Record Number Of Planes Are Flying To Casper For The Eclipse
Before you look to the skies to view the solar eclipse on Monday, Aug, 21, turn your gaze toward the skies above the airport west of Casper.
You will see airplanes, a lot of airplanes.
Private airplanes landing every two minutes at the Casper-Natrona County International Airport, airport manager Glenn Januska said.
It's an unrivaled, if not unnerving, air traffic event, said Januska, who has been at the C-NCIA for 11 years and has talked to other airport personnel about it. "In terms of this many aircraft on the ground at a given time, nothing that I or anybody can remember."
As of today, 191 aircraft -- carrying about 800 people -- are expected to be at the airport on Aug. 21, with 163 of them arriving that day. That number is expected to rise.
About half of them are jets, and the other half are single- or twin-engine prop aircraft, he said. The largest jet is a Boeing 737.
The private company Atlantic Aviation is handling the details, including registering to land on a reservation basis, and has been keeping Januska apprised of the eclipse traffic.
The control tower opens at 5 a.m., but will extend its hours.
To handle the air traffic, planes will arrive a rate of one about every two minutes for all of them to be here until a half-hour before totality begins. The airport will be shut down for the next hour after that.
Planes will land, park, and their pilots and passengers will be shuttled to the Atlantic Aviation office north of the terminal. Atlantic Aviation, part of a national chain of private air support businesses, will have a large tent for the visitors where they can eat, enjoy entertainment, and have a viewing place.
For security and operational reasons, pilots and passengers will not be allowed to stay with their aircraft, Januska said.
If flights originate outside the United States, the airport's U.S. Customs Office will need to clear them after they arrive, he said.
For privacy reasons, Atlantic Aviation does not identify those who are flying here, Januska added.
He cannot discuss what additional security measures the airport is taking, either.
Most of the pilots and passengers in these planes won't do the tourist thing in Casper because nearly all of them will depart Monday afternoon.
"I would expect that the vast majority of the aircraft we're getting; the people here will never leave the airport," Januska said.
This has been a long time coming, Januska said.
Airport staff, Atlantic Aviation and the control tower staff began planning for the eclipse air traffic three years ago, began meeting monthly about a year ago, and now are meeting weekly, he said. The airport also is working with staff from the Denver International Airport because pilots will deal with DIA before they deal with the Casper-Natrona County International Airport.
The airport had no precedent for planning for the eclipse, Januska said.
Instead, it prepared as if the eclipse were the Superbowl, a NASCAR race, or the Master's Golf Tournament in Augusta, Ga., he said. "It's a similar event where you've got a bunch of people that are going to one airport that are landing about the same time, that want to leave at the same time."