So I just found an article from my hometown's newspaper that my mother had clipped out for me a long time ago. There's nothing too particularly exciting about the story, I just kind of thought it was nice to see a glimpse back to the days when people had the time and money to just go flying for weekend fun.
Flights of FANcy
Game days keep things hopping at Manhattan Regional Airport
Oklahoma Sooners fan Tom Clark made it from Tulsa, OK to Manhattan in 36 minutes. It took kansas State Wildcat fan Greg Farrell about 45 minutes to get here from Olathe, for D. Wayne Trousdale, a Sooners fan from Norman, OK, it took a little longer--about an hour and a half--but that's just because he swung over to Kansas City to pick up some friends.
No, these loyal football fans weren't setting land speed records on the Interstate; they and about five dozen others were simply making use of Manhattan Regional Airports Saturday morning. In all, 68 planes flew in to the airport, before the 11 am kickoff to watch OU beat K-State 31-21--from single engine Cessnas to Learjets.
"It's controlled chaos," said Rebekah Zawadski, one of the two air traffic controllers who worked the morning shift.
"It go to the point I couldn't remember the call signs," she said, noting it was the busiest shift she'd handled since coming to Manhattan in 1999.
All of the traffic made life interesting for Ron Nordt, president of Kansas Air Center. It was his job to park and fuel them all.
"It's either nothing for everything," Nordt said with a laugh.
On Friday, 11 jets flew in to the airport.
"That was probably the busienst day we've ever had that was a non-game day," Nordt said, noting that the airport generally averages two private jets on a weekday.
Nordt eventually packed 36 jets and turbo props onto the tarmac and another 32 smaller planes on the airport's old east ramp Saturday. Most had left Manhattan by evening.
"Everyone works on game day," he said. Saturday found six Kansas Air Cetner employees on the ground, directing, towing, and maneuvering planes, and another two inside handling fuel and rental car orders.
"It's not like a parking lot where they can all come and go at once," explained Bob Jensen, a line technician.
The stream of planes started early Saturday. By 8:30 am, a half dozen planes were already on the ground with another 16 in the air enroute.
"We are about to get jumped," said Frank Dayton, another line technician, while looking at a computer display showing a straight line of planes stretching from Manhattan into Oklahoma.
Once on the ground, pilots and their passengers picked up rental cars--all 25 were rented by midweek--called a cab, or got rides from a friend.
For most of the OU fans who flew in Saturday, owning a private plane--or at least knowing someone who owns one--is just part of being a Sooner fan.
"No matter where OU plays, we go," said Linsay Perkins of Tulsa, who hitched a ride in Tom Clark's Learjet 55.
"They are in my eternal debt," joked Clark, the owner of Tulsair Beechcraft, a Tulsa-based airplane dealer. He said it wouldn't be possible for them to make as many games without access to the plane.
While convenience was the biggest reason people gave for flying to the game, it wasn't the only reason.
"Revenge," said avid Donchin, a Sooners fan out of Oklahoma City, referring to last year's 35-7 upset at the Big XII Championship. He said he tries to make it to one or two away games a year, and this year the K-State-Oklahoma game was the game of choice.
"We've got a score to settle," said Sean Cummings, also of Oklahoma City.
Others said the football game was just a good excuse to take the family plane out for a spin.
Farrell, one of the few Wildcat fans to fly in to Manhattan, was celebrating his anniversary with his wife Pam, and said they try to make it to one home game a year.
"When you own a plane, you find a reason to fly," he said.