Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Anderson Municipal Airport-Darlington Field (KAID) unique position could draw more visitors for Super Bowl

With throngs of visitors flocking to Indianapolis for the Super Bowl, it is expected that 1,000 airplanes will be on the ground on game day.

And Anderson Municipal Airport manager John Coon hopes that some of those are parked on his field.

According to an Indianapolis Airport Authority news release, an increase of 40,000 passengers is expected to fly in to Indianapolis during game week. In addition to regular traffic, 75 more commercial flights and 60 additional charter flights will fly in for the Feb. 5 game.

The Anderson Municipal Airport is trying to get the word out that people can avoid that crowd by flying their corporate and private jets into a smaller and less hectic airport to work with — like the Anderson location.

It is also the nearest airport to Indianapolis that falls outside of the temporary flight restriction zone that will prohibit planes from flying into airports closer to downtown on game day.

And many people believe that unique position will benefit Anderson in many ways, including exposing visiting business owners to the city and helping the local economy.

“It’s a gateway to Indiana,” said Pam Smith, a pilot who flies out of the Anderson airport. “This will be the first and last place they see during their visit, so we need to shine. We want businesses in this town, and that’s one of the best ways to do it.”

Coon said he is a part of the Super Bowl Committee and since April 2011 worked on a plan with members of the Fixed Based Operator subcommittee, which dealt with issues relating to local airplane and jet services.

Coon contacted airports around Dallas — the location of last year’s Super Bowl — to determine how much traffic they each received, based on their distance from the stadium. About 1,000 airplanes were on the ground on Super Bowl day, and based on that research, he expects to have 20 to 30 corporate jets fly into the Anderson airport.

“We are the first airport outside of the restriction zone,” Coons said. “Nobody closer to Indianapolis can use their air space. We want to promote that.”

Unlike other smaller fields, Anderson has a permanent control tower. The airport also has hangar space in case of inclement weather.

A welcome booth hosted by the Super Bowl Committee will be set up at the airport beginning the Thursday before the Super Bowl. Committee volunteers will be on hand to receive visitors and offer information on transportation, parking and directions. They will promote Anderson as an official Super Celebration Site and direct them to Hoosier Park where there will be special activities.

“We will have a hospitality room where the crew can spend the day and watch the game,” Coon said. There will be food and beverages available, which the airport is also hoping to get donated.

Volunteers will man the room and help out in other ways.

Pam Smith is among those who will volunteer in the hospitality room. Her husband, Ron Smith, will help match guests with the transportation they requested. They are both looking forward to taking advantage of this rare opportunity to promote the airport and Anderson.

“We are really excited,” Ron Smith said. “It’s an opportunity that you have to take advantage of. We have never had it before and we may never have it again.”

Catering to Super Bowl travelers will cause the airport to incur additional expenses, but people involved with the airport think it will be a worthy investment with a bigger return.

Manning the traffic control tower for extended hours will cost an additional $400, Coon said. But city employees working for the airport will have their schedules adjusted to minimize overtime costs while still catering to the airport’s longer hours, Coon said.

About $800 will be spent on 100 extra gallons of a material used to spray the runway. The rental of the sprayer would cost $500 for the week, Coon said.

But the airport will make money off this venture as well.

Inbound flights must be reserved with a $150 deposit. If people buy fuel at the airport, that deposit will be refunded. And those fuel sales will bring in a lot of money, Coon said. Other services will be offered for a fee, such as storing aircraft in hangars and de-icing planes.

Buying fuel at the airport will be a huge boost in the local economy, said Thomas Newman, co-owner and president of M.J. Aircraft, a company located on the Anderson airport grounds that offers custom interior makeovers for corporate and private jets around the world.

The average corporate jet that will fly into Anderson can hold 500 to 2,000 gallons, Coons said. The fuel is usually sold at a at a lower price — currently $5.20 to $5.65 per gallon — than other area airports, Coons said, which will benefit travelers and Anderson.

“When these jet operations come through here they will realize, ‘We can stop through here on our way to Columbus or Detroit and get fuel for less per gallon,’” Newman said.

The people flying in on private jets are Newman’s type of clientele, so the exposure his business will get will be helpful. He and other companies will have displays showcasing their services in the airport terminal.

“These business jets can go wherever they want to get the work done, which means they may come back here,” he said.

There will be people flying in who have never heard of Anderson, Newman said, so this is a good time to make them remember that name.

“They will realize it has a casino, an airport, good low cost of living and demographics that may cause them to locate their business here. There is a lot of potential for good things to come out of it.”

At a glance

Most people flying into the Anderson Municipal Airport on corporate jets know the process and will already have hotels and ground transportation reserved, said John Coon, the Anderson Municipal Airport manager.

In case they don’t, the airport will provide information on auto rental companies, limousine services and the schedule for shuttles taking people downtown.

Coon is hoping to have a van on hand so that volunteers can drive visitors from the airport to Hoosier Park, where Super Bowl related activities will be taking place as part of Anderson being named an official Super Celebration Site.

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