Next month, as the Super Bowl and its pageantry take the New York City area by storm for the first time, local GA airports and service providers are hoping that metaphorical storm will be the only one on the radar. At last year’s NFL championship game, held in New Orleans, more than 80 percent of the approximately 800 private aircraft in town for the game departed in the hours immediately after the Baltimore Ravens hoisted the championship trophy.
At the heart of the storm will be Teterboro Airport, located just three miles from MetLife Stadium. Just as for the game itself, airport officials there are anticipating a sellout crowd, and to manage the expected 600 aircraft parked there come game time, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PANYNJ) has hired a ramp coordinator specifically for the event, according to Thomas Bosco, interim director of the agency’s aviation department. That individual will act as a liaison between the FBOs, the aircraft operators and the ATC tower to manage the flow of traffic into and out of the ramp areas. From the Wednesday before kickoff to the Tuesday after the game, to land at (or depart from) the airport operators will have to first secure a reservation from one of the five FBOs on the field. Over and above its normal landing fees, the airport will charge a $250 event fee to cover its game-related costs, such as the ramp coordinator and extra manpower. Most FBOs are likely to institute event surcharges during the week as well. While the airport normally has a voluntary curfew, Bosco said his agency isn’t expecting much compliance that week.
Teterboro anticipates congestion on its roads and parking lots as well. “We expect that with the influx of private aircraft into Teterboro, the demand for limos and car service is going to be intense, so we’re requiring that limos and black cars coming to the airport to pick up passengers be linked to the reservation the pilot has had to make with the FBO,” said Bosco, who added that his agency has been working closely with the Super Bowl host committee to provide trained volunteers at each FBO to greet and direct arriving passengers.
Those seeking to get a jump on the traffic and depart before the end of the game might be out of luck, as the FAA is proposing a TFR that would close Teterboro on game day from 2 p.m. until midnight. To ease congestion heading out of the airports in the region, the agency is also instituting an hourly departure slot quota for each. Once the TFR is lifted at Teterboro, the airport will be limited to 10 aircraft movements per FBO per hour, according to Mario Diaz, general manager of Landmark Aviation’s facility at the airport. “That’s the best-case scenario,” he added. Pilots of repositioned aircraft hoping to land and pick up passengers and depart will be limited to one per hour per FBO until 6 a.m. on Monday.
At Morristown Municipal Airport Darren Large, manager of facilities and projects, is bracing for the busiest period the airport has seen since 9/11, when the field took in more than 100 private aircraft. During the days leading up to the game, he is expecting to double that number. At 28 miles from the stadium, the airport will also be operating within airspace requiring any IFR aircraft coming into the area to have a reservation number and prior permission to land. “The way it is working is that operators have to register with us first, then with the FBOs,” he told AIN. “We did this because the airport holds the majority of the parking spaces, since we will be using our crosswind runway for parking.” Large began preparing for the Super Bowl traffic by heading down to New Orleans for last year’s game to work and experience the rush first-hand. “That was an eye-opening experience, seeing everything from how vehicle traffic flowed in and out of the airport to how aircraft were handled,” he said. “We came back from that and formulated a parking plan that the FAA was looking for us to put together.” Morristown even experienced a test run of sorts on the Sunday following Thanksgiving, one of the busiest travel days of the year. “We actually put a lot of our ideas for the Super Bowl into effect,” Large noted, adding that while some worked well others required tweaking.
The airport is taking arrival reservations from the Tuesday before kickoff until the following Monday. It is imposing a non-refundable $300 event fee to help offset the additional expenses at the airport such as extra vehicles and staff, and to discourage operators from making multiple reservations at different airports in hopes of getting closer to the stadium as game day approaches. “We don’t want that to happen. Our list is going to be provided to the FAA,” said Large, “and if the FAA catches people registering at multiple airports they will be contacted and told to pick one airport.”
Essex County Airport, situated 12 miles from MetLife Stadium, expects a boost among operators of smaller bizjets and turboprops. (Its 4,522-foot-long main runway might discourage larger aircraft.) Andy Ferguson, president of Air Bound Aviation, the lone service provider there, said he had received 25 reservations by the beginning of last month. For those reservations, the FBO is requiring payment in advance, and it has raised its usual parking fees “slightly.”
Across the Hudson River, Westchester County Airport (HPN) has been preparing for the Super Bowl for nearly a year, having submitted its initial plans to the FAA almost as soon as last year’s game ended. “We know what we need to do, but we’re trying to find out who is really coming, how big the box is going to be,” said airport manager Peter Scherrer. “We figure we’re going to be full, and that’s what we’re planning on.” He has been holding regular meetings with the airport FBOs as the big week approaches. The dual-use airport will not be charging any additional fees above its usual landing fees, and Scherrer believes that its increased distance from the stadium and the Newark Airport traffic will translate to quicker departures after the game than the likes of Teterboro in NJ can provide. The airport will provide volunteer greeters at each FBO and the airline terminal, welcoming passengers and steering them to ground transportation.
