As the organization in charge of Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, as well as six reliever airports around the Twin Cities (including Inflight’s home, Flying Cloud Airport), we thought we’d share a little bit of background on the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) and its significance within the local aviation community – let’s get started!
The Founding of MAC
Although it’s the third-largest aviation system in the U.S. today, the founding of the MAC system stems from the need to serve a consistently growing metropolitan area with wide-ranging airport services. In 1943, the Metropolitan Airports Commission was enacted into law as a public corporation after a long series of boom-bust periods caused by events like World War I, the Roaring 20s, Great Depression and finally World War II. To better serve the area, a much-needed governing body formed to oversee the operation of Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport (MSP).
Formation of MSP Leads to the MAC
The formation of MAC is directly related to the Twin Cities’ need for a main airport. In 1917, the Twin Cities Motor Speedway, located near historic Fort Snelling, went under after just two years of operation. With such an expansive space available, leaders from both Minneapolis and St. Paul saw an opportunity to use the land as a new airfield. They purchased the 160-acre Speedway Field and renamed it Wold-Chamberlain Field after two local WWI pilots. By 1926, St. Paul exited the partnership it had with Minneapolis at Wold-Chamberlain Field in order to put more resources toward its own airport. Thus, Holman Field was constructed conveniently across the Mississippi River from downtown. Although its still in operation today as St. Paul Downtown Airport, at the time, it was a controversial move because of the competition it created with Minneapolis.
It would be this direct competition that would ultimately lead then-governor Harold Stassen to form the MAC. He stated, “I recognized how illogical [operating two airports less than 15 miles away from each other] was from the standpoint of air travel. So I decided there ought to be one major municipal airport under a special commission.” By 1941, Northwest had ended its contract with Holman Field while projected post-war passenger levels reached nearly a million. The reason Wold-Chamberlain Field was chosen over Holman was simple – because it was equidistant between the two Twin Cities. As such, Northwest Airlines proposed a large expansion of the airport to take advantage of the aviation boom after WWII. This was approved by the state government and was called the “most important legislation in the postwar air transport picture” by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and took effect on July 6, 1943. With new international partnerships and four scheduled airlines operating out of it, the name Wold-Chamberlain Field was officially changed to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in 1948.
Setting Up a New Airport System
The Twin Cities now had two airports, but that still wasn’t enough to accommodate for the massive increase in both military operations, airmail/cargo and civilian service. In order to better serve the area’s aviation needs, the MAC slowly but surely started acquiring and improving “reliever airports” starting in the 1941 with Flying Cloud Airport and ending with Airlake Airport in the 1970s. These would serve overflow traffic and the likes of private or military planes that otherwise don’t need to pass through a commercial airport like MSP.
What Airports are a Part of MAC?
beyond MSP, there are several other airports in the MAC system, serving all types of aviators, from cargo to corporate to military to student pilots and beyond. In total, there are seven airports in and around the Twin Cities metropolitan area:
- Airlake Airport – Lakeville, MN
- Anoka County-Blaine Airport – Blaine, MN
- Crystal Airport – Crystal, MN
- Flying Cloud Airport – Eden Prairie, MN
- Lake Elmo Airport – Lake Elmo, MN
- Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport – Bloomington, MN
- St. Paul Downtown Airport – St. Paul, MN
After the shocking events of 9/11, airport environments and commercial flying changed dramatically. Rising fuel costs, a recession and an impending pilot shortage took its toll on the MAC. However, with an increase in business activity and private investments, the system has come soaring back from the low point of the early 2000s. This is highlighted by the improvements made to several airports over the past decade alone, including extended runways at Flying Cloud Airport, expansion of MSP terminals and hefty safety improvements at St. Paul Downtown Airport. Overall, the MAC continues to be an integral part of why the Twin Cities has such a robust and successful aviation community. Since the 1940s, it has been behind every airport acquisition, expansion and improvement, helping foster financing, operations and so much more.
Are You Flying to the Twin Cities?
Land at Flying Cloud Airport and say hello to the team at Inflight Pilot Training. We’re the area’s premier flight training, airplane rental and maintenance company in Minneapolis/St. Paul and love meeting fellow aviation enthusiasts. Whether you’re searching for a new certification, want your airplane detailed or anything else, our doors are always open. For additional information, contact us today or call (952) 698-3000.