Saturday, December 30, 2017

Airports prep for Super Bowl landings

The St. Cloud Regional Airport is gearing up for Super Bowl traffic, expecting VIPs in private jets to need space to land, park and refuel their aircraft.

At St. Cloud Regional Airport, staff members are counting out corporate jet parking spots and rehearsing scenarios to plow snow from runways amid more takeoffs and landings surrounding Super Bowl weekend.

At Rochester International Airport, officials are waiting to see which teams are in the championship game to get a sense of how many extra planes they might expect.

While the Twin Cities are abuzz with preparations for the big game, some airports outside the metro are also making plans for increased traffic from high-flyers on business jets.

In St. Cloud, Airport Director Bill Towle said he estimates crews could see from 40 to 50 extra business jets over the long weekend. "After the divisional playoff games is apparently when the phone starts ringing off the hook," he said.

While smaller airports near the metro area can handle small jets, Towle said he expects some pilots who aren't comfortable with winter weather to opt for St. Cloud or other larger outstate airports with precision instrument landing systems, making it easier to take off and land with relatively low cloud ceilings and visibility.

Officials expect some VIPs will try to be dropped off in the Twin Cities, with their pilots continuing on to airports outstate to park their jets; other VIPs might land outstate and take a car into town. Flight restrictions around U.S. Bank Stadium will hinder some movement in the metro during the game, Towle said.

St. Cloud could handle about 45 medium-sized business jets on its ramp parking area, and, if more space is needed, officials could close a runway to fit another 50 planes.

At Rochester International Airport, Executive Director John Reed said staff and flight-support crews are accustomed to handling VIP traffic. "We feel like we can support 20 to 30 planes very comfortably," he said.

In Duluth, officials have parking space for about 32 jets, said Natalie Peterson, director of communications and marketing for the Duluth Airport Authority.

Towle said he's excited about the increased attention his airport could get. "You just can't put a dollar amount on this marketing," he said.

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