A temporary closure of Nantucket Memorial Airport’s transient general aviation ramp was one of several measures taken by airport management over the weekend as they attempted to handle an incredibly busy stretch of aircraft arriving to the island for the holiday weekend in record numbers.
“What we had on Friday and Saturday was a lot of arrival traffic and it was probably the busiest 24-hour arrival period that we’ve ever had,” airport manager Noah Karberg said. “The thing that took me aback is typically people arrive in the lead-up to the Fourth of July in a two or three-day period. The difference this year was that everyone really showed up all at once.”
At 4 p.m. on Friday, the airport advised a General Aviation fueling delay of up to 2 hours (MedFlights and Scheduled passenger service were not impacted).
Karberg said in total, the airport sold 27,000 gallons of Jet A fuel on Friday - a number more common for a day at the tail end of a holiday weekend when everyone is leaving at once and weather conditions are similar to the cloudy, low visibility state experienced on the island Friday and Saturday.
“The fuel sales we had on Friday are usually what happens right after a festival weekend when everyone is leaving at the same time and not just an outbound day but an outbound day which is IFR – meaning low visibility, foggy conditions where people are taking on extra fuel before departing,” Karberg said. “So what we did was we closed out Southwest ramp, or our transient ramp, to everyone except Medflights or scheduled quick turns. So we would let people in and they could drop passengers off but then they would have to go and stage somewhere else.”
Karberg said closures like this are not common.
“We have done this once or twice over the past five years,” airport manager Noah Karberg said. “It is definitely not common. It is a tool for managing capacity.”
The number of aircraft on the ramp isn’t the only factor that goes into a ramp closure, Karberg said. The airport also needs to take into consideration what is scheduled to arrive and depart to best manage the next 24 hours.
With Independence Day falling on a Tuesday this year, the busyness of the island and the airport is not expected to let up. Karberg said he expects to remain busy for the foreseeable future.
“I do expect we are going to be very busy except for the Fourth,” he said. “The Fourth should actually be pretty calm because everyone’s already here or should already be here, and who’s going to leave Nantucket on the Fourth of July?”
Karberg said the NOTAM issued is “probably” going to continue to be managed on and off through the end of the Fourth of July weekend - until July 10 or July 11 as it is needed. He said this will be an attempt to stay ahead of any major rushes that could become disruptive as the airport works its way through a summer that has been busier than expected so far.
“Summer has taken off. I can say we came into June with our major indicators (fuel and arriving aircraft) down five to 10 percent but over the course of June all of that has increased pretty substantially," Karberg said. “We went from being five to 10 percent below last year to being a coupled percentage points above where we were last year – so it was an extremely busy last 10 days or so of June.”
Karberg credited his staff and stakeholders for the work they’ve done to accommodate the heavy demand and traffic.
“They are doing such a great job,” Karberg said. “I wish the public knew how much work and what a phenomenal job they all do day in and day out.”