DNC attracts fewer jets to Denver than FBOs predicted

 - October 9, 2008, 6:19 AM

The volume of general aviation arrivals for the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Denver was less than predicted, according to Denver-area FBOs serving the turbine-powered fleet. As a result, the Special Traffic Management Plan (STMP) that Denver Tracon prepared for the event had not gone into effect by the start of the convention. However, the 10- and 30-mile-radius Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) airspace rings centered on the convention site were active from 2 p.m. through 11 p.m. MDT each day. The FAA reported three TFR violations during the DNC. Two of the aircraft penetrating the TFR airspace were “escorted” out of the restricted area. Possible enforcement action against pilots involved is being reviewed, an FAA spokesman said.

The convention’s overall impact on business aviation arrivals between August 22 and 28 turned out to be less than anticipated. In fact, Cutter Aviation at Colorado Springs Municipal Airport, 60 miles south of the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver where the DNC was held, prepared for an influx of convention arrivals that never materialized. Cutter’s Jessi Scudder told AIN, “We had some convention traffic, but not as much as we predicted. We had heard that Denver was going to be packed and they would be heading toward us. We had a few reservations who double-booked, but they cancelled when they found they could get into the Denver area.”

Chuck Halderman, president of Denver Jet Center at Centennial, where much of the DNC traffic alighted, stated, “We were worried about saturation but, thank God, we didn’t get there. Compared to the same six-day period of the previous week, we had about 100 more aircraft on the ground. That doesn’t count the in-and-out activity. We were able to put a lot of folks in our 20,000-sq-ft transient hangar. We were fortunate with the weather except the one day when the tornado went past just to the south. That was pretty scary, with all those airplanes out there on the ramp.” Denver Jet Center pumped 185,400 gallons of jet-A during the week of the convention, including 43,800 gallons on Thursday alone. During the previous week, the FBO pumped 118,000 gallons.

The 121 convention aircraft at Denver Jet Center accounted for nearly half the total number of bizjets and turboprops that the FBO served during the week. The DNC aircraft consisted of 25 Gulfstreams (ranging from a GV to a G100), 37 Citations, eight Challengers, 18 Falcons, 16 Hawker Beechcraft, four Learjets and three Legacy 600s. In addition, five King Airs, two Merlins, a pair of PC-12s and a Cheyenne made APA their port of call.

Front Range Airport (FTG) assistant director of aviation Ken Lawson said that facility recorded 30 convention-related operations during the period. The eight aircraft bearing convention-goers–a BBJ, four Citations, two GIVs and a G100–mostly dropped off passengers and returned for them later, Lawson noted. He added that several were charters rather than corporate or privately owned aircraft. FTG, the farthest of the Denver area airports from the Pepsi Center, sees three to five visiting bizjets in a normal Saturday through Thursday period. The volume was “not what we expected,” he commented.

FTG pumped 15,000 gallons of jet-A more than it typically does during a similar period in late August, Lawson noted, adding “3,000 gallons alone was for the BBJ.”

Although it was the closest turbine-airplane-capable airport to the convention site, Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (BJC) had considerably less traffic. According to BJC operations manager Brett Miller, the fact that the approach to BJC’s main runway, 9,000-foot Runway 29R, passed through “no-fly” restricted airspace might have limited the number of arrivals.