Sunday, January 26, 2014

Morristown Municipal Airport (KMMU), New Jersey

Super Bowl a super task for Morristown airport: 200 planes expected to land for big game 


While officials in New Jersey and New York are preparing for what some have dubbed the first mass-transit Super Bowl, the operators of Morristown Municipal Airport are more concerned with long-distance travelers. 

The busy regional airport — residing in Hanover but owned by Morristown — is expecting unprecedented traffic from Jan. 28 to Feb. 3, the day after the Super Bowl concludes about 28 road miles away at MetLife Stadium.

“This week has preoccupied us for the last 18 months,” said Peter Gilchrist, manager of operations and security at the airport, referring to himself and Darren Large, manager of facilities and projects.

Together, they are responsible for managing the unprecedented amount of air traffic expected during the week leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII. The challenge increases exponentially after the game, when the estimated 200 corporate jets and private planes parked there all want to take off at the same time.

“Actually, from what we’ve been told by other airports in this situation that we have consulted with, they start leaving at halftime,” said Gilchrist, who plans on pulling an all-nighter, as do the other MMA employees. “It will be all hands on deck here Sunday.”

To prepare for what could be a once-in-a-career event, the staff at MMA has worked with Super Bowl, FAA, state and municipal officials to cover every special need and contingency. For starters, they are bringing in former employees and summer staff to augment the existing staff of about 26.

Perhaps the biggest change on the ground will be closing its crosswind runway to repurpose it as a parking lot for the extra aircraft coming in.

“We are utilizing the crosswind runway (running southeast to northwest) because the primary (runway) is larger and will be needed for the larger aircraft coming in,” said Marc C. Champigny, director of U.S. Aviation for the Louis Berger Group, a Morristown-based consulting firm with expertise in transportation and infrastructure that was asked to draft a conceptual parking plan for MMA.

Designated as a General Aviation Reliever Airport for the New York metropolitan area, MMA, operated by DM Airports, is one of the busiest airports of its type in the busiest airport system in the United States. Other regional airports, especially Teterboro Airport in Bergen County and Westchester County Airport in New York, also are expecting a Super Bowl-related bump in traffic.

Super-busy Sunday

But for Super Bowl Week, peak hours could see traffic that calculates at times to as many as 700 operations per day. Traffic will be curtailed on game day, as the FAA is imposing a no-fly zone eight miles around the stadium, a restriction that has been imposed at every Super Bowl site since 9/11. The no-fly zone will shut down rival Teterboro Airport, which is within the zone, but not Morristown.

“Which makes us the preferred destination for many customers, especially those who want to get out that night,” said Maria S. Sheridan, senior director of government affairs and business development at MMA.

But with so many aircraft lining up to take off in the hours after the Super Bowl, even traffic in Morristown will be limited to about 10 departures per hour as takeoffs from the various area airports are coordinated.

The FAA also requires that aircraft coming to the region during Super Bowl week must have an advance registration. Here, too, airport operators have to scramble to manage the glut of registrations.

“We have about 40 now,” Large said on Monday afternoon, the day after San Francisco and Denver qualified for the big game. “We didn’t have very many until today because we did not know who was playing.”

Thursday, 10 days before kickoff, the reservation list had grown to about 50, but Sheridan expected to reach full capacity.

Sheridan added that neighboring residents should not expect much in the way of an additional disruption due to increased air noise with the exception of Super Bowl Sunday night.

“A lot of these modern aircraft are designed to be pretty quiet,” she said.

Story, photo, video and comments//reaction:

Morristown Municipal Airport manager of facilities and projects Darren Large, senior director of government affairs and business development Maria Sheridan, and manager of operations and security Peter Gilchrist.
 Karen Mancinelli/For the Daily Record

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