3. With the entrance of the jet age on the horizon and a new interstate, the City made a bold decision to move the airport. If only they could see the results of their decision now.

In 1964, GFK had just 21,000 passengers, today, we plan to board close to 150,000 passengers. In 1964, we had less than 50,000 take-offs and landings, today, GFK is the 20th busiest airport in the United States with over 350,000 take-offs and landings. If you would like to do the math, that is a take-off or a landing approximately every 30 seconds during normal business hours. In 1964, they City built two runways, today, we have four runways with capabilities of running traffic off two runway in either a north-south configuration or an east-west configuration. In 1964, the City Airport and our partner tenants employed just 20 people total, today, the Airport Authority and our partner tenant’s employee over 800 full and part-time employees and as a complex have become the 7th largest employer in Grand Forks. What a major economic engine!

Over the years, we have seen airlines come and sometimes go like North Central, Republic, Frontier, United, Mesaba, Northern Airways and now Delta, Allegiant and FedEx. As we look into the future, we expect to see Grand Forks continue to build air service with new routes and hopefully new carriers.

A very important part of the history of GFK came in 1968 when John Odegard started what was to become the most prestigious flight school in the world with two donated aircraft. The University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences maintains a large and growing campus at GFK with 113 faculty and approximately 1,783 students. Today UND has over 100 aircraft and keep our air traffic controllers busy with up to 1,800 take-offs and landings per day.

In 2009, GFK started a transition from the original 1964 facility to a new age as we started construction of the Byron L. Dorgan Terminal. The new terminal opened in August of 2011 and has been a major improvement to our facility. We have continued our with the urban renewal with a ribbon cutting, earlier today, of the Stephen Rucinski Maintenance Facility. The new maintenance facility is in the location of the 1964 airline terminal.

None of this would be possible without the support of the community, the Authority Board of Directors, the forefathers who made this decision in 1961, Former Senator Mark Andrews and Former Senator Byron Dorgan. All of them have played a major role in making this facility what it is today.

I would remiss if I did not mention our staff and all their hard work keeping this facility safe and looking fantastic along with those who have worked for us in the past. It takes hard work and dedication to work on an airport in North Dakota, from sheep breeching the fence to large snow drifts and ground blizzards, the facility must remain open, safe and operational. It is the work of our hard staff who make that possible.

I would also like to say that I am proud to serve as the fifth Airport Manager at GFK. Our previous manages were Norman Midboe, Tom Breton, Robert Selig and Steve Johnson. It is an honor to be among this group.

So what is the vision for GFK for the next 50 years? As we enter the next 50 years, we will spend time replacing some of our oldest infrastructure from the main runway to the aircraft parking aprons. We plan to construct a new Aircraft Rescue Firefight building, develop a new General Aviation Hangar Area along with a new corporate hangar area in the location of the original airline terminal. We also plan to grow the terminal area to support the 2040 projections of 250,000 passenger enplanements.

With that, I would like to thank all of you for coming. We have refreshments along with hot dogs and chips for $3. Please enjoy the displays and most importantly have fun.