A new airline debuted at Fort Dodge Regional Airport last year, and its planes promptly began using a runway that was rebuilt in a $5.5 million project.
This year, the terminal building is expected to be the site of a $1 million renovation job.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
The Great Lakes Airlines afternoon flight taxies toward the terminal at the Fort Dodge Regional Airport on the full day of service for the airline which took over from Delta.
Great Lakes Airlines, based in Cheyenne, Wyo., began serving Fort Dodge in April.
That carrier moved into the market months after Delta Air Lines announced in July 2011 that it wanted out. Delta had served Fort Dodge since its 2008 purchase of Northwest Airlines. It cited the upcoming retirement of the planes used on the Fort Dodge route and passenger numbers it considered too low as reasons for leaving.
But because Delta received a roughly $1 million subsidy from the federal government's Essential Air Service program for its Fort Dodge operation, it could not just leave the community. It was required to continue flying to and from the local airport until the U.S. Department of Transportation picked another airline as a replacement.
The federal agency picked Great Lakes in November 2011, and the airline started its Fort Dodge service on April 11, 2012..
In August, the airline expanded its local schedule. On weekdays it now offers 14 round trips between Fort Dodge and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in Minnesota. On Saturdays and Sundays it offers three round trips.
''We know that there are passengers that want to use the service,'' said Monica Taylor-Lee, the airline's director of public relations. ''This was just an opportunity that we saw that possibly could increase the use and bring people back to the airport.''
The airline receives a $1,798,693 annual federal subsidy for its Fort Dodge flights.
Great Lakes is the only airline serving the city, and it provides seamless connections with Delta flights in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
''We are grateful for the teamwork between Delta and Great Lakes which continues to provide our passengers access to the Delta Air Lines network,'' said Rhonda Chambers, the airport's director of aviation.
Great Lakes uses 19-seat Beechcraft 1900D turbo prop planes for the local flights.
The smaller of the two runways measures 5,300 feet long and 100 feet wide. It dates to the 1952 construction of the airport north of the city on Webster County Road P56.
That runway received a total overhaul in 2012. Several inches of concrete were removed and full depth patches were applied to any broken or weak spots in the remaining concrete. Then a 6-inch thick layer of asphalt was put down.
Also, new lights were installed along the runway and a new electrical control building was constructed.
Fort Dodge Asphalt was the general contractor. Jensen Builders Ltd. of Fort Dodge constructed the electrical control building.
The project began on April 16 and wrapped up on Aug. 24.
When crews were working on the spot where the two runways cross, the airport had to be closed from July 6 to July 20.
The Federal Aviation Administration paid 95 percent of the project's cost.
The planned terminal renovation will yield an improved waiting area, baggage claim and security checkpoint.
The Iowa Department of Transportation has awarded a $97,000 Commercial Service Vertical Infrastructure Grant to help pay for the work. Chambers said much of the needed money for the job will come from the $1 million the airport receives annually from the federal government because it is the site of 10,000 or more boardings a year.
The airport will remain open while the remodeling is under way.