Janesville47.8°

Packers fans and foes get jet set in Green Bay

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Associated Press
January 17, 2008
— Your average Packers fans have to battle traffic jams in their minivans and Tauruses to make it to Lambeau Field, but an increasing number are traveling a bit more upscale – by private jet.

And this weekend, with the New York Giants in town to tangle with the Packers for a Super Bowl berth, more than 125 private planes filled with well-heeled football fanatics in either green and gold or blue and red are expected to swoop out of the frigid skies over Green Bay. So many, in fact, that Austin Straubel International Airport is clearing space on taxiways to accommodate everything from Cessna 172 single-engine planes to $30 million Gulfstream V’s.


The extra Packers football weekend will mean at least $100,000 in revenue for Executive Air, one of two companies that handle private flights to Austin Straubel. The firm takes care of everything from fuel and deicing to securing limos, hotel rooms and, if the client requests, cashmere socks, said Mark Jaraczewski, general manager.


“An extra Packer game is huge for us,” Jaraczewski said Wednesday.


Midwinter is not the high season for private planes descending on this part of the world, so the extra game is a boon, said Al Timmerman, chief operating officer for Titletown Aviation, the other company that handles private flights.


“Usually, January is pretty slow. This is a nice little boost for us,” Timmerman said.


For the Vikings game, Executive Air took care of 88 private planes that flew to Austin Straubel. Between Titletown Aviation and Executive Air, last week’s private flights totaled 125. This weekend, with Giant fans coming from New York and New Jersey, the companies expect even more flights. And four F-18s will be in town for a pregame flyover – three from an air base in Texas and one from California. Those pilots will take off and land at the Green Bay airport and then watch the game from Lambeau seats provided by the Packers.


To cope with the crush in the next few days, both Titletown Aviation and Executive Air have added more customer service personnel and ramp workers who refuel and park planes. The ramp workers sometimes help with luggage, but most private-plane passengers carry their own bags and Cheesehead hats into Green Bay.


Flights are often staggered between those coming in a day or two before the game and fans flying in and out the same day, said airport Director Tom Miller.


“Because it’s a late game on Sunday, I would expect some would be coming up to an hour before the game,” said Miller, referring to Sunday’s 5:30 p.m. kickoff. “We have plenty of capacity here. Last weekend the tower had 20 to 30 (private) airplanes lined up on the approach to the runway just before the game.”


It’s not just Giants fans jetting in from Manhattan or the Hamptons, plenty of Packers fans who live elsewhere forgo the traffic backups on I-43 and Oneida Ave. by taking to the skies. Last weekend, Packer backers from California, Arizona, Florida and other compass points flew in private planes to the game.


Once they’re here, they need a place to stay, they need to get to and from the stadium and they need to eat and drink. Executive Air and Titletown Aviation provide those services, too. Though this weekend is a challenge for hotel rooms, Jaraczewski was confident that he will be able to find enough space for his customers and also book limo service for them.


Titletown Aviation has arranged for a fleet of shuttle buses to ferry folks to hotels and restaurants and, of course, the frozen tundra.


“Hangar space will be at a premium because, with the cold weather, everyone will want to hangar their aircraft,” said Timmerman.


The companies contract with local restaurants for catering, which can range from fruit plates and sandwiches to shrimp and champagne for passengers to nosh on as they fly home from the game. Last weekend, Executive Air filled a request to stock a jet with a basket filled with cashmere socks and gourmet coffees and hot chocolate, presumably to warm up fans who had spent four quarters sitting in the snow on Lambeau benches.


The pilots and flight attendants aren’t left out in the cold, either.


Executive Air provides tailgate parties complete with food for flight crews, who can watch the football action on three TVs as they wait for their employers to return from the game.



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