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Distance to Super Bowl helps LI air charters, ground operators

Talon Air president and CEO Adam Katz says

Talon Air president and CEO Adam Katz says of his fleet of 24 based at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale, "We sometimes have 15 or 20 airplanes at the Super Bowl." (Jan. 25, 2014) Credit: Steve Pfost

Sunday's Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium is helping revenue take off for air charter companies and businesses that service planes in East Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma, where out-of-town pilots are finding refuge from crowded airports closer to the game.

The charter plane industry works up into a frenzy every year at this time, creating a week of high demand as football fans take off to the big game in style. The metropolitan area usually gets a piece of the action, private jet company owners say, because many New Yorkers -- usually sponsors and wealthy fans -- travel via private plane to the big game.

"The Super Bowl is an economic driver that's at the very top of the list of drivers," said Adam Katz, president and chief executive of Talon Air, a private jet charter with a fleet of 24 based at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale. "We sometimes have 15 or 20 airplanes at the Super Bowl."

But with the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks set to face off just 45 miles outside Long Island, charter jet companies and those with hangar space at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale and MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma are flying high as an alternative destination.

"We're booked solid -- our hangar space is now full officially" as of Thursday, said Bob Sherry, president and founder of ExcelAire, based at MacArthur Airport. "We have about eight acres of parking for aircraft. . . . We're very familiar with the amount of activity that comes our way from these Super Bowls and it gets very interesting on the ramp."

Teterboro Airport, the nearest general aviation hub to the stadium, is expected to be chaotic in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, and the Port Authority has put a reservation system in place for private planes hoping to land there.

That's where companies like Talon Air, ExcelAire, Liberty Jet and Sheltair Aviation, all based at either MacArthur or Republic, are stepping in -- a little more than an hour outside New Jersey, they're luring private planes to their hangars on Long Island, where they'll refuel, perform maintenance inspections and charge the planes per night. Once fans touch down on Long Island, some charter companies will provide helicopter transport to Manhattan or ground transportation to New Jersey, or a combination of both.

It's a boost for the businesses and for the airports, which earn surcharges when fuel is pumped, along with landing fees on each plane that hits the runway.

"We are starting to notice some traffic into the local area" as well as increased demand for hangar space around Super Bowl weekend, said Leonel Rivera, general manager of Sheltair's operations at Republic. "That's gonna obviously be a big boost for the economy on Long Island."

Christian Deputy, president of Liberty Jet, a charter service with a location at MacArthur Airport, said he's already seen a $60,000 increase in business because of the activity surrounding Super Bowl weekend, from chartered flights to private plane owners requesting use of Liberty's hangar space.

He said, "$60,000 over a weekend to me is good revenue, that's great revenue." His company does about $1.5 million in business per month, Deputy said.

"We're very happy to have such a large event in our area; it's not common that we see this much jet traffic in such a short period of time," Sherry, of ExcelAire, said. "We just hope the weather cooperates -- it's the one variable that has everyone scratching their head."

New York Sports