Tim Krohn The Free Press
Sky high: Companies pitch aviation careers at Mankato Regional Airport
April 11, 2024
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  • Aviation student Justin Weeden, who talked to representatives from a variety of businesses during the Business Aviation Day event at the Mankato Regional Airport Thursday, said it gave him a broader look at options available in the industry.

    “Students coming in just think about being pilots for the airlines, like Delta and United. But there is a lot more out there,” said Weeden, a junior at Minnesota State University.

    He said he is still looking at eventually becoming an airline pilot but is open to other avenues.

    “I’d like to do some smaller charter work, too, maybe doing Alaska charters.”

    This was the third annual event, according to Jason Ceminsky, program manager at Pro Train Aviation at the Mankato Regional Airport. Pro Train was started by North Star Aviation in the late 1990s. North Star trains students in the Minnesota State University aviation program while Pro Train trains for Beechjet aircraft, used as private business jets.

    “The airlines recruit heavily out of Mankato but this focuses on all the other aviation careers, manufacturing, aviation law, aviation insurance, repair,” Ceminsky said.

    The event was focused on MSU students. The aviation program at the university has become the largest program at MSU and one of the largest aviation programs in the United States, with more than 700 students.

    More than 25 companies from across the country, including Cargill and Target, and companies with planes based at the airport such as ISG and Tailwind, had booths at the event.

    Displays included large corporate aircraft, flight charter operators, a medical helicopter and drones.

    The Business Aviation Day event, which is done at airports around the state, is an annual career event that brings aviation industry leaders and undergraduate aviation students together to explore options in the industry.

    Roger Kontak of the Civil Air Patrol, part of the Air Force, talked to students.

    There are 17 planes in the Minnesota Wing, with one based in Mankato. The Patrol often does search and rescue efforts.

    The local group has 45 cadets — those under age 21 — and 30 seniors (over 21).

    The local group meets Thursday from 7-9 p.m. at the Mankato airport terminal and anyone is welcome to attend.

    Kontak said kids can join when they are 12 years old. He said the local squadron is very active.

    “We fly the most hours of any squadron in the state.”

    Nationwide, the aviation industry is seeing workforce shortages in piloting, maintainence, and nearly all other career avenues.

    The Mankato airport serves business and general aviation needs for southern Minnesota with more than 100 locally based aircraft and more than 200 employees working at airport businesses.

    It is the second busiest airport in the state of Minnesota.