Thursday, July 20, 2017

Small airports expecting record traffic for eclipse

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Hundreds of pilots plan to make the most of the solar eclipse in Oregon.

Madras Airport in Central Oregon has already taken reservations for 300 planes. As of Thursday it had room for 50 more, but the planes must arrive Aug. 18, 19 or 20.

The day of the eclipse, Aug. 21, is sold out for landings.

Manager Rob Berg says most pilots will camp out on the field near their planes. The airfield will have a beer and wine garden, sky diving, music and a World War II museum. Learn more

The Federal Aviation Administration reports that Bend and Madras airports are bringing in private companies to run air traffic control around the eclipse.

In Salem, also in the path of totality, Ron Peters is expecting a very busy day on the eclipse.

“Seeing a lot of business,” said Peters, the manager of Salem Aviation Fueling. It’s where pilots who want to land and stay will park their planes.

“We're the first major airport in the line of totality,” he said.

And there is no room left. Every parking space is booked.

“We actually are getting requests from people down in California, Idaho, Washington, people flying in to go see the eclipse here,” said Peters.

The field has official parking spots for 125 small planes but Peters plans to squeeze 250 into the parking areas.

It will likely be the busiest morning in the airport's history.

“So they're flying in to see the event, the event happens then, boom they're gone,” said Peters. “So you've got 200 plus aircraft that are coming in, everyone wants to be here at the same time, everybody wants to leave at the same time,” he said.

Closer to Portland, Aurora Airport is already busy with summer travelers.

Even north of the path of totality things are sure to get much more active on eclipse day.

“It will be busy,” said Bruce Bennett, owner and Chief Pilot at Aurora Aviation.

He said nearly all the company's rental planes are booked for the big event. He thinks most pilots taking off from aurora will have reservations at fields in Madras, John Day, even Stanley, Idaho as they fly east looking for the best eclipse viewing weather.

He thinks most pilots will land and watch the eclipse from the ground.

Brian Keil is not one of them. He will be in the air.

“I will. I think it will be a great experience to be able to see it from above and hopefully it will be a good event for us,” he said.

He’ll carry passengers in a rented plane. He's not sure where he'll end up - somewhere in the path of totality.

“It all depends on the best view I can get. You know, cameras and what not. I expect the people I’m taking up to have cameras and we should get a very good view from the top side,” Keil said.

Rental cars are a premium as well. One aviation company worker in Bend who was booking a car for out of town travelers said she was quoted $707 for three days around the eclipse.

http://www.kgw.com

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