TIOGA — A welcome mat has been laid at the Tioga Airport. A gradual startup led to Tioga Aero Center becoming established in January as a fixed-base operator providing aviation services at the airport.
The middle of winter might not seem an ideal time to launch an aero center, but owner Kathy Neset said it couldn’t wait.
“Right now is when we needed this,” she said. “I was just really anxious to get it up and going. I am hoping we will continue to grow and have more air travel and be able to help and service the industry.”
“It’s about improving what was here and making it more friendly for the aviation community,” said Chris DeCrescente, general manager for the aero center. “An airport is a gateway to the community, and Tioga is the oil capital of North Dakota. We need to make it more inviting, more welcoming.”
In the past, crews and guests flew into an unattended airport, refueled their own planes, and if they needed a rental vehicle, they took a chance on the airport vehicles available for that purpose. The airport’s older general aviation building has offered only a place for pilots and their passengers to get out of the elements and have a cup of coffee. There is Wi-Fi but no computer equipment. Many flights were landing in Williston or Minot and people were driving to Tioga, DeCrescente said.
“The aviation industry, I didn’t feel, was being served the way it should be,” said Neset, who as president of Neset Consulting in Tioga has a plane for business travel. She noticed services at other airports were missing in Tioga. With the assistance of the Tioga Airport Authority and others knowledgeable about aviation, the plan for the aero center came together.
Now a crew greets incoming flights, assists with plane tie-downs or hangar storage, refuels with a mobile unit and de-ices in winter. Visitors to the new aero center are welcomed in a reception area featuring a large screen connected to the Internet for information such as flight tracking.
A crew/guest lounge includes five recliners with cup holders, an electric fireplace and a 50-inch television. The kitchen area is stocked with snacks for purchase and the coffee is hot. A separate space is equipped with a computer and printer for flight planning or to check weather forecasts. There is a charging station, Wi-Fi and a full bathroom off a bedroom, where pilots can rest.
Another improved accommodation is access to rental vehicles. The aero center is working with Sensible Car Rental of Minot to supply vehicles and has a courtesy car for pilots who want to check out Tioga while waiting for their flight out.
“We can guarantee our rental cars are going to be running. It’s a little more reassuring coming into Tioga now,” DeCrescente said. “It’s about bringing the services that are needed here, and that’s what we do.”
The center has an 80-foot by 100-foot hangar and will be constructing a second hangar with greater clearance to accommodate taller plane tail heights. Construction is to start this spring.
The Tioga Aero Center plans to show off its operation to the public at a grand opening tentatively set for May 1.