Scherrer is also preparing to host some larger aircraft. Since heavy private jetliners such as Boeing BBJs and Airbus ACJs are barred from Teterboro, they are likely to use Signature’s brand-new FBO at Newark, or head to John F. Kennedy International or HPN.
With all the demand at the local airports, the PANYNJ suggests two additional lower-cost though slightly farther-afield options in Atlantic City International Airport and Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, NY.
The Super Bowl is as much a marketing event as a football game, meaning that the myriad corporate sponsors and their guests–rather than true fans of the teams involved–are likely to be occupying seats at the game. According to Large, for last year’s game as many as one third of the private aircraft in New Orleans came from the New York/New Jersey area even though neither of the contending teams hailed from that area. It remains to be seen if this year’s New York City-area venue will translate to a corresponding decrease in private aviation traffic.
On the other hand, the teams that make it to the big game could also affect how many aircraft wing into the NYC area. “It will depend on the teams that are in the Super Bowl because some teams [fans] travel better than others,” said Charlotte Cheatham, Landmark Aviation’s vice president for marketing and customer service.
Inclement Weather Plans
In its long-range prognostications, The Old Farmers Almanac predicts snow for the Northeast during the first week of February, with temperatures in the low 20s, a forecast that could cause headaches at local airports as several hundred private aircraft attempt to depart after the big game. In case the predicted inclement weather does materialize, all the local airports have taken precautions to minimize its potential impact. At HPN, commercial aircraft would be relocated to make room for a de-icing line, said Scherrer. While the FBOs typically would handle their own de-icing duties, he will make the airport’s equipment available to handle the overflow. “Our de-icing contractor knows already that it’s all hands on deck,” he told AIN. “We’re going to have tons of fluid. We’re going to be ready to go.”
At MMU, Large said the airport’s de-icing provider is stockpiling chemicals in strategic locations near the airport. “If it snows it’s going to slow people down, and as a system we can operate only to a certain extent during winter weather,” Large noted. “We are going to be prepared for it. We have a good snow removal team. If we can get people in and out of here, we are going to do it.”
The Super Bowl of the FBO Game
The week surrounding the Super Bowl likely represents the biggest challenge an FBO will ever see in terms of passenger and aircraft ground handling. The major service provider chains are familiar with the crush of private aviation traffic that such events attract and are undaunted by the championship making its debut in the New York City area. They typically draw extra personnel and equipment from other locations in their extensive networks to put their best foot forward. “We look at it as an opportunity,” said Charlotte Cheatham, Landmark Aviation’s vice president of marketing and customer service. “Obviously we have a lot of exposure to existing and new customers, so it’s our opportunity to shine from a service perspective.” Given its experience over the past years, the company has organized some of its seasoned veterans into a specialized unit. “We’ve created a support team that is good at handling these events and the hours and the flow,” Cheatham told AIN, adding that she expects this year’s event to run more smoothly than last year’s. “New Orleans for us was the biggest and most chaotic event we’ve ever handled, with a lot of remote ramps that we were working. Since Teterboro doesn’t have the capacity as an airport to shut down a taxiway to use as ramp space to park airplanes, we won’t have the remote parking option that we had in New Orleans, so it’s going to be a little simpler from that perspective.” Mario Diaz, general manager at Landmark’s TEB facility, is expecting between 150 and 200 aircraft on his ramp during the event.
For the big game, service providers typically host elaborate hangar viewing parties for the flight crews, and this year will be no exception. Large-screen TVs, catered buffet spreads, cheerleaders and giveaways ratchet up the excitement. Million Air president Roger Woolsey recounts the story from one such party a few years ago where the bizjet passengers enjoyed themselves so much at the pregame party that they gave away their stadium tickets and remained at the airport for the entire game. Landmark is erecting a heated tent capable of accommodating 250 people at Teterboro and plans to extend the party to its spacious lobby after the game in case of departure delays. A smaller party is planned for its White Plains facility. Signature Flight Support will be hosting big-game festivities at all four of its area FBOs (Teterboro, Newark, Morristown and White Plains) with catering, prizes and games, while Meridian, the last independent FBO at Teterboro, is expecting approximately 60 private aircraft for the game and is dedicating one of its hangar bays for a crew party with seven-foot-wide projection screens, massage stations, catered food, gift bags and a midnight coffee bar. Million Air is planning a similar soiree at its HPN location, while Jet Aviation will host crews with food and refreshments at TEB.
Atlantic Aviation reported that it will be boosting staffing at its Teterboro facility as well as farther north at its Stewart International Airport location and at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, Long Island. It might come as a surprise that Atlantic Aviation’s FBO at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport typically sees at least as much traffic on game day as FBOs see in the city where the game is staged, according to Sue Sommers, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing.