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Airport's growth may be due to football traffic


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Airport's growth may be due to football traffic

Jennifer Foster / For the OPELIKA-AUBURN News

February 4, 2007

Ever wonder why there is a tremendous need for renovation and construction at the local airport? The Robert G. Pitts airport may be small, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get busy - really busy.

Last fall, on Saturdays when Auburn University’s football team played at home, airport officials had to call in extra staffers to get planes landed, unloaded and parked. Planes would begin to swarm the skies during the mid-morning hours, and sometimes on the nights before the game. The Federal Aviation Administration provided personnel to man a mobile control tower to give guidance and direct traffic for the dozens of planes coming in.

Before too long, parking places for planes were few and far between. Planes were parked so far away from the main building that shuttles were provided to whisk passengers across the tarmac and up to the back door.

Airport officials try to park planes based on their characteristics, says airport director Bill Hutto. Bigger jets would be grouped in one place at the airport, smaller jets in another, prop planes in still another area.

The weekend of the LSU game, Hutto said, there were about 160 planes parked at the field.

But when Tiger fans disembark and head to Jordan-Hare Stadium for an afternoon or evening of football fun, airport officials’ jobs are only half over.

It’s during this time that they refuel the planes and prepare them for takeoff. The airport will typically sell several thousand gallons of jet fuel per home game weekend; during the LSU weekend, Hutto said, that number was 8,000.

Then, airport officials will work into the night, shuttling passengers back out to their planes and organizing and directing their departures. It makes for a long day for airport workers, who can sometimes put in 18 hours on a shift.

Marv Selge is one Tiger fan who made the trek to Auburn for nearly every home game last year. Selge, who is an industrial contractor and owns an orthopedic implants business, owns a Beechcraft King Air B-200 twin engine turbo prop.

Selge, who hails from Elkhart, Ind., has been flying to football games for about five years. His nephew, Auburn senior Brandon Godsey, works as a videographer for the football team.

Selge leaves a car here in Auburn during the week. The flight from Indiana, he said, takes only about two hours.

"They do a great job here," Selge said of the airport staff. "They’re courteous and on the ball. They handle a lot of traffic, but they’re very organized and thorough."


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