Crossroads Of America Hosts Superbowl XLVI

A look at the challenges and benefits associated with supporting aircraft during the major sports event

This year was the first time the National Football League’s Superbowl Championship game was played in the state of Indiana, and only the fourth time that it has been played in a cold-weather city. Concerns about how potential weather would affect aircraft traffic had the Indy Jet FBO working on deicing plans. Fortunately, weather for Superbowl weekend turned out beautifully, relates Indy Jet director of sales and marketing, Erin Lawson.

Located at the Indianapolis Regional Airport (KMQJ) just east of Indianapolis, Indy Jet experienced some 140 aircraft for the week and some 90-100 operations on Super Bowl Sunday alone. Quite a shift from a typical day, when the FBO supports some 10-20 aircraft on an uncontrolled field.

Says Lawson, “For us, it was all about how we would maximize the use of our space? We utilized a temporary tower for the event.”

Ultimately, the experience and exposure the event brought were the greatest benefits for Indy Jet, says Lawson. She adds, “We’ve gotten a lot of return traffic and compliments.”

At Indianapolis International Airport (IND), the Million Air FBO saw some 430 aircraft and made a slight profit from the event, but the larger benefit was operating on the ‘worldwide stage’, as regional director Drent Sarault puts it. He comments, “Weather played into our hands — we had a 50-plus degree day and not a cloud in the sky.

“As far as us being on the national stage ... it gives us recognition. Everyone that’s coming in on the corporate jet side, most of them are business owners ... so they get to see the city, and the potential here.

“That’s what we want, more corporations bringing headquarters here, and bringing jobs. In the long term, I think that is what’s going to benefit us, and the city in general.”

Logistics; Staffing

On a typical day, Million Air operates on about 3 acres of concrete; the FBO acquired the space of an old terminal parking ramp to add to its capacity. Comments Sarault, “We had 105 airplanes parked on that ramp, and we actually had overflow on another area that ended up being completely full.”

Million Air was the exclusive support provider for NetJets, who took over the FBO facility. Million Air set up a hangar to support the rest of the traffic complete with a VIP lounge.

“So we kind of had a split operation in a lot of ways, which helped because due to the amount of people coming in, we never would have been able to handle them all at our FBO facility,” explains Sarault.

“I think Net Jets had 75 departures Sunday night — and on the other side, the non-NetJets flights, we had some 130 departures after the game.

“So we had a massive amount of people here during the game, and we brought in staff members from around the Million Air network to help out.” At a staff of 30, the FBO brought in about 65 additional employees.

“That push right after the game is nothing you can ever prepare for. I warned the staff, because I’ve worked several of them — I worked Houston and Detroit ... there’s no way to prepare someone for what they’re going to see that night; or even Monday morning,” he adds.

Over at Indianapolis Regional, Indy Jet was the first FBO outside of the temporary flight restriction (TFR) — a 10 mile radius around the stadium. Remarks Lawson, “We had a lot of the people that wanted to leave right after kick-off, or immediately after the game — if they were at our airport, they were able to do so because we were the first airport outside of that ring.”

In terms of aircraft type, Lawson says there was a mixture. “The one thing that we weren’t expecting was, we had to close one of our runways to park aircraft on,” she relates. “We were planning to park a majority of the aircraft out there and we ended up getting bombarded with Gulfstreams and Challengers which filled up our ramp pretty quickly — and it would’ve been hard to park some of that on the runway. That was kind of unexpected.”

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