Currently living in Baton Rouge, LA, I don’t get a ton of great opportunities for plane spotting. Commercial service in Baton Rouge consists of Delta, American, and United express connection planes — so basically, small jets going back and forth from the same location. Of course Delta only flies to Atlanta, American will take you to Charlotte, NC or Dallas, TX, and United will take you to Houston. The extent of plane spotting is Embraer 175s, CRJ-700s, and occasionally a -900. So as you’d imagine, for an avgeek, I am always on the lookout for more.
The one thing that Baton Rouge does have is one of the largest universities in the country — Louisiana State, home of the Tigers. And if you weren’t aware, they are consistently one of the top football teams in the country. What does this mean for an avgeek? Well, every major college football team has to transport ~70-100 people as far as across the country, 6 times a year (7 if you are in a bowl game).
LSU will be playing in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL on New Years Day. Usually, a team will leave on Thursday for a Saturday game, then immediately return that Saturday night. For bowl games, it is a bit more of an event. Teams will go to the site a few days in advance, take part in events/press conferences throughout the week, and practice in a new climate. Because it is such an event, the teams will bring more people — usually coaches families, the whole band, cheerleaders, etc. So what does that mean, bigger planes!
I was keeping a close look at my FlightAware app all week, but based on events in Baton Rouge had a feeling that Thursday might be the day they were leaving. Sure enough, about noon on Thursday I see a United 767 and 737 coming from Houston into Baton Rouge — neither of which ever fly into this airport on a regular basis. By the time I saw the planes on my app I didn’t have enough time to get to the airport, but I thought maybe I could see the team board and then take off….
*Video is not professional.
I really wish I’d begun to track this earlier in the year, but I’m almost positive a 767 is the largest plane that airport has seen in a while (or maybe since last bowl season). I think the real question you may be asking is…why? There really is not a great explanation, but anyways
1. I am not only a points/miles/planes fanatic, I am a huge sports fan. So this is a collision of both those worlds.
2. I am fascinated by the fact that such a large plane can land at a relatively small metro airport. To put it in perspective, Baton Rouge’s longest runway is 7,500 feet — LAX’s longest clocks in at 12,923 ft., Chicago O’ Hare at 13,000 and JFK in New York has a longest runway of 14,511 ft! So while it is definitely not the shortest of runways, but I’m sure it takes a bit of skill to land and take off with such a large bird.
3. And finally, the plane chartering for professional sports is quite interesting. The US carriers have take a step back from chartering, and now I believe I may know why. To position these planes, there are a lot of empty planes being flown around the country — even within markets that they offer commercial service.
Anyways, I know many will not find this at all as interesting as I do. But for those that do, hope you enjoy.