St. Paul Downtown airport lost traffic in 2023 while others gained

The Metropolitan Airports Commission reported a traffic increase of 8.3 percent last year across its six general aviation airports in the Twin Cities area, but one of those locations saw a decrease.

The St. Paul Downtown Airport, also known as Holman Field, logged an 8 percent decline due in part to last year’s spring flooding, which caused temporary runway closures and reduced airfield capacity, according to a news release from the airports commission.

Two of the three runways at Holman Field were temporarily closed last spring as crews worked to install flood barriers to protect against the rising Mississippi River, which borders the airport. The third runway remained open, but at a shorter length due to the floodwall installation.

The floodwall was installed on April 12 and removed by May 4 and kept river water from reaching the runways, said Jeff Lea, strategic communications manager for the MAC, in an email.

The river reached 14 feet, or minor flood stage in mid-April, and rose to moderate flood stage around April 18 with the National Weather Service reporting a crest at 18.24 feet, a little more than a foot above major flood stage.

In 2022, Holman Field logged 41,592 takeoffs and landings, an increase of 5 percent from 2021’s total of 39,196 operations. For 2023, the airport logged 38,167 operations, according to the MAC, which owns and operates metro airport systems including Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Lake Elmo, other airports up

Lake Elmo Airport saw the largest increase in traffic last year, up nearly 30 percent with 41,593 operations in 2023 compared to 32,189 operations in 2022. The airport’s increased traffic also led to increased complaints, with the MAC receiving 4,291 noise complaints from 16 locations near the airport.

Lake Elmo’s new 3,500-foot runway, which opened in July 2022, is used by student pilots at Lake Elmo Aero, accounting for a large portion of the traffic — and the noise complaints. An updated noise-abatement plan is scheduled to be presented to the Lake Elmo Airport Advisory Commission on Feb. 26.

Other airports that saw an increase in 2023 were:

  • Airlake Airport in Lakeville, up 1.1 percent from 38,268 operations to 38,678

  • Anoka County-Blaine Airport, up 6.4 percent from 65,688 operations to 69,908

  • Crystal Airport, up 6.9 percent from 42,592 operations to 45,541

  • Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie, up 11.7 percent from 122,281 operations to 136,622

“Reliever airports” are used to reduce congestion that would otherwise impact larger airports, like MSP, which reported an 11 percent increase in passenger traffic for 2023.

At MSP, the largest contributing factor to increased passenger levels came from international travel, which accounted for nearly 3 million passengers resulting in a 47 percent increase compared to 2022.

“Our airports have experienced continued growth and energy as the general aviation sector continues to build momentum across Minnesota,” said Joe Harris, director of reliever airports for the MAC, in the release. “The growth has been steady and durable, even overcoming the effects of significant snowfall that impacted our region through the first several months of 2023.”

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