If you’re headed to the Super Bowl, chances are you’re checking out flights to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. You know, airport code ATL. It’s the busiest airport in the United States… and the whole world for that matter. But there’s another airport located just 21 miles northwest of the city: Cobb County International Airport at McCollum Field. And during Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta, you can bet lots of people, particularly businesses, will be taking advantage of it. According to county officials, Cobb County Airport is expecting nearly seven times the normal amount of corporate traffic during the days leading up to the Super Bowl than usual.
That means about 800 corporate flights will be going in and out of this county-owned airport starting the Thursday before the big game, compared to the usual 120 flights it would see during the same time period. That amount of air traffic is something they’ve never dealt with before. Not even when Atlanta hosted the Super Bowl in 2000 or 1994. Apparently, the event generates much more traffic nowadays, according to the manager of Cobb County Airport, Karl Von Hagel, so they’ve had to find room for a lot more planes.
Typically, Cobb County Airport has about 300 aircraft based on the property. For the four-day Super Bowl weekend, they’ve had to find an additional 200 parking spaces for all those extra airplanes staying in town for a few nights. But preparations to handle this massive influx of traffic are well underway and they’re making room for them on the airport’s outdoor spaces. According to Von Hagel, “We expect to be full.”
Meanwhile, Hartsfield-Jackson is taking a bit of criticism for the fact that its $265 million terminal improvements won’t be complete by Super Bowl week. Most obviously, that means construction of its South Terminal canopies will still be going on while thousands of visitors arrive in full force. These massive curbside canopies aren’t expected to be completed until summer 2019 so airport preparations for the Super Bowl are looking into how that construction will affect ingress, egress, traffic congestion, and ground transportation. The Terminal South side of the airport gets about 80 percent of the total traffic. But focus groups are working on it.
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Just seven miles from Marietta or a 45-minute drive from downtown Atlanta, Cobb County Airport (airport code KRYY) is considered a “reliever airport” for Hartsfield-Jackson International. That means they provide additional capacity or relief to the area when ATL reaches capacity. Cobb County Airport is already the second-busiest airport in Georgia with an average of 475 takeoffs and landings per day. Despite those high numbers, however, there’s only one fixed-base operator at the airport, Hawthorne Global Aviation Services. In 2015, a customs facility opened so that the airport could receive international flights as well.
So why won’t you be booking any flights into Cobb County Airport, you ask? Well, most of the aircraft based at KRYY are single-engine planes, which means – you guessed it – a lot of private jets. According to Air Charter Advisors, their runway is built to accommodate “almost any size private jet or turbo-prop.” Wanna check them out? Just click the geotag for Cobb County Airport on Instagram. The photos are ridiculous.
Or if you’re in the area, drive down McCollum Parkway during Super Bowl weekend, says County Manager Rob Hosack, and you’ll be able to see private jets from the road. “They’re going to park them all over the place.” (Don’t worry, of course it’ll be done under FAA supervision.)
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The airport is probably going to extend their hours to accommodate all the extra traffic too. While they normally operate on a 7 AM to 11 PM schedule, they’ll most likely be running 24 hours a day come Super Bowl Sunday.
In addition, Cobb County itself is taking the time to tell airport visitors about local tourist attractions. While they know people are coming to see Atlanta and watch the Super Bowl, they’re setting up a touch-screen kiosk in the airport to point out local points of interest… just in case they see something that strikes their fancy and want to explore the area more.
Don’t worry, unless your company is flying you out to the Super Bowl or you’re hanging out with corporate sponsors… or your family owns a plane and you guys are heading to the big game, you probably won’t have to worry about flying into Cobb County Airport over Super Bowl weekend or finding a place to park your private jet. But it is cool to see a small county airport shoulder a lot of the corporate traffic of such a big event.