November 7, 2012

For more than 55 years, the Minnesota Business Aviation Association (MBAA) has carried the torch for general aviation interests in the North Star State, setting the bar for the many regional business aviation organizations across the country that subsequently took their cue from MBAA.

“If there is an older regional business aviation group, I don’t know what it is,” said Gordon Hoff, executive director of the almost 600-member organization.

In recent years, MBAA has been successful in working with state legislators to get Minnesota to repay $15 million to the State Airports Trust Fund (the monies had previously been transferred to the state’s General Fund). MBAA and other aviation interests have been working to dedicate funds from the state’s bonding bill to “upgrade the quality and infrastructure of Minnesota’s airports,” said Hoff.

Recent examples include $1.7 million to extend the runway at Bigfork Municipal Airport (FOZ), a small, but key facility that provides access to the national air transportation system for a nearby membrane-switch factory that employs more than 100 people in the small town of Bigfork. Another nearly $2 million from the 2010 bonding bill was used for a 19,800-square-foot multipurpose hangar at Thief River Falls Airport (TVF), which provides greater year-round reliability for the many business and freight operations that operate daily at the airport, according to Hoff.

This year, MBAA and other Minnesota aviation organizations are proposing that $6 million from the bonding bill be included for upgrading various navigational aids, runway lighting systems and other larger projects at various airports around the state. MBAA is also working with state and federal legislators on getting funds for equipment to close the radar gap that exists in central Minnesota. According to Hoff, 17 airports lie within the gap area itself and another nine on its fringe have limited radar coverage at lower altitudes. “We need radar coverage to get that gap filled,” said Hoff.

Of perennial concern to MBAA, and a key focus of its legislative efforts this year, is the state’s high aircraft-registration tax. Fixed at 1 percent of the value of the aircraft for the first year of ownership, Hoff believes that it is one of the highest in the nation.

“We are working on ways to make business aircraft ownership in Minnesota more affordable and business friendly,” said Hoff. In addition, MBAA is looking forward to establishing relationships and educating the many new state legislators that will be taking office after the election, more than usual due to retirements and redistricting.

“This is a good opportunity to reach out and work together,” said Hoff.

Bob Quinn, NBAA’s Central Region regional representative, praised MBAA. “They have been an effective and dedicated organization for a long time, and ably advocate for Minnesota’s business aviation community both at the state and federal levels,” he said.