Range airport numbers up, too

The Duluth International Airport isn’t the only area airport seeing better days.

Range Regional Airport’s first quarter passenger totals were up 60 percent over 2009. Its 3,142 paying passengers are the most since 2000 for the Hibbing airport.

What’s got airport officials really excited is that if this keeps up, they’ll be a shoo-in to surpass the critical 10,000-passenger mark. That’s the number needed to be eligible for $1 million in annual Federal Aviation Administration funding for capital improvement projects.

The airport, formerly known as the Chisholm-Hibbing Airport, has fallen short since 2006. Averaging about 8,600 passengers a year, it’s only been eligible to receive $150,000.

The first quarter passenger boost is attributed to an increase in Delta service to the airport, an effort to encourage local travelers to fly from Hibbing rather than bigger airports and Sun Country Airlines re-introducing charter service in February. Its first two flights alone had 263 passeners, according to the Chisholm-Hibbing Airport Authority.

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