EAA Chapter 54

St. Paul, MN. (Lake Elmo)

Joe Harris - MAC - April 2024

Joe Harris, MAC's director of reliever airports, speaks at the chapter monthly meeting on April 8 2024

Joe Harris, the head of reliever airports for the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) gave an upbeat report on the area's airport situation during the regular monthly meeting of EAA Chapter 54 on April 8, 2024. It was a relatively sparsely attended gathering, possibly owing to the solar eclipse earlier in the day.

Chief among the positive vibes was the fact that, at least for storage tenants a Lake Elmo Airport, MAC fees are going down.

"The last time we looked at our rates and charges for our reliever reports was 2014," he told the group. "From about 2000 to 2014, we adjusted rates and charges every other year.  We're lowering the annual escalator from how it's written into the ordinance today. So that's a good message because that represents about 95% of my audience and when I say that I'm expecting the public hearing not to go too bad. Now they might still say, 'hey, they're high.' Okay, fair. We're not cheap. We get it but what we hope and what we offer to you and services is unmatched, the reality is as all six of our reliever reports today."

Harris said other relievers are looking forward to the kind of work seen at 21D a few years ago when a runway was moved and expanded. St. Paul Downtown and Anoka are due for new runways. But he said a problem is there isn't enough space at the relievers to accommodate a lot of pilots' greatest need: hangar space. He said he wishes MAC had opened more area for hangars with the 2022 project.

He also addressed the ongoing concerns of some neighbors who object to the number of takeoffs and landings since the runway construction.

"They're being dramatically impacted with the changes out here to the airport. I'm here to tell you: I'm empathetic to it, I really am. However, there isn't anything that you guys or anybody out here are doing wrong," he said. "Just getting them to understand that you just can't close the airport and you can't do some things. They then turn it on us saying, 'MAC, you're not listening.' Well, no, we are We just can't do some of the things they're asking us us to do."

During a question-and-answer session, Harris was asked whether there will ever be a security fence at Lake Elmo Airport as there is at every other reliever airport (possibly except Airlake)?

He said changes will come but said there has to be a balance between tight security and presenting an inviting message.

"The community doesn't feel like this is a resource for them. That it's just rich white guys," said.  "So it'd be nice to make it part of the community. And the way you do that is you have the community enter."


Prior to the program, chapter president Marlon Gunderson provided a generous helping of chapter news.

Among the items:

He and chapter member Jeff Dale attended an EAA Boot Camp at Crystal on Saturday and came away with several ideas to improve chapter life. He also gave an update on the pancake breakfast planning (there's a meeting on Saturday April 13), noting that pancake breakfasts scored highest on the Chapter 54 member survey from a list of events members would volunteer to help host.

Dale Seitzer asks for volunteers to help at the May 2024 Young Eagles Day

Young Eagles coordinate Dale Seitzer (pictured above) provided an update on the first Young Eagles rally, scheduled for May 11. He asked members to consider volunteering, even if it's just providing one ride.

"Try one and see if you like it," he said. "We want to make it as easy as possible for pilots to do and make it fit your schedule. But I admit it's not for everybody. It is a little bit different environment but it's very rewarding It's a good feeling thing to do and it does meet our mission and strategy for the organization. That's the kind of organization we are. This chapter is not as big on building. We're more of an educational experience community outreach kind of chapter."

Seitzer said all 36 slots for the May 11 event filled up in less than a week from the time he opened reservations.

You can find a step-by-step guide to volunteering right here.

President Gunderson also indicated he'd like to organize a work party to head to Oshkosh May 4-5 to help prepare the grounds for July's AirVenture.

He indicated that the beginning of a chapter tool crib is underway after members helped clean out the hangar of the late Pat Moore.

"Jim Pearsall took a sheet metal break and a sheet metal shear," he said. "Paul Rankin has got a drill press and a band saw and an engine hoist and some sanders.  So, thanks everyone for coming out to help Vicky out with that. I appreciate the help."

Lacking storage space at the Chapter House, the tools will be kept by individual members and a catalog will be posted on the chapter's website should an enterprising member be interested in assembling that.

He also updated planning for the pancake breakfast fly-in. "We recruited Jim Pearsall  our head meal planner, and we'll be calling a number of you to  twist arms to do various things," he said about the all-hands-on-deck event. "We're hoping that we'll get enough volunteers to support this. The jobs kind of break down into  ... a lot of them are just show up for twp hours that day or two-and-a-half hours. What we want to do is have two shifts of everything so that you can enjoy the event yourself. And maybe just work half  of the fly-in. But there are a number of key things where it's all logistics upfront to get everything set up and we're going to need some, some folks to do that."

 The chapter also applauded Emma Gaustad on passing her IFR checkride last month. "You've exceeded a lot of us already," Gunderson said. 
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