Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Augusta Regional Airport (KAGS) doubles parking for aircraft during Masters

Private jets flying into Augusta for the week of the Masters Tournament must follow a different system for landing and parking aircraft after an effort in recent years requiring reservations failed to alleviate parking problems.

Augusta Regional Airport doubled its aircraft parking capacity this year by using two taxiways as parking areas, said Ken Hinkle, the airport’s director of aviation services. About 200 aircraft, depending on the sizes and wingspans, will be able to park at the airport at one time, he said.

“We are going to open up every bit of real estate we possibly can instead of turning customers away,” Hinkle said.

Pilots will not be required to make reservations for landing times or parking spots as they were in 2013 and 2014, Hinkle said. Aircraft will be parked on a first-come, first-served basis.

Customers – often wealthy corporate executives and businessmen – parked their planes longer than the time they had reserved a spot, and the airport had no method to force them to move, Hinkle said. That caused a backlog when other aircraft arrived for their still-occupied parking spots.

“We couldn’t police how long people stayed,” Hinkle said.

The change requiring landing slot times and parking reservations was made for Masters Week 2013 in an effort to disperse private aircraft to nearby general aviation airports and alleviate parking shortages at Augusta Regional. When parking areas filled, air traffic control was forced to redirect flights to other landing sites, causing customers to be at different airports than their ground transportation or catering services.

The plan was a collaboration between Daniel Field, Thomson-McDuffie Regional and Aiken Municipal airports. This year, the four airports are still combining efforts to serve the large demand during the area’s busiest week of the year.

Hinkle said pilots are encouraged to use all the airports but customers prefer Augusta Regional, so it is trying to accommodate the demand.

“Every year, we want to improve the service. Augusta Regional is the preferred destination,” he said.

Augusta Regional predicts about 3,000 landings and takeoffs for private aircraft during Masters Week, up from 2,034 last year, Hinkle said. The airport will use a portion of its taxiway for “drop and go” parking so passengers can get to the golf tournament even if long-term parking isn’t available, he said.

Daniel Field does not expect its operations to be affected by the changes, said Becky Shealy, vice president of business development for Augusta Aviation, the operator of Daniel Field. The general aviation airport can park about 100 planes at one time, she said.

The airport’s runway can only handle small planes because of its length, Shealy said. Larger planes must use Augusta Regional, Thomson-McDuffie or Aiken airports.

Without landing reservations, Shealy said aircraft destined for Augusta might have delayed departures and be forced to slow down or circle before landing.

“It’ll be interesting to see how this year pans out with no slot (landing) reservations,” she said.

Hinkle said Augusta Regional has changed its system multiple times in recent years because the airport is trying to figure out the most effective method for handling the special event. Other major sporting events are held in cities with large metropolitan airports, he said.

“We’re unique because we’re like seven Super Bowls on seven days. We’re trying to manage a fluid operation for seven days,” he said.

Story and comments:  http://beta.mirror.augusta.com

No comments: