Legacy Destination of the Week 177: White ChallengeDuluth International Airport (KDLH) 19 Mar to 26 Mar 2023

Our Destination of the Week challenge features a new destination airport on a weekly basis. Every week we get to fly to a remote or a big commercial airport, depending on the monthly theme. Although there are multiple airports in the theme, each one is a separate destination and not linked in any way other than the common theme.

The Rules:

1. Depart in the aircraft of your choice from the airport of your choice, anywhere in the world (as long as you respect maximum flight hours). Consider this a new "cold start" flight.
2. Fly to the Destination of the Week airport. 
3. On completion of the flight, go to the PIREP page and file your flight as a DOTW mission. There is no flight tracking software involved. This is purely a fun exercise. Enjoy!

Welcome to our Legacy Destinations of the Week!

As our president, Stijn, announced in our March 2020 Newsletter our Destination of the Week officially comes to a close after 500 weeks of running. This means that we are now in DOTW ReRun mode. The original thought was to start with the very first DOTW, HUEN, however we had to consider DOTW theme timing. Some DOTW's are seasonal or calendar themed while others are holiday themed.

I want to thank Stijn for his DOTW creative efforts. The DOTW series has been a masterful effort on his part and unarguably one of our most successful programs here at Platinum Airways.

Stijn, if you live to be 100 years old, that will be 10% of your life dedicated to Platinum Airways. We can never thank you enough!

Welcome to our new DOTW series, White Challenge. Over the next four weeks, we'll visit four airports that give access to as many winter sports venues that have a reputation of being extremely challenging.ChallengeBanner

KDLHp06Hello and welcome to our final White Challenge DOTW. This series has taken us to some of the most challenging winter sports venues. After one of the most notorious downhill races, a prime bob track and the world record holding sky flying venue, it's now time to focus on cross country or Langlauf. This originally Nordic sport is now practiced all over the world. We decided to go for one of the longest cross country events that appeal to a large number of athletes. We ended up with the American Birkebeiner (or Birkie). The two premier events are the 54 km (34 mi) classic and the 50 km (31 mi) freestyle race from Cable to Hayward, Wisconsin. Each year approximately 10,000 skiers participate in the Birkie, 26 km Kortelopet, and 12 km Prince Haakon events. The Birkie is a member race of the Worldloppet Ski Federation.

Held annually in February, the Birkie was started in 1973 by legendary Northwoods Wisconsin promoter Tony Wise. Wise, who started the Telemark Ski Area in Cable, Wisconsin in 1947, helped to popularize modern-day cross-country skiing when he built trails at Telemark in 1972. In February 1973, Wise drew on his Norwegian heritage in starting a race named after a famous event in Norway.

The Birkie was named after the Norwegian Birkebeinerrennet, which commemorates an important historical event. In 1206 a group of Birkebeiner party soldiers, who fought for Sverre Sigurdsson and his descendants in the Norwegian civil war, smuggled the illegitimate son of Norway's King Håkon Sverresson from Lillehammer to safety in Trondheim. In the Norwegian Birkie, skiers still carry packs symbolizing the weight of an 18-month-old child. The packs also contain extra food, clothing and survival gear to protect against unexpected weather changes in the harsh sub-Arctic mountains that the skiers cross during the race.

KDLHp02Skiers from around the world come to Hayward, Wisconsin for the race. The Birkie has a reputation for attracting skiers of varying ability levels. Olympians and national team members have competed in the event, and the Birkie also draws recreational skiers from far afield. The race day also includes the shorter 23 km Kortelopet "Korte", a race geared more toward recreational skiers, and the Prince Haakon 13 km event for those who are not ready to take on the challenge of the longer courses. Registration is capped at 10,000 skiers, with an additional 20,000 spectators on the sidelines cheering on the competitors.

The Birkie course is quite hilly, and is recognized as one of the more difficult cross country ski marathon courses in the world, despite the fact that it is not the longest cross-country marathon. The current north-south alignment (used since 1992) has skiers traversing a 2 km (1.2 mi) flat section before turning onto the "Powerline Hills", a series of climbs to the 4.5 km (2.8 mi) mark. The trail then rolls until 12 km (7.5 mi), when Firetower Hill takes competitors to 1,730 ft (530 m), the high point of the race and a climb of nearly 400 ft (120 m) from the race start. In early years of the race, the Birkie began with a climb up the alpine slopes of Mount Telemark, mainly as a publicity stunt, but larger field sizes made this impractical. Beyond High Point is a series of downhills, including "Bobblehead Hill" or "Sledder Hill", which has a rather tricky downhill, right turn near a snowmobile trail — allowing dozens of snowmobilers to watch and "score" skiers' falls. The trail rises steeply to the crossing of County Road OO (Referred to as "Double-Oh") which, at 22.8 km (14.2 mi), is the unofficial halfway point of the race. Until 2001, the 23 km (14 mi) Kortelopet race ended here but has since been rerouted back to Telemark after splitting off from the main course at 9 km (5.6 mi).

