Despite a winter that has come in full force with two blizzards and sub-zero temperatures, Devils Lake Airport manager John Nord says that, for the most part, most flights have arrived and departed on schedule over the past month.

Despite a winter that has come in full force with two blizzards and sub-zero temperatures, Devils Lake Airport manager John Nord says that, for the most part, most flights have arrived and departed on schedule over the past month.

However, the brutal December storms did affect boarding numbers, according to Nord, though the official data has yet to be released.

“I don’t have the official numbers, but we are going to be down a little bit from where we were last year,” Nord said. “I think we can put the finger on the weather we had over Christmas.”

Boarding numbers are a big deal for the airport, federal funding is attached to the number of passengers who depart from Devils Lake. Nord says that the magic number for a given year is 10,000 boardings.

“Our 2016 numbers are going to be the highest number of passengers that we’ve had. We need to get 10,000 boardings - once we hit that level, we can get $1M from the government for airport improvement projects,” Nord said.

That $1M boost from the FAA would allow the airport to purchase a state of the art piece of snow removal equipment that Nord says he’s had his eye on for some time. The $750K price tag makes that purchase impossible at current funding levels.
“It’s a wish list item,” Nord said.

Nord estimated that about four flights were cancelled due to weather last month and detailed some of the specific weather-related factors involved.

“Our airport is normally open, but there are a lot of times we’ll run into situations where - as we did over Christmas - we can’t keep up,” Nord said. “Or there’s no travel advised, nobody should be out on the roads, and the airport is basically closed at that time.

“The biggest thing is visibility,” Nord added. “If you have a low ceiling, the planes are not going to come in. If you have a snow-covered runway and there’s an extreme crosswind, those conditions will change whether or not (aircraft) will come in.”
Though January looks to be another rough winter month in the region, Nord is confident that the airport is well equipped and staffed enough to handle what Mother Nature brings.

“The guys I have out here working in the operations department do a great job on equipment maintenance, taking care of things. When it’s time to hit it, they’re ready.”

He added that he sees a successful 2017 ahead as the airport continues to grow and board more passengers.

“Everybody did well in 2016 and we appreciate everyone who has been using Devils Lake Airport,” Nord said.