MADRAS, Ore. - This August, thousands of people will be looking to the sky, as well as taking to it. The Madras Municipal Airport is gearing up for the Aug. 21 solar eclipse.
“We have people coming in from all over the United States for this,” Airport Manager Robert Berg said Friday. “Right now, we’ve got people booked from Korea, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and all over Europe that are also coming and flying in for this event.”
They’re preparing for the chaos.
“We’re going to be absolutely inundated with airplanes and people,” he said.
On an average day, there are about 40 to 50 takeoffs and landings in Madras, and about a dozen planes on the property. For the eclipse, they’re expecting about 500 landings alone, and every inch of the pavement to be covered with planes.
Berg said at some point, the airport won’t be able to handle all the inflow, but the number of planes they’re capping it at hasn’t been decided yet.
“When we reach a saturation point where we no longer deem the airport safe, I will stop the flights and we will close the airport,” he said.
Berg said he also raised his concerns at a recent meeting of Oregon airport representatives.
“My point to them was mainly to plan for our overflow, because when we can’t take any more, they’re going to go somewhere, and they’re going to go to a close airport,” he said.
Berg said he just wants everyone to be prepared to handle the crowds.
“If they have a bad experience, they won’t come back and see us in Central Oregon again, and tourism is huge for us in Central Oregon. We want to make sure that we foster that and not be a detriment to it.”
Part of showing everyone a good time means setting up food vendors, music and a beer garden at the airport. So, if traffic in the area is as bad as anticipated, and people can’t leave the airport, their viewing will still be fun.