Smaller airports around metro see success in 2020

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The airline industry is still trying to rebound during this pandemic, but it’s a different story for smaller airports around the Twin Cities metro.

The Metropolitan Airports Commission released new data that shows a 65% decline in passengers in 2020. However, there was an increase at reliever airports and a combined 6,300 more takeoffs and landings compared to 2019.

"End of March, it just exploded, it was really busy," said Trever Rossini, owner of Inflight Pilot Training at Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie.

Rossini said 80% of his company’s business in 2020 was from new pilots.

"It was in the hundreds, it was the biggest jump in eight years doing this," Rossini said.

There are six general aviation or reliever airports in the metro, controlled by the Metropolitan Airports Commission.

"If these airports were not in the system then that would put more pressure and operations on [Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport]," said Jeff Lea, spokesperson with the MAC. "It has been a bright spot and I think the reason is is that we had a lot of people that had more time, a lot of people that needed to socially distance."

Operations at Flying Cloud Airport were up nearly 20% in 2020 compared to the year before. This includes one day in May, where it was the 13th busiest airport in the country.

"We saw a very large increase in activity," Rossini said.

Rossini is optimistic another good year is in store as more people realize that flying can be a real hobby.

"It’s attainable, it’s not something that’s this allure or mystique," Rossini said.

While local, smaller airports are thriving, aviation leaders are hopeful the trend continues for the entire industry.

"We would prefer to have full activity that we had obviously before the pandemic to have all sectors firing on all cylinders," Lea said.