In a country as large as the US, flying between fixtures is a common occurrence for professional sports teams. Franchises in American football’s NFL (National Football League) have some of the largest squads around, and so flying so many players and staff can be challenging. With this in mind, the Arizona Cardinals have acquired an aircraft of their own.
22,186 air miles this season
The Arizona Cardinals revealed earlier this week that they had got their hands on a Boeing 777-200ER to fly the team to its away fixtures. The Phoenix-based franchise is one of the most well-traveled teams in the NFL in terms of miles flown. Indeed, the team explains that:
“Only five NFL teams this season will travel more than the 22,186 air miles the Cards must trek. The 109,277 air miles the Cardinals have traveled the past five years is seventh in the NFL over that time period.”
The newest bird in the #BirdGang.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) December 17, 2021
As such, having their own aircraft helps ease the pressure on both players and staff when flying is such a regular occurrence. Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill adds that:
“It is a major undertaking every time we travel for a game. This aircraft will not only provide major convenience but also maximum comfort for our players when getting them to and from road games. Every NFL team is looking for advantages whenever possible and we think this will certainly provide one.”
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The aircraft in question
According to World Airline News, the registration of the Boeing 777-200ER acquired by the Cardinals is N867DA. Data from ch-aviation.com shows that this aircraft is 19.86 years old, having first flown in February 2002. Delta Air Lines took delivery of it the next month. It flew for Delta until October 2020, and was stored in Victorville until September 2021.
The comfort alluded to is evident when it comes to the jet’s seat layout. Of its 288 seats, 166 are “oversized for comfort.” This will come as good news to the team’s 300lb+ linemen. According to ch-aviation, N867DA has 28 business class flatbeds, 48 premium economy recliners, 90 extra-legroom economy seats, and 122 standard economy seats.
First flight complete
N867DA has already completed its first duty as the official aircraft of the Arizona Cardinals. According to RadarBox.com, it arrived in Phoenix from Fort Worth on December 17th. After this, it wasted no time in taking to the skies with the team onboard, doing so at 11:30 on December 18th. It took three hours to fly to Detroit, where it landed at 16:30.
The Cardinals’ away match against the Detroit Lions kicks off today at 13:00 EST. This is the team’s penultimate road fixture of the season. The last is a trip to the Dallas Cowboys on January 2nd. That being said, with an impressive record of 10 wins and 3 losses this season, the Cardinals have a good shot at the playoffs. As such, they may find another use for the 777, if seedings mean that they play away from home in the postseason.
What do you make of the Arizona Cardinals’ Boeing 777? Have you ever seen a sports team aircraft on your travels? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!