““[Bill Gates] has been historically one of my best supporters…One of my favorite e-mails he ever sent me…I proposed this crazy project. And he sent back this two-line response: ‘This has got to be the craziest thing you’ve ever suggested. Please proceed.’” ”
Flying your birdie to the PGA championship
Planning to fly to Wisconsin's Sheboygan County Airport for this year's PGA Championship at the Whistling Straits links course August 12 to 15? The good news is that Kohler, the plumbing firm, and some other local companies of note base their jets there, so the airport has more amenities than your typical small-town landing strip. Take the airport restaurant, the ominous sounding "Final Approach" steakhouse. Not only will it provide catering for your aircraft, but on Mondays you can also get a martini and a manicure for 20 bucks. The airport itself can handle aircraft up to 100,000 pounds and the main runway is 6,802 feet long, so it can accommodate most business jets. (But if you're planning on arriving in a BBJ, you'll have to land in Milwaukee.)
Still, the airport presents challenges. It does not have a control tower and there is only one FBO, Burrows Aviation, which is small and spartan by comparison with major metropolitan FBOs.
Burrows Aviation general manager Mindy Smith said the company generally handles one or two jets a day-not the 1,200 in one week that are expected for the PGA. This includes 70 to 80 professional golfers who will be flying in on private aircraft.
The FBO is preparing for the challenge by adding line workers from outlying airports and ensuring it has plenty of fuel. Fortunately, hundreds of rental cars and dozens of airport volunteers will again become available in the aftermath of the 11,000-airplane, 500,000-spectator, week-long aviation Woodstock called EAA AirVenture. It ends August 1 just across Lake Winnebago in Oshkosh, Wis. So too will some spare FAA air traffic controllers who will man a temporary control tower at Sheboygan Airport beginning August 7. The temporary tower will operate most days from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. through August 16.
The FAA has a Special Traffic Management Plan for this year's PGA and is likely to publish other advisories closer to the event that will shut down the airspace over the tournament course. There will also be additional security on the airport, including extra surveillance cameras, more local and state police and officials from the Transportation Security Administration. Native Wisconsin cheese and bratwurst companies will also set up temporary residence at the airport.
Sheboygan doesn't have much transient hangar space and it is likely that the 5,000-foot crosswind runway will be shut down and used for aircraft parking. Technicians from Gulfstream in Appleton, Wis., and the Milwaukee Cessna Citation Service Center will provide maintenance on the field during the tournament. At least one other aircraft manufacturer plans a client hospitality event at the PGA.
Smith said her staff can accommodate special requests, but advises those planning on attending to call Burrows Aviation and their rental car companies to make arrangements beforehand.
About Whistling Straits
The Whistling Straits links course, the site of this year's PGA, is on the shores of Lake Michigan near tiny Haven, Wis. The tournament was last held there in 2004, when it attracted 94,000 spectators and 1,200 private aircraft to nearby Sheboygan County Airport.
Whistling Straits is one of several area golf courses operated by Kohler, a company best known for turning indoor plumbing into "gracious living" worldwide. For years, Kohler has operated several resort properties nearby, among them the famous American Club. Whistling Straits was constructed on the remnants of an abandoned military base and is often called the best approximation of a classic Irish links course in America. Kohler spared no expense on it, as you'll see when you approach the elegant stone clubhouse, surrounded by imported Irish Blackface sheep grazing on the fescue. It is consistently rated as one of the top 10 golf courses in the country-even if your game isn't magical, the place is.