MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) – The Pennsylvania State University football team travels to Alabama this weekend to face Auburn on Saturday, but a logistical issue has disrupted the teams’ travel plans.
Penn State planned to fly to Montgomery Regional Airport, but major charter flights cannot land at the airport for about the next five months. Construction has closed nearly a third of the airport’s runway as the Alabama Air National Guard prepares for the arrival of the F-35.
“The BAK-12 is necessary to protect the life of the ANG pilot and the F-16/F-35 aircraft,” said Wade A. Davis, executive director of MGM.
“The 187th Fighter Wing is working hard to prepare for the arrival of the 5th generation F-35A Lightning in December 2023. The runway project is part of normal F-16 maintenance and needs to be better prepared for the arrival of the F-35. Routine cable maintenance is required with fighter jets and is extremely important to the safety of our pilots. The 187th Fighter Wing is committed to security and eagerly awaits the arrival of the F-35,” the Alabama National said in a statement.
Penn State coach James Franklin spoke to Sports Illustrated this week about the travel confusion, saying, “I guess the work of the federal government doesn’t stop for football season, contrary to what the world thinks. Everyone thinks college football is king, but in Montgomery, Alabama, getting the airport fixed for the F-16s and F-35s is more important, right? »
Until the construction project is complete, Anna Buckalew, president of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, said Penn State and other companies that need large charter flights will be able to fly to the Maxwell Air Force Base.
“Airlines that can’t get into MGM can fly into Maxwell and then we’ll take care of the equipment so those planes can be landed and the equipment can be put on the buses and then they’ll be downtown in 10 minutes,” Buckalew said.
Bucklew added that the Air Force, Montgomery Regional Airport and Montgomery Aviation are working together to ensure Penn State and other traveling crews are not inconvenienced during this time.
But the question now is whether or not Penn State will choose to land at Maxwell. Gregory Kincaid, associate director of strategic communications at Penn State, told WSFA 12 News that they will fly in from Columbus, Georgia.
“We have been aware of this issue for a month and have considered all possible flight options. We are flying to Columbus, which is our best option at the moment,” Kincaid said in a statement.
But on the other hand, sources told the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce that Penn State was actually flying to Maxwell.
The WSFA contacted the university for clarification, and Kincaid said, “We don’t have an update at this time.”
We know the team plans to stay at a hotel in downtown Montgomery, as the school says at “no time did we consider changing hotels”.
Buckalew says it looks like miscommunication about travel options the team knew were available.
“We don’t know exactly what Penn State’s plans are at this time, so we’re waiting to hear from them. We told them they had the option to fly to Montgomery and we are doing everything we can to make it easy for them,” Buckalew said. “We checked with our hotels. We haven’t lost anything because of that.
If the team chooses to fly out of Columbus, their hotel will be approximately a 90 minute drive from the airport.
Construction at Montgomery Regional Airport has no impact on commercial flights. To dispel any misperceptions, MGM’s public notification of the proposed runway construction dates back to 2018.
The Penn State vs. Auburn game kicks off Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
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