KDLHp03Beyond OO the course is less hilly, but by no means flat. After 40 km (25 mi) is the aptly named "Bitch Hill" where spectators cheer skiers up the steepest climb of the race. Several kilometers later (just south of Highway 77) is the last lengthy ascent of the race—El Moco—known for its numerous bends, each offering the empty promise of a summit. From the top, Hayward's watertower is a most welcome sight. There are several road crossings and open fields before the course crosses frozen Lake Hayward. The 4 km (2.5 mi) crossing of the lake is obviously flat, but unprotected from wind. Once off the lake the trail twists through the outskirts of Hayward on snow trucked in for the event. Over the course of hours thousands of tired and proud skiers make their way past three blocks of cheering spectators lining Hayward's Main Street. Warm conditions have occasionally required the finish line be moved to a flat field just west of the lake.

The race begins with several waves in order to thin skiers out along the course. The first wave is made up of Elite skiers (generally around 200) who depart Cable at 8:20 am, followed by Elite Women (generally around 50) at 8:22. Alternating skate and classical waves then depart every five minutes until the tenth and final wave leaves at 10:00 am. New skiers must ski in Wave 10 unless they use another ski marathon time to qualify up to Wave 4. Waves 3, 2 and 1 are open only to skiers who have skied in previous Birkies. The 23 km (14 mi) Kortelopet starts with the Birkie, with the Korte skiers mixed in with the Birkie waves, distinguished by their yellow bibs. There are three men who have completed every Birkie since the first one in 1973; they are John Kotar, a retired senior professor at UW-Madison, Dave Landgraf, a teacher and Nordic ski coach for middle and high school teams, and Ernie St. Germaine, a former employee of the Telemark Resort, where the Birkebeiner starts every year. The 2014 winner took just over three hours to complete the 54 km - 34 mi track.

KDLHp04The logical access airport for the Birkie is Duluth International Airport (KDLH), a city-owned, public-use, joint civil-military airport located five nautical miles (9 km) northwest of the central business district of Duluth, Minnesota, United States. It serves the Twin Ports area including Superior, Wisconsin. It is mostly used for general aviation but is also served by three commercial airlines. Overall, it is the third busiest airport in Minnesota, behind Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport and Rochester International Airport. However, it is the second busiest commercial passenger airport in Minnesota, behind only Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport. The Minnesota Air National Guard's 148th Fighter Wing, equipped with F-16C Fighting Falcons, is based at Duluth Air National Guard Base.

The City of Duluth purchased the original property for the airport in 1929 from Saint Louis County. The airport was constructed on 640 acres (2.6 km2) of land with two 2,650-foot (810 m) sod runways. Subsequently, in 1930, the airfield was dedicated as a public airport and was called the Williamson–Johnson Municipal Airport.

In 1940, Northwest Airlines begins the first regularly scheduled air service to Duluth. It would be temporarily halted though starting in 1942 due to World War II. In 1942, the three existing runways were paved. The Corps of Engineers extended runway 9-27 and RWY03-21 to 5,699 feet (1,737 m) in 1945. In 1951 the USAF extended RWY09-27 to 9,000 feet (2,700 m) with a 1,000-foot (300 m) overrun and the control tower was built. 09-27 was completely rebuilt in 1956 and further extended in 1966 to 10,152 feet (3,094 m) in length.

The original terminal building was built in 1954 and served the airport for nearly 20 years. The terminal floor area was 14,200 square feet (1,320 m2) with 280 parking spaces.In 1973, a new Terminal Building and U.S. Customs, International Arrivals Building, were opened for operation. This resulted in RWY13-31 being re-striped in 1980, decreasing its width to 75 feet (23 m), for use as a taxiway only. In 1989, the newer terminal building and the adjacent structures were connected to form one enclosure. The original terminal building was then converted for use as offices for general aviation, the FAA, and the U.S. Weather Bureau. The 1973 terminal building had its last flight take place on January 13, 2013.


In 2013, a new passenger terminal was built directly in front of the 1973 terminal. This new building solved several problems of the previous terminal building, among them, the tail section of parked airplanes extended too close to the runway due to FAA airspace changes made after the building's completion. This terminal building has restrooms and concessions beyond the TSA security checkpoint, something the previous terminal lost when screening processes were put in place post 9/11. The first flight to leave the new terminal was on January 14, United flight 5292 to Chicago O'Hare.

Duluth International Airport

Duluth International Airport has two runways:
09/27   10,591ft / 3228m   Asphalt
03/21   5,719ft / 1743m   Asphalt
Elevation:   1,428ft / 435m

Live flight tracking is available from Flightaware.

KDLH charts are available here.

Freeware AFCAD scenery for FS9 can be found here.

Freeware scenery for FSX can be found here.

Freeware scenery for MSFS 2020 can be found here.

Freeware scenery for P3D v1 through v4 can be found here.

Freeware scenery for P3Dv5 could not be found.

Freeware scenery for X-Plane 10 can be found here.

Freeware scenery for X-Plane 11 and 12 can be found here.


A tour of Duluth International Airport


A visual approach and landing on RWY 27 at Duluth International Airport


A Delta Boeing 757-200 afternoon takeoff from Duluth International Airport


Plane spotting at Duluth International Airport