Airports near Glendale, Arizona, are preparing for a temporary population explosion next month as football fans fly in for Super Bowl XLIX. The game will be played at the University of Phoenix Stadium Feb. 1. The stadium is also the venue for the Pro Bowl, which is being played Jan. 25.
Glendale Municipal Airport (KGEU) is one of eight airports bracing for an increase in air traffic.
“Planning for the big event has been in the works for over a year,” notes Glendale Municipal Airport Administrator Walter Fix. “Our motto is ‘Glendale’s got game.'”
Glendale is expected to be one of the busiest area airports because of its close proximity to the stadium.
“When people ask how close we are to the stadium I tell them that I can see it when I look out my office window,” Fix reports.
KGEU has one runway, measuring 7,150 feet. The airport lies under the Phoenix Class Bravo airspace. There are 289 aircraft based at the airport, ranging from a handful of jets to a plethora of single-engine aircraft from helicopters to ultralights.
During the football games, the light jet and piston twin population increases dramatically, according to Fix.
“The last time the Super Bowl was played here was in 2008. We had an additional 70 to 100 aircraft fly in for that,” said Fix. “To make room for all the visiting aircraft, the aircraft that are currently parked on the airport apron are being relocated to the south end of the airport. We have had meetings with the FAA and invited all the airport tenants so there is a clear understanding of what will be going on. A lot of them will be standing down the Monday after the game when many visiting aircraft will be departing.”
Other airports expecting an increase in traffic are Phoenix Sky Harbor (KPHX), Phoenix Mesa Gateway (KIWA), Chandler Municipal (KCHD), Mesa Falcon Field (KFFZ), Phoenix Goodyear (KGYR), and Phoenix Deer Valley (KDVT.
“The NFL Super Bowl staff division people have been very helpful in creating a custom website for the airports with lots of information,” Fix continued. “As far as we know now, there will be at least a 10 mile TFR in place from roughly an hour before the game begins until about an hour after the game ends.”
Carl Brandenburg, operations manager at Glendale Aero Services, says FBO staff is ready.
“We opened on May 1, 2011, so this is our first Super Bowl, but we have the Fiesta Bowl each year. There is lots of coordination and assistance from the city of Glendale, which is the airport operator, the Phoenix FAA Air Traffic Manager, and Luke Air Force Base, which is five miles to the west of the airport, as well as the airport tenants,” he said.
Both Fix and Brandenburg note the FAA has taken a very proactive approach to game day traffic, requiring all visiting aircraft use the Prior Permission Required to make advanced reservations. The application is available at AZSuperbowl.com/KnowBeforeYouGo/Aviation and is airport specific.
The emphasis of the reservation system, says Brandenburg, is coordination.
“This should help us plan for ramp space and limit the number of arrivals and departures entering Phoenix Center’s Airspace at one time,” he explained. “Going from a handful of transient operations per day to 100 arrivals and departures on the same day is a challenge.”
The greatest challenge he predicts, will come when the game ends.
“Pilots need to be patient,” he advised. “Remember everyone else is trying to leave the same time you are.”