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NATCA’S Minnesota Members Are Ready for the Super Bowl of Air Traffic Control

MINNEAPOLIS – National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) represented air traffic controllers, traffic management coordinators, and staff specialists in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region are ready for one of the biggest challenges of their careers – safely and efficiently handling the large amount of air traffic headed into and out of the area for Super Bowl LII weekend.

It’s the Super Bowl of ATC, and it has begun already at airports across the region. The heaviest amount of arriving traffic is expected today, with steady streams of aircraft to follow on Saturday and early on game day Sunday. Then, immediately after the game, controllers and the teams of aviation safety professionals at each facility will work to safely handle the flow of departing aircraft.

“On behalf of the NATCA members at Minneapolis Air Traffic Control Tower (MSP), we look forward to the challenge that the increased volume of traffic for the Super Bowl will bring,” MSP NATCA Facility Representative Thayer Davis said. “MSP NATCA members Pete Dwyer, Audrey Dorf, and Allison Palmer have worked tirelessly in collaboration with FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) leadership to plan for the increased volume and demand this event will bring while keeping safety as our number one priority.”

“Our facility never closes,” Davis added. During the Super Bowl traffic period, MSP will have increased controller staffing on all shifts including doubling the staffing of the overnight shift on the evening Feb. 4 after the game ends to ensure all aircraft safely travel to and from Minneapolis.

MSP will be using Runways 4/22 for parking aircraft coming in just for the game. Other airports around the region, including Flying Cloud, St. Paul Downtown, Mankato, Rochester, Anoka County-Blaine, and many more, will handle many dozens of aircraft and have plans in place for landing reservations and areas in which to park on the airport surface.

While air traffic controllers at many facilities across the country often work extra air traffic during big events, such as college football games, golf tournaments, motorsports races, general aviation fly-ins, and more, it is the Super Bowl that is annually one of the most high-profile demonstrations of air traffic control planning and skill. Preparations for this weekend began well over a year ago and the Minneapolis NATCA-FAA Super Bowl team learned key lessons from the experience of the Houston team a year ago which performed extraordinarily well to handle Super Bowl LI.

“We learned a lot from Houston about speed control, anticipated traffic counts, and staffing demands,” said Minneapolis TRACON (M98) member and facility Super Bowl committee lead Daniel Last, who added that preparations included testing the facility’s route structure and acceptance rates. “We are mitigating traffic off our outlining airports with independent routes to let MSP traffic run unabated. One year of planning now comes down to five days of implementation. Our controllers are ready to perform at our highest level. We are ready!”

Extra traffic above last year’s levels are expected in Minneapolis due to the presence of teams from New England and Philadelphia, two very busy markets for private and business aircraft. An extra 1,100 to 1,600 private aircraft are expected to transport Super Bowl fans to the Twin Cities region this week.

It will also be a busy weekend for Minneapolis Center (ZMP), the regional en route radar facility that is responsible for the airspace over much of the northwest Great Lakes and northern Great Plains region. All aircraft entering and departing the Minneapolis region will be handled by the ZMP team of safety professionals. ZMP will work closely with NATCA-represented traffic management coordinators at the FAA Command Center in Virginia, which is responsible for national air traffic flows and planning.

ZMP FacRep Tony Walsh credited the great work of ZMP member Jeff St. Germain, who with his FAA counterpart Sean Fortier facilitated much of the Super Bowl preparation at the facility.

“The aviation safety professionals at Minneapolis Center are well prepared for the additional traffic volume during the Super Bowl and surrounding events,” Walsh said. “In addition to the normal daily air traffic, ZMP is expecting to see an increase of over 2,500 flight operations with the arriving and departing Super Bowl air traffic.”

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