Saturday, March 14, 2015

Will Final Four bring extra traffic to Shelbyville Municipal Airport (KGEZ), Indiana?

It’s a wait-and-see game for Shelbyville Municipal Airport officials.

Yes, the Final Four is coming to Indianapolis the first weekend of April. Whether that translates into a spike in traffic at the local airport remains to be seen.

The city last hosted the championship of the NCAA basketball tournament in 2010.

“I don’t recall it having an impact on us then, but it all depends on how many people are coming in,” Airport Manager Darrell Shrader said.

With a number of smaller airports closer to Lucas Oil Stadium, the site of this year’s Final Four, Shrader expects any increase in traffic here would be overflow at best.

“If that happens, we can handle some pretty big aircraft out here,” Shrader said.

With a 5,000-foot by 100-foot runway, the airport can handle 20-passenger jet aircraft.

“As far as weight on our runway, that’s a limiting factor on any smaller general aviation airport such as Shelbyville,” Shrader said. “According to the Federal Aviation Administration legalities, 40,000-pound airplanes are about what we’re supposed to handle daily. But working through the FAA and our engineering firm, we have determined that we can land aircraft up to 100,000 pounds on occasional basis.

“There’s never going to be an airplane bigger than that to come in here because of the 5,000-foot runway.”

Shrader said the airport can be ready if there is an overflow of Final Four traffic, but as of Thursday, the airport had received no inquiries from anyone wanting to land here for the event.

“Back when we had the Super Bowl (in 2012), we had quite a few airplanes,” Shrader said. “We could have had more airplanes in here ... (but) I was going to end up having to park airplanes on taxiways. We can do that, but we don’t like to because it traps airplanes.”

Shrader said the airport would love to have the extra business, as traffic has been down because of economic factors.

“It’s down because the economy affects general aviation; that’s even corporate aviation. Last year was really bad. ... We had a terribly bad winter which affected the corporate traffic; it affected the little guys even more,” said Shrader, who noted that there are over 70 airplanes based at the airport.

The decrease in flights has pushed a proposed runway extension project out to at least 2020.

“In our master plan, we had planned on lengthening our existing runway to 6,200 feet. We have some aircraft operating here that need the longer runway. But the FAA looks at numbers, how many of the jet aircraft come in here in a year’s time, they track all that. They couldn’t justify the numbers for us to lengthen the runway as quickly as we wanted to do it,” Shrader said.

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