Beatrice Municipal Airport, nestled in the southeast corner of the farm-dotted state of Nebraska, normally gets a flight or two an hour.
On Monday, because it’s located directly within the band of the sun’s total eclipse, U.S. aviation officials installed a temporary air-traffic tower to handle as many as 200 planes expected to land there.
“We’re starting to see the people arrive,” Diana Smith, the airport manager, said in a phone interview. “It’s probably the largest amount of traffic and aircraft that we’ve seen in one day.”
While expecting relatively normal operations around the country, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has taken steps to keep up with expected high demand for eclipse viewers as well as ensuring that things like scientific balloons don’t interfere with flight paths.
“#FAA expects routine operations,” the agency said in a tweet. “It will be just like flying at night.”
The agency installed four temporary air-traffic “towers” at airports in Oregon and Nebraska, including Beatrice, that are considered prime spots for viewing the eclipse, according to an agency statement.
In Beatrice, the FAA controllers are stationed on a truck the airport uses for plowing snow, Smith said.
The agency is also issuing eclipse-specific notices to pilots to accommodate unusual activity in the skies Monday. The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, in conjunction with researchers and colleges across the country, is launching almost 100 high-altitude balloons with camera and sensor packages to study the sun during the eclipse, and the agency needs to make sure they don’t come near high-altitude airline flight tracks.
Such adjustments are relatively routine for the FAA. But it reminded pilots flying during the eclipse or on their way to a viewing spot to avoid unsafe distractions.
“Are you flying today?! Remember to focus on your operation,” the agency tweeted.
©2017 Bloomberg L.P.