by Dave Weiman
Published in Midwest Flyer – June/July 2019 issue
MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. – Not since Super Bowl LII, February 4, 2018, have the airports in the Twin Cities metropolitan area been tested with such a large influx of aircraft than for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) “Final Four” basketball tournament, April 5-9, 2019. The event, hosted by the University of Minnesota, was also held at the new $1.1 billion multi-purpose U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis.
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (KMSP) and its six reliever airports received high praise for their efforts to welcome visitors, direct them to the tournament and get them home safely and efficiently. Fortunately, the weather cooperated, and air traffic controllers again proved they are worthy of our nation’s support and admiration.
Winning the first round of the Final Four was the University of Virginia over Auburn University, 63 to 62. Then Texas Tech beat Michigan State, 61 to 51. The University of Virginia beat Texas Tech, 85 to 77 in the final game in overtime, but the players weren’t the only team to work overtime. Airport personnel put in a little overtime as well, as they rolled out the red carpet for visitors.
The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) accommodated 1600 corporate jets for the Super Bowl. In contrast, MAC accommodated 282 aircraft that flew into its reliever airports on Saturday before the semifinal games, and another 84 that flew in Monday for the final game. Among the reliever airports, St. Paul Downtown Airport was able to accommodate aircraft with no issues, despite the floodwall being deployed to contain the Mississippi River from the spring thaw.
“What a fantastic event – I’ve heard nothing but positive comments,” said Brian Ryks, MAC’s executive director and CEO. Ryks thanked everyone who played a role in making the event a success at a meeting of MSP’s Customer Service Action Council, April 11.
Among the fixed base operators serving MAC were Signature Flight Support at Minneapolis-St. Paul International and St. Paul Downtown Airports; Thunderbird Aviation at Crystal and Flying Cloud Airports; Elliott Aviation, Executive Aviation, Hummingbird Aviation, and Premier Jet Center at Flying Cloud Airport; Lynx FBO at Anoka County-Blaine Airport; Aircraft Resource Center at Airlake Airport; and Lake Elmo Aero at Lake Elmo Airport. The management at Thunderbird Aviation said that it had a “fantastic turnout” at both their Flying Cloud and Crystal Airport locations, serving everything from small piston aircraft to a Gulfstream 4 (www.MetroAirports.org).