170712_eclipse_jas

A plane takes off Tuesday from Rosecrans Memorial Airport. The airfield is preparing for an increase in air traffic during the weekend of the solar eclipse.

Rosecrans Memorial Airport is unsure how many planes will be coming in next month to view the solar eclipse, but is preparing for the high traffic.

Last month, Express Flights, Inc., the fixed base operator at Rosecrans, estimated upward of 200 flights on the day of the eclipse based on the number of phone calls they have received from pilots looking for ramp space.

This week, General Manager of Rosecrans Abe Forney said that they really can’t know how many planes will show up.

“We don’t exactly know how many airplanes that we’re going to get,” Forney said. “We get calls frequently. Until the day happens, we don’t have to take reservations for a municipal airport.”

He expects the air traffic controllers to be able to handle the takeoffs and landings.

Express Flights President Gary Patterson said that 200 flights is within the “realm of possibilities,” but there could be even more.

“It could be twice that many, I don’t know. You just cannot even believe the calls we’re getting every day, it’s just unbelievable. I’ve just never seen anything like this before in my life,” Patterson said.

Patterson said there is typically 25 to 50 planes that go through Rosecrans on a summer day and maybe only five or six in the winter.

He plans on having three to four additional people on the ground to assist with taxiing and refueling aircraft.

He is a little concerned about the amount of space for aircraft, but said they will make room.

“It just remains to be seen. If there’s more than 200 aircraft then we’re probably going to be needing to go out to some grass areas or something like that or maybe even close part of a taxiway off for parking,” Patterson said.

Rosecrans is an official viewing site for the eclipse and can hold as many as 30,000 people.

Forney said the airport is working with multiple agencies in the area to assist with signage, parking and security.

“We’re coordinating with Emergency Management and the Streets Department, all the entities through the city and the county, to make sure that the customers that come out here are controlled and in a safe manner,” Forney said.

He said 300 campers have reserved space so far, leaving 700 spaces available for camping, and of the 5,000 total parking passes that were available, 1,300 have been sold already.

Forney is not sure what the entire cost of hosting the Aug. 21 eclipse will be, but has reserved $11,000 worth of portable restrooms from St. Joseph and Kansas City.

He said it will also be impossible to know how many planes will be in the air near Rosecrans during the eclipse until the day comes.

Brendan Welch can be reached at brendan.welch@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWelch.