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When Broncos Soar

From before takeoff to after touchdown, Jason Frank scores a win with this NFL team

Author A. Averyl Re

voices

When the Denver Broncos football team takes to the field, fans see a machine that operates precisely from kick-off to final play. What they don’t see, and perhaps don’t even think about, are the people operating off the field to get the team where it needs to be week after week—people such as Jason Frank, the airport operations supervisor at United’s hub in Denver. Frank acts as ground coordinator for the team, which means taking care of, well, everything.

“I notify the TSA and the airport before a trip goes,” he explains. “I coordinate with catering, cabin service, fueling, even the flight attendants, pilots and dispatch. I communicate with the arrival station to make sure they’re ready for us. All sports teams want a smooth operation. They don’t want any hiccups. It can be very hectic at times.”

In addition, Frank oversees loading and unloading the plane on which the team flies, both at the home airport and the destinations, where he travels with the team. The Broncos depart from the airport’s fixed-base operations, which handles charters and business jets, and Frank aims to have things squared away for them. “I like to get the aircraft cleaned, catered, fueled and loaded at the gate so that by the time it picks up the team, it’s ready to go,” he says.

Only the Chicago Bears have flown United longer than the 30-plus years the Broncos have made the airline their carrier. Frank has been working with the team for eight of those years, almost half of his nearly 17 years with the company. He says it’s his dream job.

“I was born and raised in Denver,” he explains. “It’s a great team to work with. I get to build some relationships with people on the team. It’s nice to see the guys in a different light other than on the football field. They’re a big customer. We want to make sure the flights go right, the same way we want for our regular customers.”

In many ways, charters are similar to regular service, in that the Transportation Security Administration still requires travelers to be screened. Frank’s initial experience with charter flights, however, was a bit different: He learned to coordinate them while working military flights.

“With military charters, it’s a lot more quiet when you’re taking them over than when you’re bringing them home. Coming home, they hoot and holler when you take off and when you land. The Broncos don’t hoot and holler when they land back in Denver. Sometimes it’s hard to tell by the mood on the plane if they won or lost. It just depends on how the game went. If they played a tough game and played well, with no mistakes, they feel good. It seems to get more intense during the playoffs because there’s more at stake. It’s one and done.”

Frank is hoping he gets at least one celebratory flight this season: “I told the team ‘I need one Super Bowl before my time is up.’ It looks like we have a pretty good shot.”

Even if his Super Bowl dreams do come to fruition this year, that doesn’t mean Frank plans to quit. “Shoot, I plan to do this until I retire,” he says. “I got lucky when I got this job. It’s something I love doing. I don’t see any end to that.”

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