As fans and visitors descend upon the Valley for the week leading up to the biggest sporting event of the year, so are dollars for the area’s private airports.
Falcon Field in Mesa, Glendale Municipal Airport, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, Goodyear Airport, Chandler Municipal Airport and others are part of a coordinated program established by the federal government to handle anticipated traffic into and out of the area via charter and private craft.
“We are affected quite a bit by the Super Bowl,” said Glendale Municipal Airport manager Walt Fix.
While Federal Aviation Administration planning was months in the making, the execution has only ramped up in the past week or so, Fix said. The timing is attributed to the fact the Super Bowl’s participants — Seattle and New England — were decided Jan. 18 with the conference championships. “After last Sunday, reservations accelerated,” Fix said.
The uptick in activity will raise revenues for the operators of these airports, and by extension, the municipalities where they are located.
Falcon Executive Aviation, the company in the industry referred to as the fixed-base operator of Mesa’s Falcon Field, will reap a yield from the services it provides aircraft operators, said Dee Ann Thomas, the airport’s marketing and communications specialist.
As of Thursday, the airport had two dozen reservations beyond the usual for a late January week, and the number was climbing.
“We work with private recreational or corporate aircraft. … Falcon Executive Aviation is taking and managing reservations. They handle and service planes. They’ll park, fuel and take care of planes,” she said.
In addition, some airports are offering extra services for pilots and passengers, she added.
At Falcon, this includes a lounge where pilots can stay, rest or relax. Some operators also provide a concierge for pilots and passengers.
Thomas said the profit from this week’s activity is expected to be noticeable.
“We are expecting some increased traffic,” she said.
Profits and revenue from these airports extends beyond the operator. In Glendale, Fix noted there is a fuel-flow fee accessed on a per-craft, per trip basis.
Fix said the airport will serve craft in essentially two time frames — those that will fly in the day before or even the day of the game, drop off passengers, wait, then depart within a day, and, for those staying longer, up to a week.
Just the weekend alone, Jan. 30 through Feb. 2, he said the airport has 102 aircrafts scheduled to land and take off later. The mix includes a variety of planes, from the smaller Cessnas and Pipers to the corporate Gulfstream jets.
The flow of traffic is unusual for airports of this size but not unheard of. The FAA’s reservation system in place this week was used with success during the 2008 Super Bowl, also at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
Fix said the FAA assigned each aircraft a specific arrival and departure time in an effort to avoid bottlenecks, especially on the day after the game.
“It’s a 6-minute interval, 24/7 Thursday (Jan. 29) through Monday (Feb. 2). Every Valley airport has the same incremental time block,” he explained.
Fix said the system is designed to serve up to 1,000 aircraft at all Valley airports — a target based on the 2008 experience.
This is a time of the year the airports are prepared to handle extra traffic in the Valley. With winter visitors making regularly scheduled trips from colder climates for the season, the Super Bowl week plan has to take into consideration that activity.
The FAA system also includes a backup in the event an airport underestimates its available space for aircraft storage while their passengers are in town.
“If the number of spaces is full, they are referred to another nearby airport, so the traffic isn’t getting bottle-necked,” said Thomas.
Fix said intercommunication between airports has been on the rise along with use of the facilities’ common database for this week’s setup.
Ian Gregor, spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration, said via email the organization expects an additional 1,200 to 1,400 general aviation flights into the Phoenix area for the Super Bowl and has planned for the event for more than a year.