Patriots taking inaugural flight of own plane, ‘Air Kraft’

Photo: Eric Halperin/WPRI-TV

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Why rent — or charter — when you can own?

The New England Patriots will be taking off for the first time in their very own airplane Wednesday afternoon, heading from T.F. Green to Tampa Bay to meet the Buccaneers for a game Thursday night. Some local planespotters — and Patriots fans — were hanging out in good viewing spots near the airport before departure, with the intent of watching takeoff.

The Boeing 767 is painted Patriots colors navy blue, red and white, with the “PATRIOTS” logo at the front of the wings. In fact, there are two aircraft with Pats livery, as the lingo goes; one is a backup. They were purchased back in August.

The team is not being charged to store the planes at T.F. Green. Airport officials said what it’s worth in marketing more than covers the cost.

“It would have been $220,000 [to house the plane] in Quonset but here, we’re gonna get about a million dollars worth of marketing,” Rhode Island Airport Corporation President and CEO Iftikhar Ahmad said.

The Patriots are reportedly the first NFL team using their own planes to travel (according to ESPN). Since Bob Kraft, team owner, foots the bills, someone nicknamed the plane ‘Air Kraft.’

President of the Kraft Group Jonathan Kraft says the wider body plan works better for the teams needs and that many commercial planes are moving towards a more narrow body. According to Kraft, there are 200 seats inside, all wider than usual, all with their own HD monitors.

“It’s like a commercial airliner it’s just everything is sort of super sized with more room,” he said. “All of that just feeds into a competitive advantage.”

“This is really awesome, I’m so excited,” said Dawn Rogers.

She got to the airport at 9:30 a.m., not just hoping to see the plane, but looking for a glimpse of the players as well.

“I just wanted to get some pictures, just hoping they would be here. I didn’t know exactly what time they were coming.”

On the other side of the airport from Rogers were Craig and Barbara Edmonds. The couple often watches planes land and take off, but also knew they’d be eyewitnesses to a first at the official airport of the team.

“They are the New England Patriots and represent all of our New England states,” Craig said.

In a video released by the team, chief operating officer Jim Nolan said the planes are bigger than what the team usually travels in; they’ll have bigger seats and more room for players.

And on the planes’ tails are painted five Lombardi trophies.

“It looks like they have room for one more if they’re careful and don’t paint it too large,” Craig added.