Gunnison International Airport
|Z14, -41.5264 °S, 141.5609 °E|
|Gunnison International Airport|
|City||Lake City, MN|
|Elevation AMSL||210 m|
|Highways||Outer Beltway (I-630)|
|Metro lines|| LCTA Green Line|
LCTA Silver Line
Gunnison International Airport (WAAT: GNN, ANACA: BAGN) is the secondary airport of Lake City in the state of Minnonigan. Lake City’s primary airport before the opening of Lake City International Airport in 1963, Gunnison’s small geographic footprint and X-shaped runways earned the airport’s nickname as “the world’s busiest square mile”, even though the airport is slightly larger than a square mile.
In the early 20th Century, the land the airport sits on was owned and farmed by Herbert Gunnison, an eccentric farmer. Gunnison owned one of the first aircraft in the southwestern Federal States and built a grassy area on his property for takeoffs and landings. In 1922, Gunnison opened his field to other leisure aviators, selling fuel and leasing hangar space. (As a veteran of the F.S. Armed Forces, Gunnison refused to accept payment from military aircraft or postal aircraft.)
Gunnison died unexpectedly in the spring of 1924. His family, with no interest in farming or maintaining an airport, donated the land to Lake County contingent on the family receiving 10% of fuel profits in perpetuity. The county accepted but was not financially able to finance upgrades to the field. An agreement was reached: on July 1, 1924, Lake County would take ownership of the land; the following day, the County – as landowners – immediately sought annexation to Lake City, who would then levy sales taxes on airfield transactions to finance improvements. The first paved runway, what is now Runway 4L/22R, opened in 1927 along with a small terminal building on the east side of the airport near the Lake City and Northeastern Railroad.
The airport grew quickly, with the construction of crosswind Runway 14/32 in 1933 and a larger passenger terminal further north on 87th Avenue (near today’s Executive Terminal). In 1940, a second northeast-southwest runway opened, adding significant capacity to the airport. To accommodate the new generation of jet aircraft, Runway 4L/22R was lengthened to 3,000 meters in 1947, with 14/32 following suit in 1949. A new, modernized terminal was constructed on the west side of the airport with convenient access to 67th Avenue.
Gunnison Airport was briefly the busiest airport in the Federal States in the 1950s, earning Gunnison the nickname of “the world’s busiest square mile”. However, larger, louder aircraft combined with the airport’s small, constrained footprint led to growing concerns about noise and pollution in Lake City, especially in affluent areas such as the Independence Park neighborhood under the approach to Runway 4L.
In 1952, the Lake City Aviation Authority unanimously approved a plan to build a new, larger airport on the western edge of Lake City to relieve Gunnison. Gunnison would continue to operate, but commercial aviation dramatically decreased following LCX’s opening in 1963. By 1982, commercial flights diminished to only 12 scheduled flights per day; half of the passenger terminal (what is now Concourse D) was closed entirely. Gunnison Airport was entering “death spiral” mode, where the LCAA deferred terminal and apron maintenance due to low usage, which led to more commercial operations moving over to LCX.
In 1993, the Lake City Aviation Authority announced the planned closure of Gunnison Airport by the year 2000, contingent on construction of a new Terminal 3 at LCX and a new runway to increase capacity. While Terminal 3 opened up as scheduled in 1996, legal battles from residents and businesses of Meridian City dragged out over land acquisition for the new runway. Per the LCAA agreement, Gunnison could not close until the new runway at LCX opened, leaving the airport in an uncertain limbo. The Gunnison family – by this point extremely wealthy and still collecting a 10% profit on aviation fuel at the airport – sued the LCAA for a proposed illegal taking by planning to shutter the airport.
While these two legal cases were making their way through the courts, a small domestic airline began operations at Gunnison Airport. SkyRide Airlines opened with a discount model, using all-coach seating and focusing operations on smaller secondary airports (like Gunnison), which were cheaper to operate out of than primary airports (like LCX). In doing so, SkyRide could offer dramatically lower passenger fares. The business model was a huge success, with SkyRide quickly expanding operations at Gunnison.
Meanwhile, the abandoned smaller hangar spaces throughout the airfield provided private pilots and charter flights ample space to base their aircraft rather than using the large, expensive hangars at LCX. By 2006 – while land acquisition for LCX’s Runway 18R/36L was still ongoing – the LCAA reversed itself, not only cancelling the closing of Gunnison but also funding an airport modernization plan. The modernization called for a massive landside expansion, pushing the airport’s western boundary as far west as 65th Avenue to relocate landside terminal activities west of 67th, allowing for more of the airport to be used for gates and post-security amenities. A new Concourse A and expanded Concourse C opened in 2013. On the east side of the airport, a new Executive Terminal opened in 2015 dedicated exclusively to private and charter flights.
Gunnison International Airport consists of a Main Terminal on the west side of the airport for commercial flights, and an Executive Terminal on the east side of the airport for private and charter flights. The Main Terminal is comprised of four concourses.
|A||A1-A12 (12)||SkyRide Airlines||Domestic and International||Gates A1, A2, and A3 are reserved for international flights.|
|B||B13-B28 (16)||SkyRide Airlines||Domestic|
|C||C29-C38 (10)||Regional||Concourse C is reserved for regional flights only.|
|D||D39-D52 (14)||Gate D52 is reserved for international flights and can be used by any airline.|
|E||E60-E69 (10)||Private/Charter||E gates are in the Executive Terminal and are not accessible from the Main Terminal.|
Airlines and Destinations
SkyRide Airlines is the busiest commercial carrier at the airport, with all of Concourse A and most of Concourse B dedicated to SkyRide. However, Concourses C (regional flights only) and D are available. Interested airlines should reach out to the Lake City Aviation Authority for availability options and gate assignments.
Gunnison Airport is located immediately northeast of the interchange of the Northeast Expressway (I-318) and the Outer Beltway (I-630). Access to the Main Terminal is provided directly from the Outer Beltway. A short-term parking deck is attached to the Main Terminal building. An outdoor economy parking lot is located just south of the main garage, with long-term parking located on the far southeast edge of the airport. The GNN Monorail connects all parking lots to the Main Terminal.