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New air traffic pattern tests to begin at MSP Friday

Federal aviation officials will begin testing out a new operating pattern at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Friday, following last month's suspension of a pattern they feared could result in a mid-air collision.

Speaking to members of a Minneapolis City Council committee on Thursday, the city official responsible for working with the airport said she'd been notified that the Federal Aviation Administration intends to begin a 60-day trial period of an alternate traffic pattern.

Loren Olson, a city government relations representative, said the plans call for increased spacing between arriving planes during peak traffic times. Arriving planes will be spaced out eight miles apart, rather than three or four, she said.

Last month, the FAA suspended arrivals on Runway 35 when planes were taking off on Runway 30L over concerns that an arriving plane could collide with a departing plane if it had to make a sudden change in its path. Runway 35 takes planes that arrive over Apple Valley, Burnsville and Bloomington, while planes that take off on 30L fly over Minneapolis and Richfield. The change has dropped the number of planes that can land at the airport each hour from 90 to between 60 to 64.

Olson did not provide other specific details about the FAA's plans, but said she expects another runway, 30R, will see increased use. 

She said she's pleased federal officials seem interested in monitoring how changes in flight patterns will impact airport noise.

"We appreciate that the FAA is showing some sensitivity to the community's concerns," she said. "We've been speaking to the FAA and the (Metropolitan Airports Commission) about this and feel it is a good step."

 

State Fair attendance down as a share of Minnesota's population

A statistical case can be made that the Minnesota State Fair is losing its hold on state residents, with no more than a third of Minnesotans attending.

Fair attendance in 2010, when averaged with attendance for one year either side of that date to eliminate weather fluctuations, represented 33.5 percent of the state population counted in that year's census.

That's the lowest of any census year since the fair went to its current 12-day run in 1975. The peak census year over that 40 years was 1990, when the three-year average was 34.7 percent of the state's total population.

Of course, the likely share of state population at the fair is likely even lower, given that a number of fairgoers attend more than once.

The Star Tribune analysis focused on years with a census because the count of state residents is most accurate then.

Fair officials often ballyhoo new attendance records, but increases in state population aren't factored in.

There are indications that fair attendance may have slipped further since 2009-2011 as a share of state population, despite a record attendance of 1,824,830 in 2014.

The 2012-2014 average attendance was up 1.5 percent from the 2009-2011 average.  But the census bureau, which offers only less accurate estimates of population between decennial censuses, says the state's population rose by 2.9 percent since 2010.

Interestly, when the fair went to its 12-day schedule in 1975, attendance the following year plummeted by 211,000 people from the then-record year of 1974. It didn't regain that level for another 13 years.