Archive for Wednesday, September 19, 2001

Speedway air traffic

Attacks on United States will affect how flights come, go for races

September 19, 2001

In light of last week's terrorists' acts on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, America's rules of the sky have changed.

And in turn, those involved in planning for an increase in air traffic during the Sept. 28-30 Winston Cup races at Kansas Speedway, are paying close attention.

For the past 18 months, J.D. Green, Federal Aviation Administration support specialist for air traffic control at Kansas City International airport, has been planning for an increase in air traffic on race weekends.

During an interview two weeks ago, Green said that small aircraft would be allowed, although not advised, to fly in the vicinity of the Kansas Speedway during the Winston Cup races.

That changed with the Sept. 11 terrorism that took down the World Trade Center and ripped through the Pentagon.

"There are no updates at this point," Green said Friday morning. "But I am telling you they are seriously looking at stopping any air traffic over any outdoor stadiums."

As of last week, the scheduled military fly-by, blimps and a request from Kansas Gov. Bill Graves for a fly-by representing Kansas aircraft manufacturers, were canceled, Green said.

But when it comes to race teams and others who planned to fly small aircraft to attend the Speedway's September events, Green said he's still expecting a crowd.

"The Winston Cup normally has an additional 140 airplanes fly in with them," Green said.

These planes will likely be carrying race officials, race teams and drivers, Green said.

"Then there will probably be another 60 planes that are race fans flying in," he added.

Unique about the Kansas Speedway, Green said, is that its central location gives it four airports to draw from KCI, Kansas City's downtown airport, and airports near Olathe and Lawrence.

That should help disperse the air traffic over a greater space, he added.

But it's not the traffic coming in that he's worried about it's after the final race on Sunday.

"After the race is over, it's a race to the airport to get on the airplane and out of town."

Extra air traffic control officers will be on duty at KCI all three days, Green said.

Ronnie Fountain, vice president of the Race Team Aviation Association, had his Citation grounded at Kansas City's downtown airport on Sept. 11, when terrorism acts caused the FAA to stop air traffic. Three days later, on Friday, Fountain was still waiting for permission to fly out.

The RTAA was formed about 18 months ago to enhance communication between race team pilots and the FAA, Fountain said. This was in hopes that race team planes wouldn't face a long runway wait with engines running and so that airports could plan ahead for the extra traffic.

Fountain said the Sept. 11 terroristic acts will change the freedom Americans have had to travel by air.

"It will never be back to normal," Fountain said. "In light of the safety and security issues that are going to be imposed, I really believe it's going to change all aviation. Restrictions are going to be tighter. Even training is going to be tighter everything's going to change."

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