Boreal FBO since the beginning

MARQUETTE — Sawyer International Airport now offers five commercial flights a day to the three major hubs of Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis.

But the airport has only offered commercial flights such as these since September 1999.

The first official county airport opened in 1937 in Negaunee Township across from where the Michigan State Police Post currently sits. Scheduled air service didn’t begin at the airport until 1948. In 1957, the Air Force opened a base in Sands Township where Sawyer is now. But by 1995, the base was closed and the property sat vacant until 1999 when the county purchased and converted it for commercial use. On Sept. 22 of that year, the first commercial flight took off, according to the Sawyer airport website.

Boreal Aviation Inc. has been there since the beginning, providing fixed-base operator, or FBO, services since August 1998.

Airport FBO’s provide various aeronautical services such as fueling, defueling, hangaring, tie downs, flight instruction and more.

“We have a lot of services that add value to the airport,” said Chelsea Hennessy, director of business and operations for Boreal.

Boreal fuels every plane that flies in or out of Sawyer, whether it be a commercial or charter plane, and also provides around-the-clock aircraft maintenance in case there is a need for after-hours service.

“Boreal was out there fueling those aircrafts and taking care of those aircrafts from the beginning,” said Steven Schenden, airport director of operations. “They’ve grown with the airport.”

The organization was awarded another 10-year lease with the county to continue providing FBO services in July, and with the renewal will come more airport improvements including a $65,000 investment into the general aviation terminal.

“It’s good. We’re looking forward to the positive change,” Hennessy said. “It gives us the opportunity to do the things we haven’t been able to do in the past and we’re looking forward to it.”

Boreal currently serves the airport’s General Aviation Terminal. The 8,900-square-foot facility will be updated to better suit the airport and the Sawyer community with the addition of a large conference room and other renovations. Boreal is also working on upgrading airport equipment, getting new fuel trucks, updating hangars and painting floors and the parking lots, Hennessy added.

“Just a lot of upgrades for people to see that we haven’t had in the past,” Hennessy said. “We want to be able to provide the best service that we can for the planes that are on the field, but our mission has always been first to make sure that the airport has exactly what it needs to sustain.”

Boreal’s loyalty to the airport has helped the airport grow and aided in the development of the surrounding community. The various businesses on base that are expanding and flourishing now employ 1,200 employees, said Jody Lindberg, who handles development and marketing of Sawyer operations.

“For the community to be able to have an airport right outside their backdoor for both business travel, family travel, family to come see them is really important,” Lindberg said.

Trinity Carey can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.