Crystal Airport (KMIC) is one of six reliever airports in the Twin Cities metro, serving personal, recreational and some business aviation users in the northwest metropolitan area. However, it wasn’t always the bustling hub that it is today. Crystal Airport has a long history within the Twin Cities aviation community – let’s explore its development and how it became an important component within the Minneapolis/St. Paul system of airports.
Background of Crystal Airport
Originally known as Shank’s Flying Service, the first airfield in Crystal, MN opened in the early 1920s. Located at the intersection of West Broadway and 49th Avenue North, the airfield owned by Eugene Shank, was only a mile away from where the today’s Crystal Airport is located. Sadly, the old airfield shuttered operations because of World War II – however, that didn’t put an end to the town’s advancement of civil aviation in the Twin Cities. The Metropolitan Airport Commission (MAC), formed in 1943 to serve the civil aviation needs of the Twin Cities, considered two main sites in the northwest suburbs. After WWII ended, MAC started the process of acquiring a parcel of land which would be the future home of Crystal Airport, located on the south side of the city.
By 1949, MAC had approved plans for the construction of a stabilized base for a northwest-southeast runway, aprons and taxiways. One year later, an administration building was constructed and runway lights were installed. Flight operations began shortly thereafter. In the early days, Crystal Airport consisted of a 2,500-foot long by 75-foot wide paved runway, running northwest to southeast, as well as a parallel turf runway and two crosswind turf runways. As activity increased throughout the early 1950s, MAC recognized the need for additional space to improve safety for pilots taking off, approaching and taxiing, so they purchased additional land on the northeast and southeast corners of the airport for expansion purposes. As the decades turned, the 1960s saw an extension to the primary runway, bringing it to its current length, while the northernmost crosswind runway was paved at a length of 2,500-feet long by 75-feet wide. Additional taxiways were also constructed and by 1968 and the parallel turf runway was paved.
Crystal Airport of Today
Beyond paved overruns added in the 1990s, Crystal Airport has remained largely unmodified since improvements made in the 1960s. While additional construction plans were considered throughout the 1970s, they ultimately never broke ground. In the 1980s, Crystal Airport was the site of a series of aircraft accidents, leading directly to the formation of a safety commission, known as Tri-City Commission. It was charged with heightening awareness of pilots and citizens with regard to the airport and surrounding environment. Today, Crystal Airport remains an integral component in the MAC reliever system, creating a total economic output of $71 million, while supporting 320 local jobs. Crystal airport offers charters, indoor and outdoor aircraft parking, rental cars, aviation fuel, pilot shop, and aircraft service, Crystal Airport provides pilots with everything they need to enjoy a day of flying.
Historical Timeline of Crystal Airport
Below is a timeline of significant milestones in the development of Crystal Airport:
1950-1952: The first paved runway is constructed (14L-32R) at 2,500-feet long, along with a full-length parallel taxiway. Air traffic control tower, administration building, taxiways and an access road are also developed.
1957: Runway 06L-24R constructed with full-length parallel taxiway. Access road to the west building area is implemented.
1960-1961: Runway 14L-32R and parallel taxiway are extended to their current length. Taxiways to the east and west building areas are built.
1968: Runway 14R-32L constructed. Access roads constructed to the east and north building areas.
2035 Long Term Comprehensive Planning of Crystal Airport
A long-term plan for improvements to Crystal Airport were finalized in 2017. Plans include a number of improvements that will boost the safety and enjoyment of personal, recreational and business aviation users in the northwest suburbs, such as:
- Convert the existing Runway 14L-32R into a full-length parallel taxiway and add taxiway lights.
- Change the runway designation to Utility and use small aircraft design standards to reduce Runway Protection Zone (RPZ) dimensions.
- Expand the Fixed Base Operator apron.
- Adjust taxiway configuration to reduce airfield complexity.
- Pursue the establishment of a new non-precision instrument approach to Runway 32.
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